TURNER, David Doig
(Service number 6/2781)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 20 January 1890 Place of Birth Geraldine

Enlistment Information

Date 17 April 1915 Age
Address at Enlistment 338 Talbot Street, Geraldine
Occupation Cordial manufacturer For James Turner of Geraldine
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin James TURNER (father), Geraldine
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 6½ inches. Weight 140 lbs.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 6th Reinforcements
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Canterbury Infantry Battalion
Date 14 August 1915
Transport Willochra
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian (1915-1916), Egyptian Expeditionary Force (1916), Balkans (Gallipoli, 1915), Western European (1916-1917)
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 26 March 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; Admitted to 9th Australian Field Ambulance; transferred to No.1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (CCS); 8 June 1917 - Admitted to No.83 General Hospital, Boulogne; 19 June 1917 - Embarked for England; 20 June - admitted to Hospital at Walton-on-Thames; 16 July 1917 - transferred to Convalescent Depot, Hornchurch; 29 August - Transferred to Walton-on-Thames - old wound chest & left leg; 19 September 1917 - Discharged from Hopital, to report to Torquay; 25 September 1917 - Classified as unfit by Medical Board and placed on NZ Roll [for return to New Zealand]; 16 November 1917 - Embarked for New Zealand abouard the 'Ruahine' from Liverpool

Post-war Occupations



Date 8 July 1972 Age 82 years
Place of Death Nelson
Memorial or Cemetery Marsden Valley Cemetery
Memorial Reference Plot 57
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

David Doig Turner was the son of James Hardie Turner and his wife Janet (Jessie) Murray Forsyth née Doig.

At the time David enlisted he was working as a cordial manufacturer for his father in Geraldine. He was described by the medical board as being 5 feet 6½ inches tall, weighing 140 lbs with a dark complexion, brown eyes, black hair, and being of the Presbyterian faith.

David's service began on 17 April 1915. He served and survived the tail end of the Gallipoli campaign as a member of the 6th Reinforcements, the last New Zealand contingent to land and serve at ANZAC Cove. By the time he had arrived the landings had failed to make significant inroads into the Peninsular despite several attempts to break out of their initial landing areas. The Allies could not break out, were outnumbered, and the Ottomans had started to receive heavy artillery which would blast them off the peninsula. Therefore the decision was made to evacuate, even though this was unpopular with many ANZACs since they hated the idea of abandoning mates who were buried on the peninsula. Over several nights the ANZACs slipped away from Gallipoli with the last men leaving in the early hours of 20 December. The New Zealanders first major battle in World War I had ended in a terrible defeat. Roughly 180 South Canterbury boys had been killed and about 400 wounded, amongst the overall New Zealand casualties of 2779 killed and 5212 wounded.

David, along with many of his compatriots in the New Zealand Infantry Regiments were then refitted, reorganised and transferred to serve on the Western Front with the rest of the 1st NZ Division. There, a month prior to taking part in the Somme offensive in September, David was promoted to Temporary Lance Corporal on 12 August 1916. The Somme in 1916 was the first time New Zealanders took part in a large battle on the Western Front. Over a period of 45 days they proved themselves hard fighters but lost almost as many men as they did in their eight months at Gallipoli. The aim of the battle was to punch through the German trenches and break the stalemate of the Western Front. The Somme started with a disastrous British attack in July and the New Zealanders joined the fray in September. The Kiwis took part in four separate attacks. They took their objectives but each time suffered heavy casualties. During the battle the New Zealand division earned a reputation as good fighters but their success came at a high cost - of the 18,000 New Zealanders who fought in the battle nearly 6000 were wounded and more than 2100 were killed. At least 97 South Cantabrians died during the fighting at the Somme.

On 15 March 1917 he was further promoted to Corporal, the rank he held while taking part in the Messines campaign. The New Zealander’s attack at Messines in June 1917 was a major victory, but there was still a heavy price to pay for the country and David personally. The attack aimed to capture a ridge to secure the British line before a large offensive to the North. The goal was not to break through the lines but to attack and hold territory. Over the previous two years prior to the attack the British had been digging tunnels under the German lines where they laid huge explosives to destroy the defences. Early on 7 June the explosives went off and shattered German frontline trenches. The Kiwis surged through the German defences and captured the fortified town of Messines after some hard fighting. That day the New Zealander's suffered 3700 casualties including 700 killed. At least forty-three South Canterbury men were killed, and many others wounded, including David who sustained severe shrapnel wounds to his leg, chest and jaw.

