FINLAYSON, Kenneth Cross
(Service number 8/918)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 20 March 1890 Place of Birth Geraldine, New Zealand

Enlistment Information

Date 26 August 1914 Age 24
Address at Enlistment 18 Steven Street, Sydenham, Christchurch
Occupation Railway Porter [NZ Railways]
Previous Military Experience 3 years Ashburton Guards
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Jane Finlayson (mother), Tinwald, Ashburton
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information 5 foot 8 1/2 inches tall, weight 140 pounds (64kgs), chest 32-35 inches, dark complexion, grey eyes, dark hair, teeth fair, scar on left wrist

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 HMNZT 9 Hawkes Bay
Embarked From Port Chalmers, Dunedin/Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With 1st Battalion Otago Infantry Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Balkans 1915, Egyptian 1914-1916, Egyptian Expeditionary Force 1916, Western European 1916
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, Gallipoli Medallion
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

22 May 1915 to 3 June 1915 - admitted to Base Hospital, Alexandria, then transferred to Army Hospital, Cairo - rheumatism. 14 August 1915 to 17 October 1915 - admitted to Lowland Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), Mudros - shock.

Post-war Occupations


Date 25 September 1916 Age 26 years
Place of Death Somme, France
Cause Killedin action
Memorial or Cemetery Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials NZ Railways Honour's Board Wellington Railway Station.

Biographical Notes

Kenneth was the youngest son of Alexander and Jane Finlayson, born at Geraldine on 20 March 1890. Kenneth’s father was born in Dingwall, Rothshire, Scotland in 1842, and came out to New Zealand with his brother on the ship “Glenmark” in 1865. Alexander first worked on the West Coach coach-driving and waggoning, and then worked for many years on Craigieburn Station, near the Bealy. In Christchurch in 1875 he married Jane (nee Robertson, born in 1854 at Lanarkshire, Glasgow, Scotland). After his marriage he went to Mount Peel Station where he worked for the Hon J. Ackland for over thirteen years. Alexander lived the last four years of his life at Tinwald, where he worked on the Lagmhor Estate. It was there Alexander died of exposure in 1903, aged 64, leaving a wife and nine children (5 boys and 4 girls). His wife, Jane, died in Christchurch on 3 September 1933, aged 79, and they are both buried in the Ashburton Cemetery.

Kenneth was admitted to the Arundel School on 20 March 1895, transferring to the Scotsburn School on 26 August 1895. He later attended the Tinwald School when his parents moved there about 1899. In 1911 Kenneth was working at Lower Clent Hills, Mt Somers as a labourer, before taking up employment as a Porter with the New Zealand Railways. He volunteered in Christchurch as soon as war broke, previously having served with the Ashburton Guards for three years. When he was medically boarded on 25 August 1914, where he was described on his enlistment papers as being single, aged 24 years, Presbyterian, 5 foot 8 ½ inches tall, weighing 140 pounds (64kgs), with a chest measuring 32-35 inches, a dark complexion, grey eyes, dark hair, a scar on his left wrist and teeth described as fair. He entered camp at Addington the following day, and posted to the Canterbury Battalion, but due to the Otago Battalion being not up to complement, he was with a few other men, sent down to make up the numbers of the southern unit.

After a very short training period at Dunedin’s Tahuna Park, Kenneth left in September with the Otago men aboard HMNZT9 “Hawkes Bay”, in company with HMNZT5 “Ruapehu” for Wellington. A delay in sailing overseas was caused by the presence in the South Pacific of enemy warships, and the lack of a suitable naval escort powerful enough to protect the convoy. In the meantime the troops living aboard ship were taken ashore daily for exercise, training on the Wellington hills, and also out to the Trentham rifle range. Finally on 16 October 1914, after the arrival of HMS “Minotaur” and the Japanese warship “Ibuki”, along with escorts HMS “Psyche” and HMS “Philomel” she sailed across the globe in convoy with nine other transports, namely HMNZT 3 “Maunganui”, HMNZT 4 “Tahiti”, HMNZT 5 “Ruapehu”, HMNZT 6 “Orari”, HMNZT7 “Limerick”, HMNZT 8 “Star of India”, HMNZT 10 “Arawa”, HMNZT11 “Athenic” and HMNZT 12 “Waimana”. This convoy was made up of 8,500 men, and about 4,000 horses, which made its way to the Middle East by way of Hobart, Albany. There they joined the 28 transports convoying the First Detachment of the Australian Imperial Forces, continuing on to Colombo, Aden, and finally arrived in Alexandria to disembark the soldiers on 3 December 1914. The usual activities of physical training, rifle practice, sports etc, took place on the voyage, and the food was better than the camps, although spoiled at times by unskilled but good intentioned cooks.

After arriving in Alexandria they marched into Zeitoun Camp and continued training in the nearby desert. In January 1915 the brigade was moved down to the Suez Canal which the Turks were preparing to attack. The Turks attack on the night of 3-4 February failed and the brigade soon moved back to continue training at Zeitoun Camp to prepare for the landings at Gallipoli. On 12 April the Otago Battalion embarked at Alexandria for Mudros, prior to landing near ANZAC Cove on 25 April, sometime between 2.30 and 4 pm, and moved straight into battle, digging in overlooking Monash Gully. The first week of fighting was fairly quiet for the Otago’s so, still being relatively fresh, on 2 May they began an offensive to capture Baby 700, a ridge between Quinn’s Post and Pope’s Hill. This ridge was to be later called Dead Man’s Ridge as the Otago Battalion lost about half its strength during the attack.

