CONNELL, John William
(Service number 21790)

Aliases Jack
First Rank Rifleman Last Rank Private


Date 23 April 1892 Place of Birth Arowhenua, Temuka

Enlistment Information

Date 3 May 1916 Age 24 years
Address at Enlistment Arowhenua, Temuka
Occupation Farm labourer
Previous Military Experience B Company 2nd South Canterbury Regiment - serving
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs John CONNELL (mother), Arowhenua, Temuka
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 11 inches. Weight 180 lbs. Chest measurement 34½-38½ inches. Complexion ruddy. Eyes blue. Hair red. Sight – both eyes 5/5. Hearing good. Colour vision normal. Limbs well developed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth good. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids; scar on back. Vaccinated. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits.

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 7th Reinforcements, 3rd Battalion, G Company
Date 21 August 1916
Transport Mokoia
Embarked From Wellington Destination Plymouth, Devon, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Machine Gun Corps

Military Awards

Campaigns 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

12 October 1917 - mild gunshot wound to left thigh; admitted to 8th General Hospital, France; transferred to Convalescent Depot. February 1918 - slightly gassed, resulting in severe attack of pleurisy. Pre 6 March 1918, while on leave in Ireland - contracted pleurisy. 5 May 1918, Killarney, Ireland - unofficially reported as suffering from catarrhal influenza 14 September 1918 - admitted to hospital at Walton, England - pleurisy. October 1918 classified unfit by Medical Board. 7 November 1918 - admitted to hospital in Glasgow – influenza; pneumonia developed. 9 November 1918 - cardiac collapse.

Post-war Occupations


Date 9 November 1918 Age 26 years
Place of Death Military Hospital, Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland
Cause Died of illness (pneumonia)
Notices Timaru Herald, 21 November 1918; Temuka Leader, 21 November 1918
Memorial or Cemetery Glasgow (St Kentigern's) Roman CatholicCemetery, Glasgow, Scotland; memorial on parents' headstone, Temuka Cemetery
Memorial Reference VII. 294 Temuka - General Section, Row 234, Plot 328
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall (J. W. O’Connell); Temuka War Memorial (J. W. Connell); Temuka RSA Roll of Honour (J. W. Connell); Seadown Memorial (J. W. O’Connell); St Joseph’s, Temuka, Roll of Honour (John Connell).

Biographical Notes

John William Connell, known as Jack, was the younger son and the youngest child of John and Honora (née Costello) Connell, of Arowhenua, Temuka. He was born on 23 April 1892 at Arowhenua, Temuka, and baptised Roman Catholic at Temuka on 22 May 1892. His birth was registered simply as John, his baptism as John William Patrick. John, senior, from County Kerry, had married Honora (Norah) Costello in Ireland before emigrating. They had eleven children, all born in the Temuka area. John started his schooling at Seadown School, joining his sister Hannah and brother Maurice there. From there he went to St Joseph’s Convent School at Temuka, but not before he enjoyed some success at Seadown. In 1898 he was awarded an attendance prize. The prizes were distributed after the sports which consisted mainly of racing, “the first prize being ninepence, the second sixpence, and the third threepence, and so well managed were the sports that every child succeeded in winning a coin.” And in 1899, John was awarded a second-class attendance prize. This time the prizes were presented by the Hon. Mr Twomey following sports and games. He received the junior boys’ special prize, presented by the head master, in 1900. On leaving school, Jack worked with his brother Morris (Maurice) on their parents’s farm at Arowhenua.

Mr John Connell, senior, who was widely known throughout South Canterbury, died in May 1913, his wife, seven surviving daughters and two sons there with him. He was buried at Temuka with his two daughters who had predeceased him. Mr Connell had other relatives, besides his immediate family, residing in South Canterbury. Second cousins – Messrs Connell and Fahen [Taehen?] were pallbearers. Perhaps they were sons of Frank, Patrick and Denis O’Connell, and a son of Margaret Taehen (née O’Connell).

