(Service number 6/518)
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Lance-Sergeant|
|Date||12 October 1888||Place of Birth||Long Bay, Akaroa, Canterbury|
|Date||14 August 1914||Age||25 years|
|Address at Enlistment||Albury, South Canterbury|
|Occupation||Grocer, Grant & Co, Albury|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Mr Malcolm McInnes (father), Frankton Junction, New Zealand|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Medical Information||5 foot 4 inches tall, weight 148 pounds (67kgs), chest 34 1/2-37 inches, fair complexion, grey eyes, brown hair, good teeth|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||Main Body|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Canterbury Infantry Battalion (2 South Canterbury Company)|
|Date||16 October 1914|
|Transport||HMNZT 11 Athenic|
|Embarked From||Wellington, New Zealand||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Canterbury Infantry Battalion (2 South Canterbury Company)|
|Campaigns||Egyptian, Balkans (Gallipoli)|
|Service Medals||1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
9-12 November 1914 - admitted to ships hospital (Athenic) - diarrhoea
|Date||8 May 1915||Age||26 years|
|Place of Death||Helles, Gallipoli, Turkey|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Twelve Tree Copse (NZ) Memorial, Helles, Turkey|
|New Zealand Memorials||Timaru Memorial Wall, Albury Cave & Fairlie War Memorials, Albury Football Club Roll of Honour|
Alexander was born at Long Bay, Akaroa, on 10 December 1888. He was the seventh of eight children of Malcolm and Elizabeth (nee Phillips) McInnes. Alexander’s father Malcolm was born about 1847 on the Isle of Skye, Inverness-shire, Scotland, and arrived in New Zealand in 1866. In 1878 he married Elizabeth Phillips who was born at Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England, about 1862. Malcolm was employed as a farm worker moving round the Canterbury and South Canterbury area before taking up employment in the Frankton Junction district as a shepherd. The marriage ended in divorce and, about 1915, Malcolm moved to be with his family at Scargill in North Canterbury. Alexander’s father died in thew region on 17 August 1926, and is buried in the Balcairn Cemetery, North Canterbury.
Alexander received his primary education at the Otaio and Frankton Junction Schools. By 1914 he was employed in the grocery business working for grocers Grant & Co of Albury. Alexander enlisted for service at Timaru on 14 August 1914, and was medically boarded there on the same day. His enlistment papers described him as being aged 25 years, single, Anglican, 5 foot 4 inches tall, weighing 148 pounds (67kgs), with a chest measuring 34 ½ - 37 inches, a fair complexion, grey eyes, brown hair and good teeth. On 17 August after a farewell from the Ven Archdeacon Jacob and Deputy Mary Mr WA Pearson, he left on the first express from Timaru Railway Station as part of the Third Infantry Contingent under the command of Lt DG Fraser. On arrival in Christchurch they marched in to the Addington Showground’s which had been set up as a Mobilisation Camp for the Canterbury Military District. Shortly after arrival Private McInnes was posted to the 2nd Company, 2nd South Canterbury Company under the command of Captain Grant. Here the men lived under canvas, and were issued with basic equipment, blankets and a rifle. Training began under the tuition of officers and non-commissioned officer who had gained their experience in the Territorial’s, and range practice was held at Redcliff’s with the local area used for route marching. At the beginning of September due to bad weather, the camp moved to the Metropolitan Trotting Club’s grounds next door for a few days, before again moving to Plumpton Park Trotting Ground at Sockburn on 7 September.
