O'CONNELL, William Patrick
(Service number 8/844)

Aliases Enlisted as William O'CONNELL
First Rank Private Last Rank Lieutenant


Date 22 October 1892 Place of Birth Seadown, Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 13 August 1914 Age 21 years 10 months
Address at Enlistment 24 Tinakori Road, Wellington
Occupation Clerk (Tourist Dept)
Previous Military Experience Civil Service Rifles - 1 year - disbanded to join Territorials; 5th Regiment - serving
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Miss C. O'CONNELL, Wilson Street, Timaru. Later C/o Miss O'CONNELL, Telephone Exchange, Invercargill
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 ft 10½ in. Weight 10 stone 11 lbs. Chest measurement 37-39 in. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair black. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing & colour vision both correct. Limbs well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth correct. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Main Body
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Otago Infantry Battalion
Date 16 October 1914
Transport Hawkes Bayor Ruapehi
Embarked From Port Chalmers, Dunedin Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Otago Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; Balkan; Egyptian Expeditionary Force; Western European
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star; 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 9 February 1919 Reason Struck off the strength of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force & absorbed in the strength of the Unattached List with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

30 April 1915, Dardanelles – gunshot (shrapnel) wound to knee. Admitted to Ras el Tin Military Hospital. Admitted to the Southern General Hospital, Birmingham, progressing favourably. Bullet extracted. 2 November 1915 – diarrhoea; admitted to NZ Field Ambulance, transferred to 62 NZ Australia Stationary Hospital, Mudros. 1 December 1915 - to Casualty Clearing Station. 7 March 1916 - paratyphoid; admitted to NZ General Hospital at Pont de Choubra, Cairo. 28 March 1918 - slightly wounded; remained with unit.

Post-war Occupations

Civil servant


Date 7 July 1972 Age 79 years
Place of Death Waitomo
Memorial or Cemetery Otorohanga Cemetery
Memorial Reference Plot 22, Berm III
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William Patrick O’Connell was the fourth son of Frank and Hannah (née Butler) O’Connell. He was born (William Patrick Connell) born on 22 October 1892 at Seadown, Timaru and baptised Roman Catholic at Temuka on 13 November 1892. William was educated at Seadown School, leaving at the end of 1902 for St Joseph’s, Kerrytown. At Seadown in 1899, he was awarded an attendance prize for having missed not more than 15 half-days. The prizes were presented by the Hon. Mr Twomey following sports and games. In 1904, William was to the fore at the Kerrytown School, when he was in a group of boys who gave an exhibition of club drill. “The boys were dressed in white with blue sashes, and they went through the various movements with very creditable precision, and without the slightest hesitation. Needless to say they were loudly applauded as they went off.” At the same concert, Master W. Connell played the part of a juryman in a comedy, “Suit for Libel, Puff v. Alby”. “The boys went through the comedy with spirit, and appeared well up in their parts.” William continued his studies at the Temuka District High School. He was one of seven candidates sent by the school for the Junior Civil Service examination in December 1908, all of them being successful. The following year William passed for the Senior Free Place and Junior Civil Service. W. O’Connell, of Timaru, was successful in the Civil Service senior examination held in January 1913. Mr F. O’Connell served on the Seadown School Committee. In 1913 James’ father died. He hailed from County Kerry and, with two brothers and a sister, was an early settler in South Canterbury. In the early days he was a carrier, then he took up farming at Seadown. Mrs Hannah O’Connell had died in 1909.

At the time of enlistment – on 13 August 1914, on the outbreak of war - William was working as a clerk for the Tourist Department in Wellington. William was the first of the three brothers – James, Francis Joseph and William – who named their sister Cecilia as next –of-kin. In 1914 Cecilia was at Wilson Street, Timaru, with some of her siblings. Several of the family had moved to Timaru with their father in the last two years of his life. By October 1916 Cecilia moved to Invercargill with her sister. William was at 24 Tinakori Road, Wellington, not 22 years old, single and of Church of England affiliation. William stood at 5 feet 10½ inches, weighed 10 stone 11 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 37-39 inches. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes and black hair. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all correct, as were his teeth, his limbs and chest well formed, his heart and lungs normal. He was in good bodily and mental health, vaccinated and free of diseases. He had served for a year with the Civil Services Rifles, until disbandment to join the Territorials. He was currently serving with the 5th Regiment.

Private W. O’Connell, 8/844, was with D Company of the Otago Infantry Battalion. He embarked with the Main Body from Port Chalmers on 16 October 1914, reaching Suez, Egypt on 3 December. It was 12 April 1915 when he embarked at Alexandria for the Dardanelles.

