HAMILTON, John Mayben
(Service number 10/3578)

First Rank Lance Corporal Last Rank Lance Sergeant


Date 15 June 1876 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 28 October 1915 Age 39 years
Address at Enlistment Fyfe Street, Durie Hill, Wanganui
Occupation Carpenter
Previous Military Experience Wanganui Rifle Club
Marital Status Married.
Next of Kin Mrs Jessie HAMILTON (wife), Fyfe Street, Durie Hill, Wanganui
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 9 inches. Weight 140 lbs. Chest measurement 33-36¾ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair fair. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing normal. Colour vision normal - good. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth good. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. Slight defects but not sufficient to cause rejection. No fits. Fit.

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 9th Reinforcements Wellington Infantry Battalion, B Company
Date 8 January 1916
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Wellington Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; 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 Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations


Date 5 June 1916 Age 40 years
Place of Death Somme, France
Cause Killed in action
Notices Wanganui Chronicle, 14 June 1916; Dominion, 16 June 1916; Timaru Herald, 17 June 1916
Memorial or Cemetery Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France; Memorial on parents' headstone Heads Road Cemetery, Wanganui
Memorial Reference II. A. 23.
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

John Mayben Hamilton was born on 15 November 1876 at Timaru, the son of John and Margaret (née McWilliams) Hamilton. John and Margaret had married in 1860 at Belfast, County Antrim, Ireland. The family lived in Timaru, where the father was a plasterer, from the early 1860s until a move to Wanganui. It appears that John was the youngest and the only son of the family, having older sisters (Amy Eliza, Edith, Margaret and Bertha). He joined three of his sisters at Wai-iti (later named Gleniti) School in September 1881, after attending school in Timaru (Timaru Public School), and in about 1885 went to Waimataitai School. The father John may well have been the John Hamilton who was active in siting the Timaru Public School in 1872 and was on the Committee of management when the foundation stone was laid in 1873. In 1882 he was elected to the Wai-iti School committee. The family was still in Timaru in 1886 when the youngest daughter (Bertha) was at Waimataitai School.

In 1888, after Mr Hamilton had served more that eight years as clerk of works to the Timaru Harbour Board, the family moved to Melbourne, Australia, at which time they were the recipients of a generous presentation which showed the esteem in which the family was held. In December 1893 Mr Hamilton called on his friends in Timaru, on his way from Melbourne, where prospects were not as good as expected, to the North Island. The family settled in Wanganui, where John Hamilton questioned the Wanganui Harbour Board’s resolution not to purchase the Timaru dredge.

John Mayben Hamilton followed the occupation of carpenter, for some time in a partnership which was dissolved in 1909. He became a leading builder and contractor in Wanganui, but disposed of his business to enlist.

John had registered at the Palmerston Defence Office on 30 June 1915. On 23 August 1915 at Wanganui he married Jessie Agnes RICHARDS. He was called up to go into camp with the Ninth Reforcements on about 19 October. Two months later, on 28 October 1915, when he was already 39 years old and serving with the Wanganui Rifles, he had enlisted. On 19 October the brave men of Wanganui were given an enthusiastic send-off as they prepared to leave by the early train for Trentham. The mayor’s brief farewell address concluded with a fervent prayer, “God bless you all.” A representative of the Patriotic Committee said “We thank you from our hearts, because we realise that you are going to fight for us. Not only are you going away to defend your own loved ones, you are going to defed us all, and we are your debtors.” As final farewells and good wishes were exchanged, the band struck up “The Girl I Left Behind Me”, which would have remained with Jessie for longer that it did for John. In a record recruiting week in Wellington, John Mayben Hamilton was one of 168 men assessed as fit. He went as the recipient of a cheque by the Wanganui Builders’ Association, to purchase “presents which would be appropriate and congenial”.

J. M. Hamilton embarked for Suez on 8 January 1916, a lance-corporal with the 9th Reinforcements, Wellington Infantry Battalion, and disembarked there on 12 February. He had been promoted to lance-corporal before leaving New Zealand. On 26 March 1916 he was promoted again, this time to lance-sergeant, the rank he held at death. Two weeks later he had embarked at Alexandria for France aboard the “Llandovery Castle”.

Jean Mayben Hamilton, a daughter for John and Jessie, was born on 8 May 1916 at at Durie Hill, Wanganui, four months after her father embarked and just a month before his death on foreign soil.

A notice and brief obituary appeared in the Wanganui newspapers of 12 June 1916 for John Hamilton senior, who died on 11 June 1916. The newspaper noted that John Junior was at the front, not knowing that two days later he was killed on 5 June 1916. Advice was received on 13 June 1916 that Sergeant J. M. Hamilton had been killed in battle at the Somme on 5 June 1916. What a sad coincidence that death notices for father and son should appear side by side. Mrs Hamilton had died in 1900.

John Mayben Hamilton had a large circle of friends who would have read of his death with deep sympathy. He was very well known and highly respected. He had been a prominent member of the Wanganui Builder’s Society and at one time a director of the People’s Building Society. “He was also well known in the rowing world, having been a prominent and active member of the U.C.C.” reports the ‘Wanganui Chronicle’.

John’s widow, Jessie, married George Clark in 1920. Two of their sons served in World War Two, the younger one, Fraser Dudley Clark, being killed in action in 1943. A second loss to war for Jessie.

Intriguingly, the will of John senior, drawn up on 3 December 1915, names his four daughters but makes no mention of son John Mayben Hamilton. Was he disappointed or did he have a premonition? Jessie Clark, the widow, and Jean Mayben Hamilton, by now Mrs Brown, are both beneficiaries, with others, in the 1958 will of Bertha, the last surviving sister of John Mayben Hamilton; Jean, her cousin and her husband being also executors.

The brief will of John Mayben Hamilton was drawn up on 4 December 1915, not long before embarkation. Naturally he appointed his wife as sole executor and sole beneficiary of all his estate. A copy of the cable received by his widow advising of his death, and a death certificate are attached to the will. His medals, plaque and scroll were sent to his widow.

Sgt J. M. Hamilton was buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France and is remembered on the headstone of his parents in the Heads Road Cemetery at Wanganui, one of the oldest public burial grounds in New Zealand.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [06 March 2015]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5539 0049685) [08 March 2015]; CWGC [05 September 2015]; Probate records (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [06 March 2015; 05 March 2016]; Timaru Herald, 24 April 1867, 16 August 1872, 17 December 1873, 25 January 1882, 24 January 1883, December 1886, 27 & 28 March 1888, 14 December 1893, 17 & 19 June 1916, Wanganui Chronicle, 10 & 18 April 1895, 24 November 1909, 29 September 1915, 20 October 1915, 3 December 1915, 12 June 1916 [x 2], 14 June 1916 [x 2], Manawatu Standard, 1 July 1915, Evening Post, 27 October 1915, 15 June 1916, Dominion, 28 October 1915, 1 November 1915, 16 & 17 June 1916, Wanganui Herald, 12 June 1916 (Papers Past) [05 & 06 March 2015; 05 September 2015; 05 March 2016]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [04 March 2016]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [2015]; NZ Cemetery records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG Cemetery records) [05 March 2016]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to


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