On 23 September 1914 the “Athenic” (HMNZT 11) was in Lyttelton and took on board units of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, mainly Headquarters, Mounted Rifles Brigade, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment (2 squadrons) and the Canterbury Infantry Battalion (less 1 Company). This consisted of 54 officers, 1,259 men and 339 horses, and was known collectively as the Main Body. She then proceeded to Wellington and berthed there till 16 October 1914, when it was judged safe to depart. The delay was caused by the presence in the South Pacific of enemy warships, and the lack of a suitable naval escort powerful enough to protect the convoy. In the meantime the troops living aboard ship were taken ashore daily for exercise, training on the Wellington hills, and also out to the Trentham rifle range. Finally on 16 October 1914, after the arrival of HMS “Minotaur” and the Japanese warship “Ibuki”, along with escorts HMS “Psyche” and HMS “Philomel” she sailed across the globe in convoy with nine other transports, namely HMNZT 3 “Maunganui”, HMNZT 4 “Tahiti”, HMNZT 5 “Ruapehu”, HMNZT 6 “Orari”, HMNZT7 “Limerick”, HMNZT 8 “Star of India”, HMNZT 9 “Hawkes Bay”, HMNZT 10 “Arawa” and HMNZT 12 “Waimana”. This convoy was made up of 8,500 men, and about 4,000 horses, which made its way to the Middle East by way of Hobart and Albany. At Albany they were joined by the 28 transports convoying the First Detachment of the Australian Imperial Forces, Colombo, Aden The day after sailing Private McInnes was promoted to Lance Corporal. During the voyage the usual activities of physical training, rifle practice, sports etc, took place. The food was reportedly better than the camps, although spoiled at times by unskilled but good intentioned cooks. SS “Athenic” was the largest troopship ever sent from New Zealand transporting New Zealand forces to the Middle East. Alexander had a short bout of diarrhoea during the voyage, and from 9 to 12 November was admitted to the ship’s hospital.
On arrival at Alexandria on 3 December 1914 the NZEF was ordered into camp at Zeitoun, four miles out of Cairo. Here for administrative purposes, the Australian and NZEF became the New Zealand and Australian Division. Training continued independently with emphasis placed on field training to harden up the men. Late January 1915, the Turks were advancing on the Suez Canal, and the 2nd Canterbury Battalion under command of Major Grant, were sent to Ismailia as general reserve, where they come under shell fire during the period of 2 to 4 February. They remained in position until 26 February, before returning to Zeitoun where training recommenced. During this time Alexander was further promoted to Corporal on 29 March 1915.
On 12 April Alexander’s battalion left Alexandria for the Dardanelles aboard the “Lutzow”, arriving at Mudros harbour on the morning of 15 April in preparation for the upcoming landings. Here they continued battalion training and boat drill, but unsuitable weather did not allow for a proper disembarkation practice. Nevertheless at 12.30pm on 25 April 1915, the 2nd Canterbury Battalion landed at ANZAC Cove where they advanced and took up positions on Walkers Ridge. On 5 May the Canterbury Battalion was redeployed. They embarked for Cape Helles at the southern end of the peninsular, landing in the dark at 2am the next day. Cape Helles was very different to ANZAC – wet and swampy with water being plentiful. The battalion moved inland about a mile, making camp near Achi Baba. The battalion was ordered to attack across open ground at Krithia which resulted in many casualties, one of them being Alexander. He was killed in action on 8 May, the day after he had been promoted to Lance Sergeant.
Alexander’s name is inscribed on the Twelve Tree Copse (NZ) Memorial at the Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Helles, Turkey. He is also commemorated on the Timaru Memorial Wall, Fairlie, Albury, and Cave War Memorials, and on the Albury Football Club Roll of Honour. His father was later sent a scroll and plaque and his medals. The 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal, awarded for his service, were sent to his sister Mrs H Cameron of Scargill, North Canterbury, who was executor of his estate.
Tragically Alexander’s brother 7/367 Trooper Malcolm McInnes also served with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, and was also killed in action at Gallipoli on 7 August 1915. He is buried in the 7 Field Ambulance Cemetery, ANZAC.
SCRoll submission by D Kerins, 16 December 2019; "Notice to accepted civilian recruits" in the Timaru Herald 14 August 1914, "More farewells : Infantry Third and Fourth Contingents" in the Timaru Herald 17 August 1914, and "Second Company (South Canterbury)" [postings] in the Sun 5 September 1914, courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/; "Cave First World War Memorial", New Zeland History at https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/cave-war-memorial
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Researched and Written by
Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG
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