BALLAGH, William John
(Service number 6/3986)

Aliases William John Lambie BALLAGH
First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 12 July 1883 Place of Birth Leeston

Enlistment Information

Date 17 November 1915 Age 32 years 4 months
Address at Enlistment Kingsdown
Occupation Farm labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs G. E. HAMPTON (sister), Leeston
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 11 inches. Weight 166 lbs. Chest measurement 34-38 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair light brown. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing good. Colour vision correct. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of joints. Chest well formed. Heart normal. Teeth bad. 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. Two small oval scars 2½ inches apart upper part posterior surface right arm.

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 10th Reinforcements Canterbury Infantry Battalion, C Company
Date 4 March 1916
Transport Willochra or Tofua
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; Egyptian Expeditionary Force; Western European
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 6 June 1919 Reason Termination of period of engagement.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

September 1916, France - wounded in back; 19 September 1916 - admitted to 9th General Hospital at Rouen. 27 September - to hospital sick; 29 September - admitted to General Hospital at Camiers. 12 October 1916 - rejoined unit in the Field from hospital. 14 October 1917 - wounded in France – severely gassed. Admitted to No.1 NZ Field Ambulance, to 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station; 16 October - to No.3 General Hospital, France - severe shell wound. 25 October - embarked for England per Hospital Ship St Patrick; 27 October - admitted to NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst - severe burns to right hand. By early November 1917, removed from seriously ill list. 8 December - transferred to Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch.

Post-war Occupations

Farm labourer; teamster


Date 27 May 1949 Age 65 years
Place of Death Timaru
Notices Timaru Herald. 28 May 1949; Press, 30 May 1949
Memorial or Cemetery Timaru Cemetery
Memorial Reference Services Section, Row 106, Plot 8
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William John Lambie Ballagh was born on 12 July 1883 at Leeston, the son of Grace Ballagh (Struthers). He was educated at Leeston School, along with the younger children of Samuel and Margaret Ballagh. In April 1897, William was awarded second equal prize in the Boys’ Bible Class of the Leeston Sunday School. The following year his prize was for third place in the 1st class Boys. In April 1898 at Leeston School, he received a Standard IV Pass Prize for six subjects. He had gone out to work in 1895 at the age of 12 but appears to have returned for more education. In a match played between Leeston and Doyleston schools in July 1898, W. Ballagh scored two of the tries which gave Leeston a 33 – nil win. William’s mother died at Leeston on 2 May 1891 when he was just 7½ years old, and was buried in the Ellesmere Cemetery, her parents buried with her. Thereafter he was likely in the care of his elderly grandparents (Samuel and Margaret Ballagh) or aunts and uncles (identified as sisters and brothers). His next-of-kin named as his sister was in fact his aunt.

By 1905, William had made his way to South Canterbury, working as a farm labourer at Esk Bank, St Andrews. After a few years back at Leeston, he returned in 1914 to South Canterbury where he was a farm labourer at Kingsdown. In 1908 his ‘brother’ Alexander Ballagh, a married man with a family, moved to Kingsdown. William Ballagh, of Kingsdown, got into cycling, entering the Timaru to Christchurch road race held on 30 October 1909. His given handicap was 38 minutes, and he started at 8.52 am. William was one who contributed songs at a Leeston Football Club entertainment in August 1915 for one of their number who was leaving for camp. Alexander Ballagh was active in the war effort at Kingsdown, assisting with the British and Belgian Relief Fund, on occasion presiding at farewell functions, and contributing to the Prisoners of War Fund. Both William John Ballagh and Alexander Ballagh were listed on the Reserve Rolls – William a labourer at the Saltwater Hotel, Timaru, and Alexander a farmer and married with five children at Kingsdown.