Early May 1915 brought the publication of a list of seventy more casualties - those who were wounded at the Dardanelles on 5 May. The majority belonged to the Otago Infantry Battalion. One of those was William O’Connell, Otago Infantry Battalion, who was actually wounded on 30 April. He suffered a slight gunshot (shrapnel) wound in the knee, in action at the Dardanelles, and was admitted to the Military Hospital at Ras el Tin. The first of the wounded were transported by hospital ships from Alexandria to England. Fortunately, he was soon reported to be “doing well, happy and contented.” Admitted to the Southern General Hospital at Birmingham, he had the shrapnel bullet extracted, was progressing favourably and was ready to leave the hospital by late May (he thought). An article in the Otago Witness of 4 August 1915 gives a personal, layman’s account of the landing for the New Zealanders and Australians. [See newspaper attachment.] William O’Connell wrote to a Christchurch connection from the Convalescent Home at Highbury, Birmingham. “I was put out of action at the Dardanelles on April 23, after three days’ tough fighting. I was nearly ‘kilt entoirely’ more than once, but my luck was in, as it seemed impossible for anything to live there for an hour. A lump of shrapnel eventually got me in the knee and stuck there until the ship’s doctor hauled it out. On my way to the beach I was getting dressed by an ambulance chap, when a shell landed and nearly buried the two of us. I wasn’t sorry when I got back to the boat out of the range of shell fire. . . . . . . There was a continuous stream of wounded going down to the beach, and dead were lying everywhere. It gave me a queer feeling for a start, but in the excitement I forgot about everything. Some fellows seemed to be praying and others were swearing at the tops of their voices. I don’t know what I was doing, but I will give myself the benefit of the doubt and say I was praying. I did not know that I was hit until I saw the blood coming. They put me into a hospital at Alexandria for about a week, when I had to stay in bed, not being able to move. I thought the bone had been splintered, and I feared that my tennis days were at an end. They sent me here to Birmingham, and I am nearly all right again, and hope to get my discharge in about a week’s time, so that by the time you get this I will probably be in the firing line again. Am I anxious to go back there? Yes, dying to go! . . . . .” [Lyttelton Times. 20 August 1915.] On 2 August, after some time at the Monte Video Camp at Weymouth, Private O’Connell returned to the Dardanelles. Suffering a bout of diarrhoea at the beginning of November 1915, William was admitted to the New Zealand Field Ambulance, then transferred to the 62 NZ Australia Stationary Hospital at Mudros and from there to the Casualty Clearing Station on 1 December. On 31 December he was able to rejoin his unit.

The report issued on 16 March 1916 advised that Private William O’Connell had been admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital at Pont de Choubra, Cairo, with paratyphoid. This had become the Infectious Diseases Hospital. In April he was transferred to No 3 Auxiliary Hospital at Heliopolis and from there to the Red Cross Convalescent facility at Montazah. Discharged to duty in mid May, he embarked at Alexandria on the Hospital Ship “Nile” and disembarked at Devonport, and was posted to Hornchurch. In late September 1916 he left Sling for France and, joining his battalion in the field, he was appointed lance-corporal. Some ten weeks later he was appointed temporary corporal, and in April 1917 promoted to corporal.

In April 1917, William O’Connell was recommended for a commission on the field. He was sent to England for training at the 2nd NZ Infantry Brigade School and was posted to the Otago Infantry Regiment with the rank of Lance Corporal. At this time his brothers, Jim and Frank were also in France. He was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, effective from 24 May 1917. He returned to France from Sling in late June. He spent two weeks at Bombing School and a week at Corps School before rejoining his unit. 2nd Lt W. O’Connell, 8/844, was slightly wounded in March 1918 but was able to remain with his unit. On 16 March he was appointed Battalion Bomb Officer and detached to Gas School the following week. Three weeks leave in the UK followed in June, and in August there was a detachment to Signal School.

Second-Lieutenant William O’Connell, 8/844, returned to New Zealand with Draft 204, embarking at Liverpool on 3 December 1918. As of 2 December 1918, he was to be Lieutenant, under provision of NZEF Regulation 13, and was being seconded to New Zealand for duty. The troopship “Tahiti” arrived at Port Chalmers on Sunday, 12 January, after a voyage of 40 days. The men were warmly welcomed at Panama and were greatly indebted to the people there for their kindness. During the voyage physical training was conducted with excellent results. O’Connell was granted privileged leave from 13 January to 9 February 1919. Discharged on 9 February 1919, he intended residing at Princess Street, Invercargill, with his sisters. He had served for over four years overseas - in Egypt, the Balkans, and Western Europe, for which he was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He was struck off the strength of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and absorbed in the strength of the Unattached List with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. A Confidential Report, signed by the officer commanding 1/Otago and dated 10 December 1918, noted – “A thoroughly capable young officer with a high standard of duty. Qualified as Bombing Instructor, and as Battalion Signally Officer. Has plenty of ability, and makes good use of it.”

