FARROW, William John
(Service number 26/553 (WWI); 820907 (WWII)

First Rank Rifleman (WWI); Private (WWII) Last Rank Rifleman (WWI); Corporal (WWII)


Date 9 December 1894 Place of Birth Timaru, New Zealand

Enlistment Information

Date 13 October 1915 (WWI); 12 October 1942 (WWII) Age 20 (WWI); 47 (WWII)
Address at Enlistment 202 Crinan Street Invercargill (WWI); 7a Hewlings Street Timaru (WWII)
Occupation Locomotive fireman (WWI); Engine driver (WWII)
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single (WWI); Single (WWII)
Next of Kin Mrs Samuel Farrow (mother), 49 Russell Square, Timaru (WWI); Mrs Mary Ellen Farrow (mother) 98 Evans Street Timaru (WWII)
Religion Anglican
Medical Information 5 foot 5 1/2 inches tall, weight 126 pounds (57kgs), chest 31-34 1/2 inches, dark complexion, grey eyes, dark hair, good teeth

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade - WW1 Coast Watch Timaru - WW2
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 4th Battalion, D Company (WWI); Home Service (WWII)
Date 5 Feburary 1916 (WWI)
Transport HMNZT 42 Ulimaroa (WWI)
Embarked From Wellington, N.Z. Destination Suez Egypt (WWI); Home Service (WWII)
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With 4 NZ Rifle Brigade (WWI); Coast Watch Timaru (WWII)

Military Awards

Campaigns Egypt & Western Europe (WWI); Home Service (WWII)
Service Medals British War Medal & Victory Medal (WWI); War Medal 1939-1945 & NZ War Service Medal (WWII)
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 19 November 1917 (WWI); 6 January 1944 (WWII) Reason No longer physicall fit for war service on account of wounds received in action (WWI); Return to farming (WWII)

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

23 September - 3 October 1916 - gun shot wound to shoulder - admitted to 1 NZ Field Ambulance. 7 June 1917 - Gun shit wound to left leg. Admitted to 53 Casulaty Clearing Station (CCS); transferred on 8 June to General Hospital, Boulogne; 27 June - embarked on Hospital Ship 'St David' and admitted to No.1 NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst on arrival. Classed as unfit for duty on 11 July 1917

Post-war Occupations

Engine driver (WWI); Farmer (WWII)


Date 16 July 1959 Age 64 years
Place of Death Timaru, New Zealand
Notices Timaru Herald, 17 & 18 July 1959
Memorial or Cemetery Timaru Cemetery
Memorial Reference Services Section Row 108, Plot 14
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William was born in Timaru on 9 December 1894, the eldest child of Samuel and Mary Ellen (nee Coleman) Farrow. Samuel (1858-1942) was working as an electrician in Timaru when he died.In 1893 he had married Mary Ellen Coleman (1869-1942). They are buried together in the Timaru Cemetery. William received his education at the Timaru South and Main Schools where he passed the sixth standard and was a keen member of the St Mary’s Sunday school. On leaving school he took up employment with the New Zealand Railways as a locomotive fireman.

When he volunteered for war service William was living at 202 Crinan Street, Invercargill, and entered Trentham Camp on 13 October 1915 as part of the 9th Reinforcements with other Southland men. William was a small man; his enlistment papers describing him as being aged 20, single, Anglican, 5 foot 5 ½ inches tall, weighing 126 pounds (57kgs), with a chest measuring 31-34 1/2 inches, dark complexion, grey eyes, dark hair, and good teeth. At Trentham the new battalions became known as “The Trentham Regiment" (The Earl of Liverpool's Own). William was given the regimental number 26/553 and posted to D Company, 4th Battalion NZ Rifle Brigade (NZRB). At Trentham the men were issued with their basic equipment and infantry training took place there and other North Island locations. After a march through the streets of Wellington Rifleman Farrow boarded HMNZT 42 “Ulimaroa” which sailed on 16 February 1916. The ship was part of a convoy with HMNZT 43 “Mokoia” and HMNZT 44 “Navua”. These three ships were to carry the 3rd and 4th Battalions NZRB, the 3rd Maori contingent and No.2 Field Ambulance, a total of 2228 troops. The journey was broken by a stopover at Albany where the men were marched through the streets before being given some leave. The journey continued via Colombo, before travelling through the Red Sea to berth at Suez, Egypt, on 15 March 1916. The usual on-board activities during the trip including boxing contests, concerts and physical training, plus the standardtraditions on crossing the equator including a water fight.

