SULLIVAN, John Edward
(Service number 84267)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 23 or 24 March 1898 Place of Birth Fairlie

Enlistment Information

Date 15 October 1917 Age 19 years 5 months
Address at Enlistment Pleasant Point
Occupation Farmer (self-employed)
Previous Military Experience Territorials - 8th Regt (still serving)
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs J. E. SULLIVAN (mother), 220 Harewood Rd, Papanui, Christchurch
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 8½ inches. Weight 154 lbs. Chest measurement 33-37 inches. Complexion ruddy. Eyes brown. Hair dark brown. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs all normal. Limbs & chest well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Assessed as Class A.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation
Unit, Squadron, or Ship
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With World War Two - 16813
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Service Medals
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

12-18 August 1918 - influenza

Post-war Occupations

Farm labourer


Date 14 May 1951 Age 52 years
Place of Death Christchurch Public Hospital
Cause Recurrent Carcinoma Larynx; Bronchopneumonia
Notices Press, 15 May 1951
Memorial or Cemetery Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch
Memorial Reference Block 1A, Plot 418
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

John Edward Sullivan (84267) was born on 23 or 24 March 1898 at Fairlie, the son of John Edward and Bridget (née Houlihan) Sullivan (both born in Ireland), sometime of Pleasant Point. So far, neither birth registration nor baptism record has been identified; his birth date is, thus, derived from a school admission record and his military file, and correlates with his age at death. John Edward and Bridget already had a son named John Edward or Edward John and known as Edward. This second John Edward was known as John. Perhaps he was informally adopted? His parents were at Studholme in 1893, the Studholme Junction Hotel having been transferred to John Sullivan in 1891 and a licence granted. In June 1896 John Sullivan transferred the hotel to E. Cosgrave and the family moved to Fairlie, where John was a hotel keeper at the Fairlie Creek Hotel, where as the host he provided “the good things”. In November 1898 Mr John Sullivan gave a special prize for the highest scorer of points in games at the Mackenzie Caledonian Society’s Sports. In October 1899 he was looking to transfer the hotel licence, and the following month he acquired the licence of the Royal Hotel, Temuka (“containing twenty rooms exclusive of those required for the use of the family”). “This hotel [Royal Hotel, Temuka] is one of the best in the district, and as Mr Sullivan is well known all over Canterbury, he can be relied upon to see to the comfort of all travellers and tourists.” At the same time, he relinquished his position on the Fairlie School Committee. Just six or seven months later he sold the hotel and transferred the Licence of the Royal Hotel. He had purchased a farm at Waitohi in May 1900. Mr John Sullivan may well have been elected to the Waitohi School Committee in 1901. A very successful clearing sale was held at the farm in August 1901. But, John Sullivan was bankrupt after about fifteen months farming at Waitohi. He was still the proprietor of the Fairlie Hotel when he purchased the farm, but he had a number of mortgages. On 14 December 1901 “Waitohi Downs” was to be sold. The insolvent position in which Mr Sullivan found himself caused both him and his wife great distress, so great that Mrs Sullivan was prepared to sell the furniture to pay debts. John Sullivan, late farmer and hotelkeeper, was granted an adjournment of an application for discharge from bankruptcy in September 1902, the order being duly granted in March 1903. Young John was admitted to Pleasant Point School in February 1904 and re-admitted in April 1910.

It is very difficult to distinguish between John Edward (Edwin) (25/1822) and John Edward (84267). Although there are discrepancies, in fact, there are indications that they are one and the same - see, notably, the mother's address as at 1917-1918. But how could he (84267) enlist in 1917 when he (25/1822) was already overseas (embarked 1916; in hospital May 1917)? From other records, notably the death certificates, it becomes apparent that there were two brothers with the same name. In May 1917 he was one of many senior cadets who were charged with failing to attend parade at Pleasant Point. For this he was fined 20 shillings. John Edward Sullivan (84267) enlisted on 15 October 1917 at Timaru. There is a marked discrepancy (7 years) between birthdate given on attestation form (23 March 1890) and his age given at medical examination, both done at same date (20 years 6 months). He was a self-employed farmer, single, Roman Catholic and residing at Pleasant Point. Two people were absolutely dependent on him when he attested, presumably his parents. He named his mother as next-of-kin - Mrs J. E. Sullivan, 220 Harewood Road, Papanui, Christchurch. He was still serving with the Territorials (8th Regiment). He stood at 5 feet 8½ inches, weighed 154 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 33-37 inches. His complexion was ruddy, his eyes brown and his hair dark brown. His sight, hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs were all normal, his limbs and chest well formed. He was free of illnesses, diseases, slight defects and fits. Vaccinated and in good bodily and mental health, he was assessed as Class A.

The name of John Sullivan, farmer, Pleasant Point, had been amongst the men called up at the beginning of October 1917 from the First Division of Reservists in No. 10 (South Canterbury) Recruiting District. At the sitting of the Second Canterbury Military Appeal Board in Timaru on 7 November 1917, John Edward Sullivan, farmer, Pleasant Point, said that he was he only support of his mother. He was allowed till March 1. At the sitting of the Military Appeal Board held in Timaru on 9 April 1918, “J. E. Sullivan, Pleasant Point (Mr Campbell) applied for extended time. Appellant was one of three sons, his two brothers having been serving with the Forces for some time. Appellant kept his mother and father and looked after their little dairy farm at Papanui. He also acted as nurse to his invalid mother, his father being a cripple.” He was given leave till July 22. Some details in this extract also help to confirm that this John Edward Sullivan was a brother of the older John Edward Sullivan and Thomas Francis Sullivan.

