SULLIVAN, John Burtman
(Service number 23/2100)

Aliases Jack
First Rank Rifleman Last Rank Private


Date 15 August 1888 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 26 November 1915 Age 27 years 2 months
Address at Enlistment Marton Junction
Occupation Fireman, N.Z. Railways
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin John SULLIVAN (father), 34 William Street, Timaru
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 8 inches. Weight 10 stone 8 lbs. Chest measurement 33-37 inches. Complexion dark. Eyes dark blue. Hair black. Sight, hearing and colour vision all good. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth fair. No illnesses. No distinctive marks. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. No distinctive marks or marks indicating congenital peculiarities or previous disease. Fit.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 4th Reinforcements 1st Battalion, E Company
Date 4 March 1916
Transport Willochra or Tofua
Embarked From Wellington, N.Z. Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Wellington Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian, Western European (Somme)
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 31 May 1916 Age 27 years
Place of Death Somme, France
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, Nord, France. Timaru Cemetery - memorial on parents' headstone
Memorial Reference I. B. 14. Timaru - General Section, Row 23, Plot 296
New Zealand Memorials Timaru War Memorial Wall; Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Timaru, Roll of Honour; Railways Department's national memorial tablet in Wellington

Biographical Notes

John Burtman Sullivan was the son of John and Bridget (née Bourke/Burke) Sullivan, of 34 Williams Sreet, Timaru. John, who was born on 15 August 1888 at Timaru, was baptised as John Berchmans O'Sullivan on 19 August 1888 in the Catholic Church in Timaru. He was brought up in Timaru, attended the Timaru Catholic School, but was living at Marton Junction by 1914. He was working at Marton Junction as a fireman for the New Zealand Railways in the employ of the New Zealand Government when he enlisted on 26 November 1915.

As he was living in the North Island he enlisted in the Wellington Battalion 10th Reinforcements, at the time a fit and healthy young man. Embarking with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 4 March 1916, he reached Suez on 10 April. Barely three months after leaving for the Front, John B. Sullivan was killed in action at the Somme, just 27 years old. On 28 April 1916 he had marched into Etaples, France and had joined the 2nd Wellington Battalion just five days prior to his death.

His parents received the fateful cable eight days after his death – a death in the prime of life, far from home and far from family. Two brothers, Michael Sullivan and Patrick Joseph Sullivan, also served in World War One, and at this time were at the front having come through the Gallipoli campaign. At a gathering at the Arcade Café on 21 December 1915, to farewell Brother Egbert who had taught at the Catholic School for the past nine years, an extra toast was added in honour of Mr J. Sullivan of William Street, “who has sent three of his four eligible boys to the front” – John Burtman, Michael and Patrick Joseph.

Jack Sullivan, as he was known to his fellow Marton railway workers, was a real “white man” and everyone had a good word for him, according to the Martin Junction correspondent of the New Zealand Railway Review. News of his death was received with sadness at the Marton Junction Station and heartfelt sympathy was conveyed to his relatives. Private John Burtman Sullivan was buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery at Armentieres in France by the Rev. O. M. Doyle on 12 June. He is remembered on the headstone of his parents, beneath the name of his sister Nellie who died in 1898 at the age of 14. And his name is inscribed locally on the Timaru War Memorial Wall and the Timaru Basilica of the Sacred Heart Roll of Honour, and on the Railways Department's national memorial tablet in Wellington.

Advice of his medals was sent to his father, to whom his medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal), plaque and scroll were sent in November 1921. Sadly, as his father John had died earlier in 1921 only his mother was left to receive these. Shortly before embarkation John had made a brief will, appointing the Public Trustee as the sole Executor. He bequeathed all his real and personal estate to his father John, and in the case of his father predeceasing him, to his mother Bridget.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [21 July 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK18805 W5553 0110709) [08 May 2014]; CWGC [24 August 2013]; NZ BDM historical records (DiA) [24 August 2013]; Timaru Cemetery headstone images (Timaru District Council) [24 August 2013]; Wanganui Chronicle, 27 October 1915, Timaru Herald, 22 December 1915, 9 & 10 June 1916, Press, 12 June 1916, Otago Daily Times, 13 June 1916, New Zealand Tablet, 29 June 1916 (incl. photo) (Papers Past) [24 August 2013, 04 November 2013; 15 December 2014; 01 May 2016; 19 July 2016; 20 August 2016]; Baptism Records (Catholic Diocese of Christchurch Baptism Index CD - South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [25 January 2015] & Timaru Catholic Baptism Register (held at Sacred Heart Timaru in custody of Holy Family Parish) [13 February 2015]; Railway workers' obituaries (New Zealand Railway Review, the journal of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. [19 July 2016]

External Links

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to


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