Conditions were difficult on the peninsular. On 22 May Private Finlayson was transferred to the Base Hospital at Alexandria from where he was transferred to the Army Hospital at Cairo suffering from rheumatism. Discharged back to duty on 3 June, he re-joined his unit on the Dardanelles on 14 July. A month later he was involved in an ambitious attempt to break the stalemate that involved an attempt to capture the heights at Chunuk Bair. On the evening of 8 August the Otago’s took over the positions of the worn-out remnant of the Wellington Battalion that were holding the gains on Chunuk Bair. Desperate counterattacks by Mustapha Kemal’s Ottoman forces attempted to force the New Zealanders from the heights. The hard-won heights of Chunuk Bair was eventually lost to the Turks onslaught, when the relief of inexperienced British troops were driven off.

Not only was the fighting tough, but the conditions were also terrible. The temperature in August had soared and because of inadequate sanitation, unburied bodies, the swarms of flies and poor food, plus the lack of water and exhaustion, men began to come down with dysentery and typhoid. On 15 August Private Finlayson was admitted to the Lowland Casualty Clearance Station on Mudros suffering from shock. Transferred to the Australian Rest Camp on 17 October, he re-joined his unit the same day on Lemnos. Previously the 900 exhausted survivors of the NZ Infantry Brigade had left Anzac Cove on 15 September for the rest camp at Sarpi. The food on offer was real food, not the bully beef and hard biscuits they had subsisted on for months, but fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, milk, meat and eggs. With this dramatic change in diet, and the sudden release from intense mental and physical stress, men actually became sicker.

Only toward the end of October had the health of the men improved. The 2nd Maori Contingent had also arrived adding 300 men to the Otago Infantry Regiment. With reinforcements, new equipment and clothing, the NZ Battalions boarded the “Osmaniah” on 8 November and returned to the fray. Anchored off Anzac at 6.30 pm, the troops disembarked in the darkness. Two days later, on 10 November they set off under machine gun fire to climb up to Chanak (Chailak) Dere. By now the weather had turned much colder which decreased the amount of sickness - but frostbite and exposure was now a real risk. With flies ever-present and the enemy close, their trenches offered little shelter from the miserable conditions which now included snow. By mid-October the powers that be had decided that evacuation of the Peninsula was the only option. The Turks were being heavily reinforced, and more heavy weapons were arriving daily. On 8 December General Munro ordered General Birdwood to proceed with the evacuation. On 10-11 December all sick, wounded and surplus troops, vehicles and valuable stores began to be removed. Finally between 15-20 December, the evacuation of the rest of the 36,000 troops was successfully carried out. The men returned to Mudros where they were to spend Christmas, before finally returning to Alexandria on 26 December 1915. New Zealand had lost 2,779 men during the campaign, about one sixth of those who fought there.

Arriving at Alexandria the Otago’s left for Ismailia where they set up camp behind the Moascar railway station. January and February 1916 was fairly quiet for the Battalion, with training plus re-organising and re-equipping after the Gallipoli campaign. Before moving to France the Otago Regiment was reorganized and now comprised the 1st and 2nd battalions as part of the newly formed New Zealand Division, the 1st battalion being part of the Division's 1st Infantry Brigade. On 6 April the Otago 1st Battalion left Moascar Camp by train for Alexandria, where they embarked on HM Troopship “Arcadian”, sailing for Marseilles early the next day. Arriving on 12 April the battalion immediately entrained for the north of France, where they marched into billets at Estaires. By early May the battalion moved into the so called quiet front line at Armentieres. Before withdrawing from the sector in mid August the NZ Division received their fair share of intense bombardment, gas attacks and enemy raids.

Kenneth’s battalion remained at Fricourt and Airaines until 2 September 1916, when they marched out for the Somme offensive. At 6.20am (zero hour) on 15 September the attack began with an artillery bombardment which increased to such an extent never seen before by our troops. The first wave of troops went over the top at 6.40am and was met with a hail of German fire. This was the first battle to involve the use of tanks. They tanks did not arrive in time for the first wave of attack but several were available for later attacks in the morning. The Somme Battle was New Zealand’s first major engagement on the Western Front and was its most costly. Of the 18,000 men of the NZ Division, more than one in nine was killed, and about one in three were wounded. It was during this offensive, on 25 September that Private Kenneth Finlayson was one of those killed in action.

Kenneth’s name is one of 1211 New Zealand names commemorated on the Caterpillar Valley (NZ) Memorial near Longueval village. It is one of seven memorials in France and Belgium to those New Zealand soldiers who died on the Western Front and whose graves are not known. His name is also commemorated on the Railways Honour’s Board at Wellington Railway Station and on his parent’s headstone in the Ashburton Cemetery. His mother Jane, who had moved to Sydenham in Christchurch, was later forwarded a scroll, plaque and his medals, which included the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory medals.

Two of Kenneth’s brothers also served in the First World War: 12/3637 Private Donald Finlayson served with the Auckland Regiment in Egypt and Western Europe; and 7/1071 Trooper Robert Finlayson served with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles at Gallipoli and Egypt.


Assorted records at [June 2020]; Ashburton District COuncil cemetery records at; Billion Graves at; "The fallen and wounded" in the Ashburton Guardian 29 September 1915, "Roll of Honour" in the Otago Daily Times 13 October 1916, and "On Memorium" in the Lyttelton Times 25 September 1919, courtesy of Papers Past at

External Links

Related Documents

No documents available. 

Researched and Written by

Tony Rippin, South Canterbury Museum; Ted Hanson, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

Not assigned.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Logo. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.

Tell us more

Do you have information that could be added to this story? Or related images that you are happy to share? Submit them here!

Your Details
Veteran Details
- you may attach an image or document up to 10MB