J. W. Connell, Arowhenua, registered at the Timaru Defence Office on 28 April 1916. Dr Scannell had carried out his medical examination on 26 April at Temuka. Jack stood at 5 feet 11 inches, weighed 180 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 34½-38½ inches. Of ruddy complexion, blue eyes, and red hair, he had good sight, hearing, colour vision and teeth, well developed limbs and chest, and normal heart and lungs. Being free of all diseases, though with a scar on his back, and without illnesses, defects or fits, he was in good bodily and mental health. He enlisted on 3 May 1916 at Trentham. He was 24 years old, a farm hand, single and Roman Catholic, residing at Arowhenua. He named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs John Connell, Arowhenua, Temuka. He was serving with the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment and had registered at Temuka for compulsory military training. Rifleman John William O’Connell embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 7th Reinforcements, on 21 August 1916 per the “Mokoia”, destined for Plymouth, Devon, England.

On 25 October 1916 he marched into Sling and on 18 December at Grantham he was posted to the New Zealand Machine Gun Company. Private Connell proceeded overseas to France from Southampton on 9 February 1917. Casualty List No. 700, issued on 25 October 1917, reported Private John William Connell, 21790, Machine Gun Corps, as wounded. He had been wounded on 12 October 1917, and was admitted to the 8th General Hospital in France, suffering a mild gunshot wound to the left thigh. From there he was transferred to the Convalescent Depot. After some months in hospital he returned to the firing line.

A Court of Enquiry was convened in the Field on 12 August 1918, to determine the illegal absence of 21790 Pte Connell John William, New Zealand Machine Gun Battalion. The Court declared that Private Connell illegally absented himself without leave, failing to return to the Field on the expiration of his Leave Warrant, on March 6th 1918; that he was still absent, and was deficient on full “Field Services Equipment” less Rifle and Amunition, value £6.9.5d. A letter from Private Connell, dated 9/4/18, was received by Major Chaytor of the N.Z.M.G. Bn. In reply, he was advised to get his doctor to forward a Medical Certificate certifying that he was ill, and to keep one himself so as to save any trouble afterwards. “I am sorry to hear you had pleurisy and hope you are recovering satisfactorily,” wrote Major Chaytor. Major Chaytor had granted leave to Private Connell to proceed to Ireland on 20 February 1918. He was due to return on 8th March, but had failed to do so. On 3 April the letter from Private Connell was received, headed Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland, and stating that he (Connell) was suffering from pleurisy. No Medical Certificate was attached. The letter was subsequently destroyed in Colincamps (France) by enemy shell-fire on 5 April. Major Chaytor’s letter was returned through the Dead Letter Office. Private Connell had been inspected prior to his departure on leave to Ireland. He was equipped with full Active Services Equipment, less rifle and ammunition. A later list of deficiencies of Clothing and Equipment included badges - cap and collar, boots ankle, great coat, jacket, puttees, shirt, hat smasher and puggaree, trousers, water bottle, webb equipment-set, implements, entrenching tool, helve and handle, ground sheet, mess tin, iron rations, and totalling £6.9.5d in value. So, on 8 March 1918, Private John William Connell was reported absent, and, on 5 May, unofficially reported as suffering from catarrhal influenza at Killarney, Ireland. Did a break-down in communication lead to a misjudgement?

On 23 September 1918 his mother received word that Jack had been admitted to hospital at Walton, England on 14 September, suffering from pleurisy. In October he was classified unfit by the Medical Board, and on 7 November, while on leave, he was admitted to hospital in Glasgow. In February 1918 he had been slightly gassed, resulting in a severe attack of pleurisy, from which he never recovered; and at the time of his death was on furlough in Glasgow, prior to his returning home. Stricken with influenza, he was admitted to hospital in Glasgow on 7 November. His illness took a normal course till 8 November when symptoms of pneumonia developed. Cardiac collapse on 9 November resulted in gradual weakness.