Wounded, David was then looked after by the well-established medical services. First he was admitted to 9th Australian Field Ambulance for initial treatment, before being transferred to No.1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (CCS). As his wounds required more treatment, the next day he was moved further behind the lines, being admitted to No.83 General Hospital, Bolougne. On 19 June he was embarked for England, being admitted to Hospital at Walton-on-Thames the next day. He remained there for a little over a month before being transferred to the Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch. Later in July 1917 David wrote home from the front, relating his experiences. His letter is phrased in positive tones, no doubt intended to allay his family's fears for his condition. It was reprinted in the Timaru Herald as follows:


Mr James Turner, Talbot Street, Geraldine, has just received a long, cheery letter from his son, Corporal D. D. Turner, from somewhere in France, In the course of his interesting letter, he says that his brigade had just taken a strong stronghold from Fritz, and he had seen several Geraldine boys who had just arrived, Hughie Herlihy Alex. Maitland, Jack and Mark Sutherland, and others, at a march past when they were inspected by the General. ‘Next night,’ he continued, ‘we moved up to be ready for the stunt on June 7th, but I am sorry to say this kid had his first halt since he has been in this outfit. We were in the middle of tea, and I was busy cutting up a cake which our sergeant had given me for the boys of my section, when over came one of Fritz's 5.9’s, and spoilt the whole show. Of course you will understand we left the place. When I came to, most of the boys were [outed?], and how I got off so lightly I do not know. I got a piece of shell on the forehead, one on the right jaw, four pieces on my chest, one on the left leg and another on the left hand and here I am in the 83rd Dubin General Hospital at Boulogne, as if nothing had happened. Only one of the wounds is keeping me on my back, that is one of those on my left chest. There is nothing to feel, but they will not even let me sit up, so here I am, home and dried, and never better looked after. A. Robinson joined up the day before, and was in the mob ; how he fared I do not know. Well, I have a good chance of getting over to England, so I will be able to make up for lost time, so do not worry about this kid.’

Note.—Since receiving the above letter Mr Turner received word, that his son had been transferred to the Walton-on-Thames Hospital, and from thence to Hornchurch Convalescent Depot, and is doing well. Private A. Robinson, who is mentioned as having been in the party, has since died of wounds, probably received at the same time."

However, recovery wasn't to prove simple. On 29 August his wounds appear to have still been causing significant issues as he was transferred back to Walton-on-Thames. A medical reports that he was suffering a chest haemothorax resulting from his wounds from high explosive fragments in his chest, jaw, and left leg. The report details the wounds and reports the difficulties David was experiencing. At this point it seems clear his wounds were too significant for him to return to service as he was transferred to Torquay in September where he was classified as unfit by a Medical Board and placed on NZ Roll for return to New Zealand. Finally on 16 November David embarked for New Zealand aboard the 'Ruahine' from Liverpool. On his return to New Zealand David spent his last days prior to being discharged on 26 March 1918 at Taumaru, a convalescent hospital in Lowry Bay near Wellington. Originally a house built in 1894 by Sir Francis Henry Dillon Bell, it was used as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers from 1916-1919, after which it was re-occupied by Bell. The "Taumaru Trifler", a periodical written in the hospital from 1917-1919, lists Cpl Turner in September 1918.

David served a total of two years and 344 days, all but 199 of those days overseas. To recognise his service David was issued the 1914-1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals after the war in 1921. Later in life, when the Gallipoli medallion was issued in 1967, David received it and the accompanying lapel badge.

After the war David applied for a war gratuity that was issued in November 1919. He returned to Geraldine and appears to have made a significant recovery. By 1928 he was a dairy farmer on Winchester Road, Geraldine. By 1935 he had moved to farming at Sercombes Road on the other side of Geraldine with his wife Jessie until at least 1946. By 1949 he and his wife had retired to MacDonald Street, Geraldine, where he lived until 1954. By 1957 he and his wife had moved to Rangiora, before moving on to Nelson by 1963.

David died in Nelson on 8 July 1972 and is buried in the Marsden Valley Cemetery. His wife Jessie outlived David by three years, and her ashes were placed at the Wakapuaka Cemetery.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [25 November 2017]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [25 November 2017]; Marsden Valley Cemetery headstone transcription (South Canterbury Branch NZSG cemetery records) [25 November 2017]; Temuka Leader, 28 July 1917 (Papers Past) [24 November 2017]; "Taumaru", National Library of New Zealand at [30 August 2021]; Electoral rolls (asst) via [30August 2021]

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Researched and Written by

Tony Rippin, South Canterbury Museum

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