BRENNAN, Adolphus Michael
(Service number 8/1941)

Aliases Dolph; Baptised Michael KELLER
First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 18 March 1896 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 13 February 1915 Age 18 years 10 months
Address at Enlistment Post Office North East Valley, Dunedin
Occupation Farm labourer
Previous Military Experience Coast Defence - serving
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Jane BRENNAN (mother), N. E. Valley P. O., Dunedin; 59 Melbourne Street, Dunedin
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 8 inches. Weight 138 lbs. Chest measurement 33-35 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair flaxen. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing & colour vision both good. Limbs well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth good. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits. No illnesses. Fit. No marks indicating congenital peculiarities or previous disease.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation
Unit, Squadron, or Ship
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Training Unit

Military Awards

Service Medals
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 23 March 1915 Age 19 years
Place of Death Wellington Hospital, Wellington, New Zealand
Cause Endocarditis - heart failure
Notices Otago Daily Times, 29 March 1915; Otafo Witness, 31 March 1915; New Zealand Tablet, 1 April 1915
Memorial or Cemetery Karori Cemetery, Wellington
Memorial Reference 73. S. R.C.
New Zealand Memorials North East Valley School, Dunedin, Roll of Honour; Upper Junction School, Dunedin, Roll of Honour board; Upper Junction School, Dunedin, plaque

Biographical Notes

Adolphus Michael Brennan, known to family as Dolph, was born on 18 March 1896 at Timaru, to Margaret Brennan and Michael Keller, both single. He was baptised as Michael Keller the following week, on 24 March 1896 at the Timaru Catholic Church. Adolphus was brought up by his maternal grandparents, Francis and Jane (née Kelliher) Brennan, as one of their own. He was educated at Upper Junction School on Mount Cargill north of Dunedin. There he had a really good year in 1909, earning a class prize for Standard V, a special prize for best work in Standard V and an attendance prize. At some time he may have gone to North East Valley School, Dunedin.

Adolphus attested voluntarily on 13 February 1915, joining the Otago Infantry and nominating his 'mother', Mrs Jane Brennan, as his next-of-kin. At the time he was a farm labourer at Waitati, not yet 19 years old (although he put his age up to twenty), single and Roman Catholic. He was in good health in all respects and fit, 5 feet 8 inches tall, of fair complexion, and had blue eyes and flaxen hair; and his teeth were good. He had registered for compulsory military training at Dunedin and was already serving in the Coast Defence Unit. Adolphus was one of the Infantry Territorial men of the Otago quota of the fifth reinforcement who left Dunedin by special train in mid February 1915, heading to Trentham to undergo training until their departure for the front.

“All the arrangements in connection with the departure of the Dunedin men worked with true military precision, despite the fact that the men were closely hemmed in by thousands of citizens who assembled to see the men away,” reported the Otago Daily Times of 15 February 1915. The troops fell in at the Garrison Hall before marching to the Queen’s Gardens where the Union Jack and other flags “were floating proudly”. From the bandstand, the Mayor bade them farewell and God-speed in their undertaking. Mr Gibson, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, stated that they were “going to take part in a war to uphold the very foundations of civilisation and liberty.” He went on to impress on the men how much the honour of New Zealand lay in their hands, concluding with “Quit yourselves like men, and when the war is over may you be brought back in safety.” Colonel Stoneham of the Recruiting Committee hoped that they would see fighting unless the war was finished before they got to the front, which they all hoped. Following speeches and ten minutes leave for the men to say their farewells, they marched to the station via High, Princes and Stuart streets, headed by a bugle band and the Dunedin Pipe Band.

But A. M. Brennan was to go no further than Trentham; he was to experience no fighting. Five weeks later he was dead, having celebrated his nineteenth birthday a few days before his death. Private Adolphus Michael Brennan, Otago Infantry Company, Fourth Reinforcements, was admitted to Wellington Hospital from the Training Unit at Trentham Camp about 12 March and died there early on the morning of 23 March 1915 from endocarditis and haemorrhaging (epistaxis). Adolphus was buried in Karori Cemetery, Wellington, in a private funeral as requested by his family.

