McCLEERY, Thomas George Alley
(Service number 8/2670)
|Aliases||Known as George. Enlisted as George Thomas McCLEERY.|
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Lance corporal|
|Date||22 November 1889||Place of Birth||Outram, Otago|
|Date||17 April 1915||Age||25 years|
|Address at Enlistment||1 St Andrew Street, dunedin|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Hugh McCLEERY (father), 1 St Andrew Street, Dunedin. Mrs L. B. McCLEERY, 7 Belmont Road, Torquay, England; P.O. Otipua, Timaru|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||6th Reinforcements|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Otago Infantry Battalion|
|Date||14 August 1915|
|Transport||Willochra or Tofua|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Otago Regiment|
|Campaigns||Balkans (Gallipoli); Egyptian; Western European|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
28 July 1916 severely wounded; to England. November/December 1916 discharged from Brockenhurst Hospital.
|Date||28 July 1919||Age||29 years|
|Place of Death||Upper Junction, near Dunedin|
|Cause||Syncope caused by exertion on enlarged heart|
|Notices||Evening Star, 29 July 1919|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Andersons Bay Cemetery, Dunedin|
|Memorial Reference||Services Block 71, Plot 20|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Thomas George Alley McCleery was born on 22 November 1889 at Outram, Otago, the younger son of Hugh and Mary Murdoch (Minnie, née Alley) McCleery. He was likely known as George, his name at school, and he enlisted as George Thomas McCleery. George was educated at Outram School, going on to the Dunedin High School at the age of fourteen. By 1905 the family had moved to Pleasant Point, South Canterbury. George, a labourer, was there with the family in 1911. His early working life was with a grocery business in Dunedin. He preferred the outdoor life, however, and worked at Outram before spending time in South Canterbury. He was at Kurow when he enlisted in April 1915. During the war years his parents were in Dunedin, moving to Otipua, near Timaru, in about 1919.
Private George Thomas McCleery embarked with the Otago Infantry on 14 August 1915. He was to serve at the Balkans, in Egypt and on the Western Front. Lance-corporal McCleery was severely wounded on 28 July 1916 and left for England. He was discharged from Brockenhurst Hospital in November/December 1916 and went back to Command Depot at Codford. He embarked for home at London on 15 May 1919 per the “Prinzession”, arriving in early July after close to four years of service. George died suddenly three weeks later, on 28 July 1918, at Upper Junction near Dunedin, aged 29 years. Having taken the tram to Normanby, he and a companion were only 200 yards on their walk over the hill to Port Chalmers, when he collapsed and died immediately. He had complained of pain in the left side both before leaving England and after returning home. He had written home saying he had been gassed, and said he had been wounded in the right side. The coroner’s opinion was that“the cause of death was syncope caused by exertion on an enlarged heart. The ascent of the hill would be the immediate cause of cardiac failure.” Lance-corporal McCleery was accorded a military funeral, the service at his parents’ house and the graveside in Andersons Bay Cemetery being conducted by chaplains, and the “Last Post” being sounded.
George Alley McCleery married Letitia Bertha Hawkes in early 1919 in Hampshire, England. His widow lived for some time at Otipua, where his parents resided, later moving into Timaru, and more than twenty years after George’s death she married Gordon Toneycliffe. George and Letitia had a son, George Frederick Charles McCleery, born on 17 October 1919, nearly three months after George’s death. George, junior, was educated at Pareora West and Kingsdown schools, and Timaru Boys’ High School. That son was drawn in the ballot for World War II. Letitia died in 1956, aged 64 years. “For the Empire’s Cause” memorials were inserted in the Timaru Herald on 28 July 1920 by his parents and by his wife who remembered thus – “In a hero’s grave he lies. But the days are long without him.” Roll of Honour notices were inserted on 28 July 1921, his parents recording “When his duty was done he fell.” His older brother, Samuel Aird McCleery, also served in World War I.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [23 July 2002]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [23 July 2002]; School Admission record [24 July 2020]; Andersons Bay Cemetery headstone image & burial record (Dunedin City Council) [24 July 2020]; Otago Witness, 16 August 1916, Otago Daily Times, 21 June 1919, 31 July 1919, 1 August 1919, NZ Times, 16 June 1919, 29 July 1919, 22 August 1918, Evening Star, 29 July 1919 [x 2], 30 & 31 July 1919, Timaru Herald, 28 July 1920, 28 July 1921 (Papers Past) [26 July 2020]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [24 July 2020]; Free BMD [25 July 2020]
Researched and Written by
Currently Assigned to
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!