ELSOM, George Markham
(Service number 27253)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 25 November 1889 Place of Birth Waitohi

Enlistment Information

Date 1 June 1916 Age 26 years 6 months
Address at Enlistment Winchester
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Rose ELSOM (mother), Winchester, South Canterbury
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 9 1/2 inches, weight 168 lb

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 17th Reinforcements, J Company
Date 25 September 1916
Transport Devon
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, Devon, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With 2nd Canterbury Battalion

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 13 July 1918 Reason No longer physically fit for war service on account of wounds recieved in action

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

7 June 1917 - Wounded in action; Left leg subsequently amputated

Post-war Occupations


Date 2 November 1966 Age 77 years
Place of Death Christchurch
Memorial or Cemetery Memorial Park Cemetry, Christchurch
Memorial Reference Block 5, plot 217
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

George Markham Elsom was the son of George and Caroline Rose Elsom (nee Boston), was born in Waitohi on 25 November 1889. George worked as a labourer for Mr Jason Orr of Waitohi, and lived in Winchester.

George enlisted at Trentham on 1 June 1916, and was attached to J Company of the 17th Reinforcements. Private Elsom' medical examiner described him as being 26 years 6 months old, 5 feet 9 and a half inches tall. He weighed 168 lb with a chest measurement of between 35 and a half inches and 38 inches. He had brown eyes and hair, and was of a fair complexion. While he was undergoing training at Trentham with the 3rd Reserve Canterbury/Otago Battalion, George contracted influenza and was admitted to hospital in Featherston from 2 July until 29 July 1916.

Private Elsom departed from Wellington on 25 September 1916, on board the Devon (HMNZT 64) with part of the 17th Reinforcements of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. They sailed in conjunction with the Pakeha (HMNZT 65). The troops onboard the Devon were under the command of Captain Beamish. On 21 November 1916 the convoy arrived at Devonport, England. Private Elsom along with the rest of the 17th Reinforcements marched into Sling Camp on 21 November 1916 for a month of training before leaving for France on 9 December 1916. Upon reaching Etaples he was attached to the strength of the 2nd Canterbury Battalion on 10 December 1916. Elsom’s early service wasn’t without issue - On 30 December 1916 he was placed on charge at Etaples for hesitation to obey an order, a misdemeanour that cost him 4 days pay.

In May 1917, the 2nd Canterbury Battalion was in Belgium on the Western Front, where they became involved in the Battle of Messines which started on the 7 June 1917. The objective of the New Zealand Division was to capture the village of Messines and establish a temporary defensive position to the east of the village and consolidate the position as part of the British Front line, until the 4th Australian Division had established another line of trenches in front of them. This offensive was the next ‘milestone’ for Elsom as he was admitted to the No 2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) after being wounded in action at Messines on the first day of operations, 7 June 1917. He had been hit by shell fragments in the left knee.

On the 11 June 1917, at the No 13 General Hospital CCS at Wimereux (between Boulogne-Sur-mer and the port of Calais) in France, Elsom’s left leg was amputated above the knee. He was transferred to the No 2 New Zealand General Hospital on 20 June 1917 where he was embarked on the same day for England on board the "Jan Breydal". The next day, 21 June 1917, George was admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital at Walton, London. Private Elsom's medical notes record:

"No 2 NZGH 20/6/17 Amputation L. leg wounded 8/6/17 Evac. Through 9 Aust. Field Ambulance to 2nd Aust Casualty clearing station. Operation 9/6/17 FB removed from super patella. Knee joint irrigated. Evacuated to 13th Gen Hosp 13/6/17. x-ray reports no FB. Slight injury to patella. Opn. Supra-condylar flapless stump. Stump bipped. Evac. To Walton 20/6/17. Some pus collecting poss part amp of stump. Looking fairly clean otherwise. X-ray report clean stump,traces of osteophytic growth" (NB: patella - knee cap, FB - foreign body).

A family story, recounted by G Shannahan, was that George lost his leg diving into a hole during shelling. He, with another soldier, dived for the same hole - and each had a leg out that got shrapnel damage requiring amputation.

On the 17 October 1917 George needed to undergo another operation to have some of his stump removed. However, by 8 September he was reported to be progressing satisfactorily and on 22 September 1917 he was transferred to Oatlands by Captain H.F. Gordon (NZMC) New Zealand Medical Corp. George’s ‘Registration Form for a Disabled Soldier’ reported that the Medical Officer recommended that George should train as a motor mechanic. Private Elsom was subsequently sent for training at the Motor Engineering school at Oatlands on 1 December 1917, where it seems he remained until he was withdrawn for evacuation to New Zealand on 16 April 1918. The remarks on the Registration Form reported that his attendance was very irregular. He has spent only two days at the school, the remainder of the time being spent either in hospital or on leave, One of those occasions was, no doubt, the 19 February 1918 when George had an artificial limb fitted - and the next day he was supplied with some light boots.

Finally, on 9 May 1918, George was classified as unfit by the medical board at the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Headquarters (UK) and placed on the New Zealand roll for repatriation. On 15 June 1918, Private Elsom embarked for New Zealand on the hospital ship Maheno. He disembarked in Auckland on 13 July 1918. While on the Maheno, George underwent another Medical Board on 29 May 1918, the result of which was a medical discharge. Subsequently, on 13 July 1918 George was discharged on account of being no longer physically fit for war service on account of wounds received in action. George spent 2 years and 44 days in the army, and all of his time spent in the field was on the Western Front in Europe (1916-1917). He received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

George’s brother of Charles Henry Elsom also served in the war, where he was awarded a Military Medal.

After the war George went to live first in Clandeboye, Temuka and then he shifted to West Melton, Christchurch. George married Jane MacKenzie in 1920. Interestingly their family went on to have several rugby representatives. A son, Allan E G Elsom was an All Black, and their daughter Shirly married another All Black Nelson Dalzell. Shirley and Nelson’s grandson’s (George’s great grandson’s) are the well-known present (in 2018) rugby players George, Sam, Luke, and Adam Whitelock.

George died on 2 November 1966 aged 77 years and is buried in the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch.


Auckland War Memorial Museum cenotaph Database [09 September 2016];Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [20 December 1916];NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5557 0037892 [23 January 1917];;;; SCroll web submission by G Shannahan, 27 December 2017 & 10 January 2018

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Researched and Written by

Diane Hall; Tony Rippin, South Canterbury Museum

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