On arrival at Suez the troops boarded old coal trucks for an uncomfortable train trip to Moascar Camp. Desert training began but they were soon to leave Alexandria. On 7 April aboard the “Alaunia” for Marseilles, France. From here they moved by train on 13 April, reaching Hazebrouck about midnight on 15/16 April, before having to further move on to Steenbecque. Here they were issued with their gas masks and tin helmets and underwent three months extensive training in trench warfare. On the night of 22/23 May the NZRB commenced its first tour of duty in the trenches, taking over part of the sector due east of Armentieres. This was a supposed “quiet” area to get the troops used to trench warfare. Even so, the NZRB casualties were quite heavy - caused mostly by shell-fire. In August the Battalion was relieved and moved back to Doudelaineville where training began in earnest for the Somme offensive. In early September they moved up to Fricourt to take up positions on the Somme. On 15 September the NZ Division attacked Flers as part of the Battle of the Somme. During this battle on 23 September William received wounds to his shoulder, and was admitted to No.1 NZ Field Ambulance for about a week and a half before rejoining his unit on 3 October.

The winter of 1916/17 was spent on the River Lys, near Armentieres. The Brigade was to remain in reserve from 8 to 24 January 1917, during the most severe winter known in the region for thirty years. During this period the Brigade had to supply large parties daily for wiring the subsidiary line in the old sector. They then went back into the line in the Cordonnerie Section, east of Laventie, the 4th in reserve at Bac St. Maur until back in the front line on 1 February. By 20 April 1917, the Battalion was back in the vicinity of Messines. The period from 27 April to 5 May was characterized by great aerial and artillery activity. There were very many fights in the air, and it was noted with considerable satisfaction at the time that in the majority of contests Allied airmen got the better of their opponents. The shelling of forward and back areas, camps, headquarters and transport lines was frequent and intense.

On 31 May the Brigade moved to De Seule Concentration Area, where units remained resting until the eve of the Battle of Messines. For many months the tunnellers had been busy placing up to 1 million pounds of explosives under the German positions. These mines were exploded about 3am on 7 June 1917, the noise being so loud it was heard in London. The men of nine divisions setting off forward at 3.10am. The next stage was to push forward 1.5km on the far side of the slope of the ridge. The capture of Messines was achieved with relatively few casualties but as the day wore on German gunners began firing on the newly won areas with increasing ferocity. The troops on the ridge were kept there in anticipation of a major enemy counter-attack which never eventuated, and suffered a trying and costly bombardment. By the time the NZ Division was relieved on 9 June it had suffered 3700 casualties, including 700 dead. This battle took place over the period 7 – 14 June, and was an essential prelude to the main Allied attack which was to become known as the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). It was during this period, on 7 June 1917, that Rifleman Farrow was reported missing. Thankfully this status was later changed to wounded in action. William was admitted to No 77 Field Ambulance with gunshot wounds to his left leg. He was transferred the same day to No 53 CCS then to No.13 General Hospital at Boulogne on 8 June. On 27 June he embarked on the Hospital Ship “St David” and admitted to 1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst. He was classed as unfit for further duty on 11 July and placed on the NZ Roll for return to New Zealand.

On July 14 William embarked from Avonmouth aboard the “SS Marama” arriving back home on 26 August 1917. Finally, on 19 November 1917, he was discharged from the army as no longer physically fit for war service on account of wounds received in action. For his service of two years and 38 days he received the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

William returned to Timaru where he continued in his employment as an engine driver and later as a farmer in the Kingsdown area. He enlisted again during World War Two, serving as 820907 Private Farrow, from 12 October 1942 until 6 January 1944. During this time he was promoted to Corporal and served as a Coast Watcher at Timaru. For this one year and 84 days service he was awarded the War Medal 1939-1945 and the New Zealand War Service Medal.

In 1945 William married Rose Ann Crawshaw, but it appears they mostly lived apart. William died at Timaru aged 64 years on 16 July 1959, and is buried in the Timaru Cemetery Services Section.

William’s brother 77016 Rifleman Leslie Farrow served in England in the latter part of World War One. Like William he also served in World War Two, and while serving in the 23rd Battalion Private Leslie Farrow was captured in Libya in 1941 and spent the remainder of the war as a POW.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [March 2021]; New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at; Timaru District Council cemetery records at ; "Recruiting" in the Southland Times 10 September 1915, "New Zeland's Roll of Honor : N.Z. Rifle Brigade" in the Auckland Star 9 October 1916, "Roll of Honour" in the Timaru Herald 25 November 1916, and "The war : Roll of Honour: in the Greymouth Evening Star 26 June 1917, ourtesy of Papers Past at

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Researched and Written by

Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to


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