Francis and Jane Brennan suffered severe loss in the war. Adolphus (Dolph) was the first of four sons to die. William (Bill) Brennan enlisted in Australia but being rejected on account of his young age returned to New Zealand to enlist and go to his death in 1916 at the Somme. John (Jack) Brennan was killed in action in 1917 at Ypres. The youngest son Richard (Dick) Mortimer Brennan, seven months younger than Adolphus, was killed in action “Somewhere in France” in 1918. Francis (Frank) Brennan, the eldest son, was wounded in action and because of the shrapnel in his leg had to use a walking stick for the rest of his life. In August 1919 Mrs Brennan was to lose her husband and the father of their surviving two sons and five daughters. Margaret, the birth mother of Adolphus married in 1901.

When the friends of two of the best-known families in the Upper Junction district – the Brennans and the Paisleys – met in the schoolhouse at the beginning of August 1917 to make a presentation to Privates H. Paisley and R. Brennan who were home on final leave, it was noted that five of the Brennan brothers and four of the Paisleys had gone to the front. This was a record of which their parents and the district could be proud. It was also noted that Private W. Brennan was killed in France and Private A. Brennan had died, while one of the Paisley boys had been killed at Gallipoli. The mayor of Dunedin said that they must never forget those who made the greatest sacrifice of all – the mothers. The mothers were presented with gold brooches as an acknowledgement of their sacrifice in having so many sons away.

In September 1919 the peace booklet, which was compiled to commemorate the outstanding events of the Great War, was distributed to the children of the Dunedin city and suburban schools. At the Upper Junction School two trees were planted – one to commemorate the signing of the Peace Treaty and the other to remember the men of the district who had fallen in the fight. Among the men who had made the supreme sacrifice were A. Brennan, W. Brennan, J. Brennan, R. Brennan, and twelve others. As a mark of respect the bugler sounded the “Last post”, and the flag was flown at half-mast. In the evening the Mayor unveiled the school Roll of Honour, which recorded 59 names – those who had made the supreme sacrifice and those others who had served. The Upper Junction School burnt down in 1945. Many records and the original Roll of Honour board were destroyed. However a former pupil from the school had a photograph of the board and transcribed it in 1991. The board read as follows:

On fames eternal camping ground,

Their silent tents are spread,

And glory guards with solemn round,

The bivouac of the dead.

1914 THE GREAT WAR 1918

Seventeen native beech trees to remember ex-pupils of the school who died in the Great War were planted in what was the playground of the school. A plaque was placed at the bottom of each tree with the name of the soldier and, although the area is now somewhat overgrown, all seventeen plaques have survived. The names of A. Brennan and his three brothers are also inscribed on the North East Valley School Roll Call of Men Who Fell. In 1923 Mrs Brennan was bade farewell from Upper Junction, where Francis Brennan had cleared the bush to pitch his tent about 57 years earlier and together they had raised six sons and six daughters.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [29 September 2017]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 11805 W5520 0017701) [10 September 2014]; CWGC [01 October 2017]; Baptism record (Timaru Catholic Church per relative) [29 September 2017]; Conversation with Margaret Vuleta (niece of A. M. Brennan) [September-October 2017]; Evening Star, 22 December 1909, 23 March 1915, Otago Daily Times, 15 February 1915, 29 March 1915, 26 April 1915, 9 July 1915, 2 August 1917, 25 September 1919, 24 November 1923, Evening Post, 23 March 1915, Otago Witness, 31 March 1915, Dominion, 6 July 1915, New Zealand Tablet, 1 April 1915, 31 August 1916, 8 November 1917, 14 November 1918 (Papers Past) [30 September 2017; 01 October 2017]; New Zealand Wargraves Project (public contribution, 26/01/2015) [03 October 2017]; Karori Cemetery, Wellington, headstone image (Wellington City Council); Dunedin Family History Group newsletter 2015 [2015]; North East Valley School memorial - photo (NZ History - [01 October 2017]

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Teresa Scott, SC brnach NZSG

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