William, himself, underwent the medical examination on 18 October 1915 at Timaru. He stood at 5 feet 11 inches, weighed 166 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 34-38 inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes blue, and his hair light brown. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all good, his limbs and chest well formed, and his heart normal. His teeth, however, were bad. Free from diseases and illnesses, and vaccinated, he was in good bodily and mental health. There were two small oval scars 2½ inches apart on the upper part posterior surface of his right arm. A good number of recruits for the Tenth Reinforcements were dispatched from the South Canterbury district on 16 November 1915. Among those for the Infantry was Private W. J. Ballagh, Kingsdown. The South Canterbury draft of the Tenth Reinforcements was held up for some hours at Rakaia by flood damage to the bridge. They did not reach Christchurch till midnight, but the ferry steamer having been detained for them, they were able to go straight to Wellington.

When he enlisted on 16 November 1915 at Trentham, he was farming for Alexander Ballagh at Kingsdown. Both before and after the war he worked as a farm labourer at Kingsdown and other local districts (Hunter, Tycho). Single and Presbyterian, he named his sister as next-of-kin – Mrs G. E. Hampton, Leeston. Mary Jane Ballagh had married George Edward Hampton in 1911. William was named at the Kingsdown School’s picnic and prize day in December 1915, since he had enlisted from Kingsdown. Mr Craigie, M.P. referred to the Great War as “the most momentous war of all history” and noted that Kingsdown, in proportion to its population, had nobly done its share in sending men. In late January 1916 a social was given at the Kingsdown School. Mr Anstey, in the absence of Mr James Craigie, M.P., addressed the gathering. He hoped that these young men (3) would be in it at the finish of the war, and that before long they [those present] would have the pleasure of giving them a hearty reception on their return. Private W. Ballagh was presented with a case of pipes. In return he thanked those present for their kindness.

Private W. J. Ballagh embarked with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion of the 10th Reinforcements, departing from Wellington for Suez, Egypt on 4 March 1916. After disembarking at Suez, he embarked at Port Said for France on 13 April. In late September 1916, Mrs Geo. Hampton, Leeston, received word that her brother, Private W. Ballagh, who left for France with the 10th Reinforcements, had been wounded in the back. Though the date of the casualty was unknown (perhaps 16 or 18 September), it was on 19 September 1916 that Private W. J. Ballagh was admitted to the 9th General Hospital at Rouen. He was detached to hospital sick on 27 September and admitted to the General Hospital at Camiers on 29 September. He rejoined his unit in the Field from hospital on 12 October 1916. On 9 December 1916, he was confined to barracks for one day for disobedience of orders in that his rifle was dirty on parade when mounting for Guard on 4 December in the Field.

On 14 October 1917 he was wounded in France for the second time – this occasion severely gassed. He was admitted firstly to the No. 1 New Zealand Field Ambulance, then to the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station, and finally to No. 3 General Hospital in France on 16 October with a severe shell wound. Embarking for England per the Hospital Ship St Patrick on 25 October, he was admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst on 27 October with severe burns to his right hand. By early November 1917, W. J. Ballagh had been removed from the seriously ill list. He was transferred to the Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch on 8 December. Leaving Hornchurch on leave on 19 December, he reported at Codford on 3 January 1918. At the Kingsdown School picnic in late December 1917, the Mayor read a list of names of those who had been educated at other schools but enlisted from Kingsdown, among them William Ballagh, still on active service in France.

Transferred to 4 New Zealand Reserve Infantry Brigade at Sling on 25 March 1918, he proceeded overseas to France again on 14 April and rejoined his Unit on 26 April. Private Ballagh was detached to the UK for demobilization on 14 January 1919. A medical examination was carried out at Sling on 11 February 1919. Private W. J Ballagh returned with a large draft of Canterbury men, a good number of them Ellesmere men, per the troopship “Kia Ora” which had departed from Liverpool on 27 March 1919 and was expected at Lyttleton on 7 May 1919. He was discharged on 6 June 1919, after more than three years overseas in Egypt and Western Europe, and on the termination of his period of engagement. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

In mid-May 1919, a well-attended social was held in the Leeston Town Hall to welcome home Private W. J. Ballagh and eleven other locals. The function was very successful in every way. Each of the guests received the usual gift, a gold medal, from the residents of the district. All acknowledged the gifts in suitable terms. Private W. Ballagh was a guest at a social held in the Kingsdown School in early July 1919. This was held in honour of three soldiers who had recently returned from active service. The evening began with dancing, followed by the singing of the National Anthem, a solo and a brief address, after which a gold medal was presented to each of the three returned soldiers present. The recipients were all heartily applauded. All three had been wounded in France but were quite fit again. After refreshments were served and people had had an opportunity to chat, dancing resumed.

