O'NEILL, Richard
(Service number 10/1605)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 24 November 1881 Place of Birth Doonkenane, Beaufort, County Kerry, Ireland; or Killarney

Enlistment Information

Date 20 December 1914 Age 26 years
Address at Enlistment Boys' Training Farm, Levin
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Sarah O'NEILL (mother), Dunkinane (Doonkinane), Beaufort, County Kerry, Ireland
Religion Anglican
Medical Information Height 5 feet 10 inches. Weight 160 lbs. Chest measurement 34-38 inches. Complexion medium. Eyes blue. Hair brown. Sight, hearing and colour vision all normal. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth - well fitting full denture. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. Assessed as Fit.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 3rd Reinforcements
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Wellington Infantry Battalion
Date 14 February 1915
Transport Maunganui or Tahiti or Aparima
Embarked From Wellington Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Wellington Infantry Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; Balkan (Gallipoli)
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star; 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

8 August 1915 - wounded in action at the Dardanelles. 9 August 1915 - admitted to Hospital Ship "Devonha", with gunshot wounds to the head. Admitted to No 2 Australian General Hospital, Cairo, with gunshot wounds to the forehead - dangerously ill (tetanus).

Post-war Occupations


Date 19 August 1915 Age 32 years
Place of Death No 2 Australian General Hospital, Cairo
Cause Died of wounds - gunshot wounds forehead, received in Action in the Dardanelles
Memorial or Cemetery Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt
Memorial Reference D. 44.
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall; Geraldine War Memorial (additions); Rangitata Soldiers Memorial Hall

Biographical Notes

Richard O’Neill was the son of John and Sarah (née Poff) O’Neill, of Dromkerry, Faha, Beaufort, County Kerry. He was born on 24 November 1888 at Doonkinane (or Killarney) in County Kerry, Ireland, as recorded in his military file. There is a discrepancy between this birth date and his age at death – 32 years, as recorded in the Commonwealth War Graves record and in the Kerry Library record. There is a birth registration for Richard O’Neill in the fourth quarter of 1881 at Killarney, which would be appropriate. The assumption is, therefore, that he was born on 24 November 1881. John, a farmer, and Sarah were living at Doonkinane in 1901, but neither Richard nor his sister Sarah was at home; nor was Annie who had married in 1897. Sarah was a shop assistant at Killegy, Muckross, Kerry, in 1901. The family was still there at Doonkinane in 1911 – John and Sarah, son John now married, and daughter Nellie (Eileen/Ellen), but no Richard, Sarah, junior, Annie, or Catherine who had been at home in 1901. Still at Killegy in 1911, Sarah was the manageress of the Postoffice and shop. Perhaps County Kerry relatives and/or acquaintances had drawn Richard to South Canterbury, New Zealand. By 1908 he was a farm labourer at Rangitata.

Richard was medically examined on 12 December 1914, his apparent age 26 years ½ month. He stood at 5 feet 10 inches, weighed 160 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 34-38 inches. His complexion was medium, his eyes blue and his hair brown. His sight, hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs were all normal, his limbs and chest well formed. He wore a well-fitting full denture. Free from diseases, vaccinated, and in good bodily and mental health, he was assessed as Fit. Richard enlisted in the New Zealand Armed Forces on 20 December 1914 at Trentham. He was among the recruits from Palmerston North and the immediate neighbourhood who had volunteered for service at the front and went into training at camp in Trentham with the third reinforcements at this time. He was a well-built healthy young (or not so young) man, who was working as a ploughman for the Boys’ Training Farm at Levin. Single and Anglican, he named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs Sarah O’Neill, Dunkinane (Doonkinane), Beaufort, County Kerry, Ireland.

Private Richard O’Neill embarked at Wellington on 14 February 1915 with the Wellington Infantry Battalion of the 3rd Reinforcements, and disembarked at Suez on 26 March. Little over four months later, on 8 August 1915, he was wounded in action at the Dardanelles, and the following day he was admitted to the Hospital Ship “Devanha”, with gunshot wounds to the head. From there he was admitted to No. 2 Australian General Hospital at Cairo. On 19 August 1915 he was dangerously ill with the gunshot wound and tetanus at the No. 2 Australian General Hospital at Cairo, where he died that day, as a result of the gunshot wound to his forehead. His was yet another death which contributed to a rapidly increasing toll. Private Richard O’Neill was buried at the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