Private John William Connell died of illness – pneumonia - on 9 November 1918 at the Military Hospital, Maryhill, Glasgow. He was buried at St Kentigern’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland, by the local priest. He was 26 years old. The news reached Temuka on Monday, 18 November, his name being incorrectly printed as Denis in the Temuka Leader, or maybe in the cable. Sincere regret was expressed in Temuka when the news came through. All other details are correct. “He was a very quiet young man and a favourite with all who knew him.” [Temuka Leader. 19 November 1918.] “Deceased was a very popular young fellow, of a bright and cheery disposition, and. was much esteemed by all who knew him. He was a devout Catholic, and was a member of the local branch of the Hibernian Society. Private Connell had visited Ireland and written most interesting letters to his people about the dear old land and of the great kindness of the good people there. He was in Killarney on the Feast of Corpus Christi, and said the procession in honor of the great feast was most beautiful. . . . . He was a dutiful son and a loving brother; . . .” [New Zealand Tablet. 9 January 1919.] He had escaped the greatest dangers of the battlefield, and his return home was being ardently awaited.

He was with the 16th Reinforcements when he signed his will on 9 August 1916, bequeathing all his estate to his mother, Norah Connell of Arowehnua. The Court administration noted that he was also known as John William Patrick Connell. His property consisted of cash in Post Office Savings Bank (10 shillings), cash in Bank of New Zealand, London (£15) and a Life Policy (£103.10s). His medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal – were despatched to his mother at Arowhenua, as were the plaque and scroll.

From 6 January 1917 the name of Private J. W. Connell, Machine Gun Section, had appeared regularly on the Temuka Leader’s Active Service List – a list of those who had volunteered to serve the Empire with the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces and who had gone from the Temuka district. From 21 November 1918, John W. Connell was recorded under The Roll of Honour Temuka List.

A plaque in memory of John William Connell is attached to the grave stone of his parents and several siblings in the Temuka Cemetery. “Also their beloved son John. Died on Active Service, at Glasgow, Scotland. Nov. 9th 1918. Aged 26 years. R.I.P. A lonely grave in a far off land, A grave we may never see, But while life and memory last, We will remember thee.”

After the Anzac Day service in the Victoria Park, Temuka, yesterday [1919], the curator, Mr F. Daily, took the beautiful wreath that had adorned the front of the pavilion and placed it on the graves of Privates Williams and Connell, who have died since their return home. With the wreath was a card bearing the inscription — “ln remembrance of Privates Williams and Connell. From returned soldiers.” [Temuka Leader, 26 April 1919.]

John William Connell is honoured on the Timaru Memorial Wall (J. W. O’Connell), the Temuka War Memorial (J. W. Connell), the Temuka RSA Roll of Honour, the Seadown Memorial (J. W. O’Connell) and the St Joseph’s, Temuka, Roll of Honour (J. Connell). The name of J. W. O’Connell is engraved on a brass shield, mounted on an oaken honours board, which was unveiled in a ceremony at the Seadown School in August 1920. A large gathering of Seadown residents and visitors from neighbouring districts took part in the unveiling and the accompanying musical service, which concluded with the sounding of the “Last Post”. Below the names is the inscription: “Their names shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.”

The Temuka St Joseph’s Church Memorial, an “exceedingly beautiful” monument to the memory of those who had fallen in the war, was unveiled after a Memorial Service on 25 April 1922. During the service appropriate music was provided by the choir and an excellent address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Kennedy. Thirty-six from the parish laid down their lives. The name of John Connell was heard again on Anzac Day, 1927. A Requiem Mass was celebrated at St Joseph’s Church, Temuka. The celebrant preached a very stirring sermon based on the Book of Wisdom (Chapter III, Verses 2-5). He pointed out that the Gallipoli campaign and later “gigantic episodes” would remain for all time a wonderful symbol of the age-old courage of men. He reminded the lads present that the enormous sacrifices made by the soldiers of New Zealand and other parts of the Empire were helping them to have brighter and better lives, and that all should render thanks to God, who had delivered them out of the hands of the enemy. They had gathered to commemorate the landing at Gallipoli and also to set aside the day to show their deep and grateful acknowledgement of the services of the men who had fought and died for them on other fields of the great battle-front. “The light of immortality that flashed from the abandoned tomb of the risen Christ lingers on in every mound of Flanders mud and clay, the gullies of Gallipoli, the sands of Palestine and Egypt, on the quiet churchyards in English villages and on God’s acres in New Zealand. . . . . And to-day, before God’s altar, we remember them with the love we bore them and the pride we shall have in them,” he concluded. Before the Dead March was played by the organist, the names were read of those from the Temuka parish who had died “on the field of honour” – among them that of John Connell.