One of the finest Rolls of Honour erected in the Ellesmere district was unveiled at the Leeston Presbyterian Church on a Sunday morning in late June 1921. It contained the names of 76 members of the congregations at Leeston, Irwell, and Killinchy, who had served in the Great War. The memorial is made of oak At the top the words “Roll of Honour” are written between the figures 1914 and 1918. Immediately below are the words, “The Great War,” and at the bottom, below the names, are the words “For God and Humanity.” A centre panel is reserved for the names of the fallen, above which are crossed flags done in colour. The names on the roll are beautifully written in gold. The congregation, which was thoroughly representative, filled the church for the service, which was very impressive. A strong choir led the singing, and two anthems were given. The service concluded with the hymn, “For All the Saints,” and the Benediction. Fourteen men made the supreme sacrifice. Among the others who served is W. J. Ballagh.

William Ballagh engaged in social activities wherever he was living, be it Hunter or Kingsdown. He gave a trophy for competition at the Hunter Miniature Rifle Club. Although William lived and worked in South Canterbury after the war, he maintained his connections with Leeston and would visit. In 1938 when he was at Hunter, Waimate, he re-visited the Leeston district “after a long absence”. In 1945, when he was back at Kingsdown, he spent Christmas with Mr and Mrs G. E. Hampton (brother-in-law and sister).

William John Ballagh died on 27 May 1949 at Timaru (late of Kingsdown), aged 65 years, and was buried in the Services section of Timaru Cemetery – Great War Veteran. Members of the South Canterbury Returned Services Association honoured the comrade at his funeral. When William died in 1949 – youngest son of the late S. Ballagh, Leeston, his next-of-kin, shown as brother-in-law, was his aunt's husband and the couple named as his parents were his grandparents. Perhaps that is how others knew the relationships, since Grace was the eldest, born in Scotland before her parents came to New Zealand and married, and she herself died young. A photo of Private W. J. Ballagh, Leeston, can be found at Selwyn Stories (Selwyn libraries).


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [19 July 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5520 0010817) [20 August 2014]; Ellesmere Guardian, 21 April 1897, 26 March 1898, 20 April 1898, 6 July 1898, 28 August 1915, 30 September 1916, 3 & 17 May 1919, 6 March 1935, 25 October 1938, 7 January 1944, 21 December 1945, Lyttelton Times, 4 October 1909, 19 May 1919, Ashburton Guardian, 11 October 1909, Timaru Herald, 1 November 1909, 7 November 1914, 13 & 18 November 1915, 30 December 1915, 31 January 1916, 28 December 1917, 14 July 1919, 8 & 17 September 1934, 10 June 1935, 23 October 1935, 23 May 1936, 30 December 1944, Sun, 30 September 1916, 26 April 1919, 14 July 1919, NZ Times, 2 October 1916, Otago witness, 11 October 1916, Oamaru Mail, 9 November 1917, Press, 29 June 1921, 7 January 1944, 30 May 1949 (Papers Past) [11 July 2014; 11 September 2014; 13 July 2015; 02 August 2015, 13 December 2015; 17 & 18 September 2023]; Timaru Herald, 28 May 1949 (Timaru District Library) [22 August 2014]; Timaru Cemetery headstone image Timaru Cemetery (Timaru District Council) [20 August 2014]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [23 August 2014; 18 September 2023]; NZ BDM historical records indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [02 August 2014]; School Admission records (Canterbury Branch NZSG) [02 August 2014]; Hall & Moore Funeral Directors records (Transcribed records held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [23 April 2017]; Selwyn Stories ( [19 September 2023]

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