(Service number 13199)

First Rank Gunner Last Rank Gunner


Date 9 September 1885 Place of Birth Orkney, Scotland

Enlistment Information

Date 8 March 1916 Age 30
Address at Enlistment
Occupation Farmer
Previous Military Experience Garrison Artillery, England, 5 years
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin John Laughton (father), Orkney Islands, Scotland
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information 5ft 8in, 154lbs, fair complexion, grey eyes, auburn hair

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 14th Reinforcements New Zealand Field Artillery, No. 4 Howitzer Battery
Date 26 June 1916
Transport Maunganui or Tahiti
Embarked From Wellington, New Zealand Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Field Artillery

Military Awards

Service Medals British War Medal, Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations


Date 14 October 1917 Age 32
Place of Death Ypres, Belgium
Cause Killed in action
Notices Timaru Herald Fri 9 Nov 1917
Memorial or Cemetery Divisional Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Memorial Reference M. 23
New Zealand Memorials On Memorial wall, Timaru (as W NAUGHTON); Holm Parish War Memorial, Orkney, Scotland.

Biographical Notes

William Laughton was born on 9th September 1885, the second son of John Laughton and Mary Laughton (née Harcus) of Easterbister, Holm. William served five years as a Territorial in the Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery, before he travelled out to New Zealand between 1905 and 1910. William worked there on the farm of his Uncle, John Bitchener, in the Waimate district in Canterbury province on South Island.

William had been rejected once as unfit for military service, because of an injured knee, before he volunteered and joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1916. William attested at Trentham on 9 March, when he was thirty years old. Because of William’s experience in the Orkney Garrison Artillery, he was assigned to the New Zealand Field Artillery as a Gunner, given number 13199. He later also qualified as a Signaller. On 26 June William embarked at Wellington on H.S. Tahiti as part of 14th Reinforcements, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. William was fined 8 shillings on 3rd August during the voyage to Europe, probably for fighting. William landed at Devonport on 22 August and travelled to the main New Zealand base in Britain at Camp Sling, Bulford on Salisbury Plain. He remained there until the beginning of 1917, when he left for France on 4 January.

William spent nearly three weeks at Etaples, before joined the New Zealand Division on 24 January. The New Zealand Division had lost 7,408 casualties during the 1916 Battle of the Somme, where it added to the good reputation that the two New Zealand Brigades established at Gallipoli in 1915. In October 1916 the New Zealand Division had returned to the Lys area, where it served in British Second Army during most of 1917. After serving a fortnight in the Divisional Ammunition Column, William Laughton joined 13th Battery in 3rd Brigade, New Zealand Field Artillery on 10 February. William’s battery provided a few of the 2,266 guns and howitzers which supported the successful offensive that captured Messines Ridge in early June. William was probably awed when the explosion of nineteen huge mines opened the attack on the ridge, burying many of the defending Germans. The New Zealanders still had a hard fight to clear Bavarian troops out of the village of Messines.

William had a patch of leave in the UK from 15 to 20 September, using this time to visit family in Orkney, before he rejoined his battery. At the end of September the New Zealand Division joined the Third Battle of Ypres, better known as the Battle of Passchendaele. 3rd Brigade was one of ten artillery brigades that, at 6 am on 4 October, opened a 'hurricane' bombardment that smashed a planned major German attack and allowed the New Zealand infantry to advance and capture all their objectives on Gravenstafel spur. Heavy rain had turned the front in to a 'porridge' of mud before the New Zealanders’ next attack on the 12th, which took heavy loss and failed to capture the Bellevue spur. William was probably killed by German defensive artillery fire on 14 October, but he may have been one of the artillery personnel that joined many others employed that day in clearing wounded from the battlefield and been shot by while doing so. William Laughton is buried in grave M23, Divisional Cemetery, Ieper, West Vlaanderen, Belgium.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph database (October 2014 & June 2021); Assorted records at [June 2021]; NZ WW1 Service Personnel & Reservists Index v3.0; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records [June 2021]

External Links

Related Documents

No documents available. 

Researched and Written by

Ann Munro, SC branch NZSG; Maree Bowen, SC branch NZSG; Carol Bell, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

Not assigned.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Logo. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.

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