The name of Private John W, Connell appeared in the original list of names to be inscribed on the Temuka War Memorial, which was notified in December 1921. The Temuka Borough memorial was unveiled in August 1922 before a very large gathering in the domain, including Temuka Territorials and Cadets, Temuka and Geraldine returned soldiers, the Temuka Pipe Band, the Salvation Army Band, the children of the district schools, national and local dignitaries, and local folk. Opening proceedings, the Mayor said “We regret that this occasion has arisen, but having done so we must look back with pride at the actions of those who rose to the call of the Motherland, which was in peril. Many of those brave boys who left these shores did not return, and we have erected this memorial to their memory, . . . “ Following hymns and scripture readings, His Excellency the Governor-General formally unveiled the monument and the local M.P. read out the names inscribed thereon.

Miss Lucy Connell gave 2 shillings 6 pence and Miss Peggy Connell 5 shillings towards Christmas gifts for soldiers, they being two of John’s sisters. His older, brother, Maurice Connell, a farmer at Arowhenua, was listed on the Reserve Roll. In early 1917 his name was drawn in the ballot and he was called up. In March Maurice appealed, saying that he had to work on his farm, and had to support his mother and a sister who were both invalids. He had one brother at the front, namely John William. He was allowed till 20 June. “Miss Connell, sister of the appellant, made a strong appeal on her brother’s behalf, and said that he must stay at home for a while. — The Chairman: Well, Miss Connell, you are a better advocate than Mr Campbell [representing Maurice Connell]. You have succeeded in making three hardhearted men allow your brother till the First Division is exhausted.” This sister was probably Lucy who was to die in 1922, both Alice and Catherine having predeceased their father.

On further appeal in September, when he said that he spent the majority of his time on his own place, spending the rest working for the neighbours, he was allowed till 16 October. In November, on saying that he wanted time, he was allowed till 1 March. “He did all the work on his farm, and had to look after his mother also.” Finally in December 1917, on the recommendation of the Efficiency Board, his case was adjourned sine die. M. Connell answered the roll call and was farewelled in the Temuka and Geraldine quota of the 34th Reinforcements on 17 September 1917 at Temuka. Perhaps this was one of the other Maurice Connells who lived locally, a much older man having appealed earlier. M. Connell was among the men comprising the South Canterbury quota of the 35th Reinforcements who left Timaru on 15 October 1917. This again would appear to be another man.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [14 September 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5530 0027471) [02 January 2021]; CWGC [02 January 2021]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG [14 September 2014]; Catholic Diocese of Christchurch baptism index (CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [December 2020]; Temuka Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [December 2020]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [14 September 2014; December 2020; 01 January 2021]; Temuka Leader, 24 December 1898, 23 December 1899, 22 December 1900, 6 May 1913, 6 January 1917, 17 March 1917, 4 & 7 August 1917, 8 September 1917, 30 October 1917, 13 December 1917, 19 & 21 November 1918, 26 April 1919, 24 August 1920, 1 December 1921, 26 April 1922, 12 August 1922, 26 April 1927, Timaru Herald, 26 December 1899, 29 April 1916, 14 February 1917, 16 March 1917, 5 & 18 September 1917, 13 & 27 October 1917, 8 November 1917, 13 December 1917, 25 September 1918, 08, 21 & 23 November 1918, 21 August 1920, 26 April 1922 , New Zealand Tablet, 8 May 1913, 9 January 1919, Evening Post, 25 October 1917, Evening Star, 25 October 1917, New Zealand Times, 26 October 1917, 19 November 1918, Press, 26 October 1917, 26 September 1918 (Papers Past) [21 June 2014; 02 & 14 September 2014, 07 & 09 April 2015; 21 April 2016; 06 & 09 February 2018; 31 March 2018; 09, 10 & 16 December 2020; 12 January 2021]; Probate record (Archives NZ/Family Search) [December 2020]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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