In the short form of Will (in his Active Service pay-book), which he drafted on 30 April 1915, after leaving New Zealand, Richard gave to his mother Mrs S. O’Neill the 5 shillings per day he received while in the Force (a total of £25 in Savings Bank Military Account and £16 Balance Military Pay); and to Miss Metcalfe of Rangitata he gave the £50 he had in his Wanganui Post Office Savings Bank account and his watch. When his Will went to probate, he had a total of £95.2 to his name. As of 1915, Mrs S. O’Neill’s address was Muckross, Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland. All his medals (1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal) were to go to his mother, Mrs Sarah O'Neill, Drom, Beaufort, Kerry, Ireland, in 1920, the scroll in 1921, and the plaque in 1922. In January 1916, the Director of Base Records (NZ) was in communication with Richard’s sister, Miss Sarah O'Neill, of Muckross, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland, from whom he had received a letter dated 30 November 1915. He referred to her brother (Richard) and wrote “there will be no need for your mother to sign any papers, etc.” He conveyed to her a transcript of Richard’s will and informed her that Richard’s personal effects had been returned from Egypt and would be despatched to Ireland in about a fortnight’s time.

Richard was survived by his father John, who died in 1917, his mother Sarah, who died in 1926, brother John (died 1921), sister Annie (Mrs Howard, died 1943), sister Ellen (died 1916), sister Sarah, and possibly his oldest sister Catherine. His nephew, William Herbert Howard, served as a radio officer with the Merchant Navy in World War Two, losing his life on 29 March 1943 at sea, aged 39. He is remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial in London. His niece, Elizabeth Sarah Howard, married in 1934 in New Zealand and died her in 1956.

Richard is remembered on the Roll of Honour board in the Rangitata Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, this name showing on the outside of the hall. The new hall, said at the time to be one of the finest in South Canterbury, was opened and the board unveiled in January 1918. The locals were complimented on having such a fine hall, a credit to the district and the many volunteers as well as the contractors. After the hall was opened and people entered, the National Anthem was sung, followed by a choice concert programme. The top of the board is inscribed – “In memory of the Rangitata soldiers who fell in the Great War”. Among the six names appearing on the board in letters of gold is Pte R. O’Neill, Gallipoli, 6. 8. 1915 (a small error in his death date). One more name was added to the board at a later date. The evening concluded with a nice supper and a short dance. The hall was substantial, centrally located, well-equipped and versatile, such that it could be used for miniature rifle shooting as well as community and social gatherings. “Let them think for a moment that in the building they were now seated in, others would be seated 100 years hence,” said Mr Yates (chairman). Indeed, the hall still stands and is still used, having a beautiful dance floor. Another honour board was added for 1939-1945 servicemen.

What was Richard’s association with this district? He was residing at Rangitata in 1908 and still in 1911. Perhaps he was the R. O’Neill who was a member of the Orari Miniature Rifle Club and represented Orari B in matches in 1913. Richard is commemorated on several local memorials – the Timaru Memorial Wall, the Geraldine War Memorial (additions) and the Rangitata Soldiers Memorial Hall. Perhaps Miss Metcalf/e was his girlfriend? She was likely a daughter of Mr Anthony Metcalf, J.P., of Rangitata, and previously of Orari Bridge.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [08 October 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5549 0088635) [18 October 2013]; CWGC [09 October 2013]; Timaru Herald, 29 July 1913, 9 September 1913, 25 August 1915, 19 January 1918, Manawatu Times, 21 December 1914, Manawatu Standard, 21 December 1914, Ashburton Guardian, 18 August 1915, Otago Daily Times, 18 August 1915, Sun, 24 August 1915, Evening Post, 24 August 1915, Mataura Ensign, 25 August 1915, Dominion, 25 August 1915, Otago Witness, 1 September 1915, Temuka Leader, 19 January 1918 (Papers Past) [03 August 2014; 13 & 14 June 2015; 02 July 2015; 20 & 21 October 2017; 06 June 2023]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [14 June 2015; 06 June 2023]; Ireland 1901 & 1911 census returns (per [14 June 2015; 04, 06 & 07 June 2015]; Probate Record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [09 May 2015]; World War I Dead (world_war_kerry-related_fatalities.pdf – per Archivist, Kerry Library, Moyderwell, Tralee, Kerry) [09 November 2014]; Ireland Birth Registrations (per [05 & 07 June 2023]; METCALF/E family - some records (schools; directory) [2015]; Ireland Casey Collection Indexes (per ancestry)

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