Private John Edward Sullivan was posted to A Company 14th. He left home on 15 July 1918 and was in camp on 16 July. He suffered with influenza from 12th till 18th August. Transferred to Infantry Details on 24 September 1918, he went no further.

John Sullivan married Mary Ellen McSweeney on 21 December 1921. Margaret was from Hororata and a year older than John. Their son William Desmond Patrick was born on 29 September 1922 at Christchurch and their second son, Francis Joseph, on 2 October 1923. William was balloted for service in World War Two. But all was not well with John and Mary Ellen. The NZ Police Gazette of 23 July 1924 carried this Persons Wanted notice – “CHRISTCHURCH. —29th April last, on warrant of commitment to Paparua Prison for one month in default of paying £24 15s. arrears due on a maintenance order for the support of his wife, Mary Ellen Sullivan, and son, John Sullivan, age thirty-four [sic], height 5 ft. 6 in., butcher and labourer, native of New Zealand, medium build, dark complexion and hair, brown eyes, clean-shaved, slightly stooped ; usually dressed in a dark suit and felt hat. Arrears computed to 18th March last.” By September 1924 he had paid the arrears to the Waikari police. But another Persons Wanted notice appeared in the Gazette of 11 March 1925. “CHRISTCHURCH. —17th ultimo, on warrant of commitment to Paparua Prison for three months in default of paying £27 14s. 6d. arrears due on a maintenance order for the support of his wife, Mary Ellen Sullivan, and child, John Sullivan, age thirty-four, height 5ft. 8 in., labourer and butcher, native of New Zealand, medium build, dark complexion and hair, brown eyes, clean-shaved; slightly stooped. Arrears computed to the 9th ultimo.” By early November he had been arrested by the Papanui police. In May 1931, Mary Ellen Sullivan was granted a decree nisi against John Sullivan on the grounds of separation, and she was granted interim custody of the children.

Mary Ellen Sullivan, married, resided at two Papanui addresses from 1922 until the early 1940s, but no sign of John there. In 1931 he was at 290 Cashel Street with his brother Edward. From 1935 until his mother’s death in 1946, John was with his mother at 135 then 137 Barbadoes Street, where he stayed on until his death in 1951. Edward, too, was there in the 1930s and in 1949.

John E. Sullivan was amongst the volunteers from the No. 10 (Canterbury) area who were posted for training with the 5th Reinforcements of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 20 December 1940. Posted to the Infantry, he was to go to Burnham Military Camp. In 1941, John Edward Sullivan enlisted for World War Two (Service Number 16813). Although he said he was single, he had married and was divorced. He was a labourer, living at home with his widowed mother whom he named as next-of-kin – Mrs B. Sullivan, 137 Barbadoes Street, Christchurch. Private Sullivan embarked with the Infantry Reinforcements of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

John died at the Christchurch Public Hospital, from 137 Barbadoes Street, on 14 May 1951, aged 52 years. He was buried in the Soldiers’ portion of Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch, where his grave is marked by a WWII Services plaque. He was survived by his former wife and two sons. His father had died, as John Edward Sullivan, on 3 December 1925 at Christchurch Hospital, of 84 High Street, Kaiapoi, and his mother, Bridget, on 6 March 1946 at her residence, 137 Barbadoes Street, Christchurch. Both are buried in Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch. John’s brothers – John Edward Sullivan, known as Edward, and Thomas Francis Sullivan - both served in World War One. Mary Ellen lived on in Christchurch, her son William with her until her death on 10 December 1979. She had married Mr Lynch in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Mary Ellen Lynch, the dearly loved mother of Bill and Frank Sullivan, was buried with her parents at Linwood Cemetery. William’s headstone at Avonhead Park Cemetery reads “In Fond Remembrance of William Desmond Sullivan died 18 September 1996 age 73. Dearly loved son of Mary and John and brother of Frank.” Frank had married, had a family, and died at Auckland in 1988.


NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK18805 W5553 0110711) [26 June 2014]; School Admission Records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [2013. 2014]; NZ Death Indexes (South Canterbury Branch NZSG microfiche collection & Department of Internal Affairs online) ;21 December 2014]; Ruru Lawn Cemetery burial record (Christchurch City Council) [22 December 2014]; Ruru Lawn Cemetery headstone transcription (South Canterbury Branch NZSG Cemetery records); NZ Electoral Rolls ( [14 December 2014; 28 January 1915; 14 October 2022]; Timaru Herald, 28 May 1917, 2 October 1917, 8 November 1917, 10 April 1918, Press, 2 October 1917, 4 December 1925, 21 May 1931, 21 December 1940, 7 March 1946, 15 May 1951, NZ Police Gazette, 23 July 1924, 3 September 1924, 11 March 1925, 4 November 1925, Star, 4 December 1925, 20 May 1931 (Papers Past) [02 November 2013; 18 September 2014; 14 December 2014; 11 December 2018; 11, 14 & 17 October 2022]; NZ Army WWII Nominal Rolls [21 December 2014]; Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database – WWII 16813 [11 October 2022]; “Mid and South Canterbury Early Hotel Records” – Compiled by Ray Stenhouse (held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG library); Death Certificate ( [22 January 2015]

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