He rejoined the Government Tourist Department and was employed in the Invercargill office. He immediately engaged with local organisations, being elected a vice-president of the Public Service football Club at Invercargill. He competed in tennis competitions, particularly mixed doubles. Tennis was one of his great interests in his youth. In October 1920 he was appointed to a sub-committee of the Southland Lawn tennis Association, tasked with arranging a Christmas tournament. In November 1924 he was appointed manager of the Dunedin office.

Post war 2nd Lieutenant William O’Connell served with the Territorial Force. On 4 August 1919, William O’Connell, of 22 Princes Street, Enwood, Invercargill, a civil servant (Govt Tourist Agent), applied to be absorbed into a Territorial Force, to continue his service in the New Zealand Military Forces in the Reserve of Officers. As of 2 December 1918 he had been promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to Lieutenant, although this was not gazetted until 27 March 1919. His Parchment commission had been delivered in June 1919. Miss C. O’Connell (sister), Baird Street, Invercargill, was both nominated and legal next-of-kin for William O’Connell. A Gazette notice, dated 19 August 1921, advised that Lieutenant W. O’Connell, residing at Islington Street, East End, Invercargill, was posted to the Retired List. As an officer on the Retired List, he was required to report in writing between 1st and 31st January each year. In 1922 he was in Invercargill, but by 1927 in Wellington. Officers on the Retired List were permitted to retain their rank and wear uniform on special occasions. In World War II he served with the Home Guard in the Northern Military District, resigning on 16 September 1943 after two years of commissioned service. [transfer to E.P.S.] He had been appointed to a commission with the Waitomo Home Guard Battalion on 12 November 1941. At that time he was the hostel manager at Waitomo Caves.

William Patrick O’Connell was engaged to Dorothea Elizabeth Orange (Doris, Dorothy) in 1920 and married her in 1921 at Invercargill. They had one son, born on 3 May 1925 in Dunedin - William Grattan O’Connell (Grattan), who himself had a notable career. Following a tour of several of the South Island holiday resorts in May 1925, he recommended travelling at that time of year – good weather, roads in good order for motor cars, fewer crowds and, thus, better attention. “What seems to strike one more particularly on this trip,” said Mr O’Connell to a newspaper reporter, “is the remarkable variety in the scenery and the special attractions that each resort offers.” He was a passionate advocate for the Tourist Department.

William died on 11 July 1972 at Waitomo, where he had resided in retirement. Aged 79 years, his death recorded with his full name, and again Roman Catholic, he was buried at Otorohanga Cemetery. Doris died in 1987. Hannah Cecilia O’Connell died on 8 September 1934 at Ross, where her youngest brother was postmaster at the time. She was buried at Hokitika. William’ brother, James O’Connell, died of wounds on 29 September 1917 in France. Another brother, Francis Joseph O’ Connell (1887-1968), also served overseas. His oldest brother, Denis Frank O’Connell, was a dairy farmer at Dannevirke when he was called up in 1917. A cousin, James Patrick O’Connell, also died from the effects of the war. Bartholomew O’Connell, who served, was another cousin.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [08 April 2015]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5549 0087595; Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5956 0350760) [07 & 28 April 2015]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [07 April 2015]; School Admission record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG [08 April 2015]; Otorohanga Cemetery headstone transcription (SC Branch NZSG Cemetery Records microfiche) [08 April 2015]; Otorohanga Cemetery burial records (Otorohanga District Council) [10 April 2015]; Catholic Diocese of Christchurch baptism index (CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [10 April 2015; December 2020]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [04 April 2015; 01 January 2021]; Temuka Leader, 23 December 1899, 19 November 1904, 9 June 1907, 30 January 1909, 18 January 1910, 6 September 1913, Otago Daily Times, 12 October 1914, 17 September 1917, 5 November 1917, 9 January 1919, 11 June 1925, Timaru Herald, 6 & 28 May 1915, 31 July 1917, Evening Post, 5 & 28 May 1915, 9 April 1918, Dominion, 6 May 1915, 17 March 1916, Press, 7 May 1915, 10 January 1919, New Zealand Times, 26 May 1915, 15 September 1915, 6 January 1919, New Zealand Herald, 29 June 1915, 11 November 1922, Otago Witness, 4 August 1915, 8 January 1919, Lyttelton Times, 20 August 1915, Sun, 15 September 1915, Greymouth Evening Star, 21 September 1915, Southern Cross, 28 February 1920, Southland Times, 13 March 1920, 29 October 1920, Evening Star, 28 October 1924, 7 March 1925, 3 & 13 April 1920, 11 April 1925, Hokitika Guardian, 10 September 1934 (Papers Past) [07 & 27 April 2015; 16 December 2020; 01, 04 & 05 January 2021]

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