McTAGGART, Alexander
(Service number 75789)

Aliases Alex
First Rank Private Last Rank


Date 13 April 1883 Place of Birth Waimate

Enlistment Information

Date 15 September 1917 Age 34 years
Address at Enlistment Werarora, Levin
Occupation Agricultural expert
Previous Military Experience NZ Medical Corps - 3 years. Resigned.
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mr John McTaggart (father), Waikouaiti, Otago
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 3¾ inches. Weight 156 lbs. Chest measurement 35½-37¾ inches. Complexion dark. Eyes brown. Hair black. Sight - both eyes 6/ 6. Hearing - good. Colour vision normal. Limbs well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated - both. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Class A. Has catarrh of nose at times.

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

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 10 January 1919 Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Research scientist


Date 16 May 1944 Age 61 years
Place of Death Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Notices Otago Daily Times, 25 May 1944
Memorial or Cemetery
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Alexander McTaggart, known as Alex, was born on 13 April 1883 at Waimate, the fourth son of John and Christina (née McPhail) McTaggart. John and Christina, both from Kintyre, Argyllshire, Scotland, married on 25 December 1873 in New Zealand. Their first two children were born in Otago, before they moved to Waimate where their third child was born in 1878, six more following. Their youngest son, William, died in 1892 at Waimate, aged six years; and their second youngest son, Angus, died at Waimate in 1893, aged eight years. William and Angus are buried together at Waimate. In 1895, 12 year old Alexander McTaggart, of Waimate, wrote to Dot’s Little Folks page in the Otago Witness, mentioning that he had three brothers and three sisters. Alexander was educated at the Waimate District High School (primary and high school). There he received a Standard III prize in 1893, Standard IV in 1894, Standard V in 1895, and in 1896, Standard VI and a special prize for arithmetic. In 1898 he was awarded marks by the Inspector in several secondary subjects – 63 in English, 83 in Latin, 100 in Algebra and 53 in Euclid. Following up with Civil Service examinations in 1900, 1902, he gained a position in the Department of Agriculture, Wellington. In 1905 Alexander McTaggart took six months leave from the Department of Agriculture in Wellington, to travel overseas. He was going to visit relatives in England and Scotland, and hoped to visit some of the great engineering works on the Clyde. About 1908 Alexander left New Zealand to study agricultural science abroad. By 1910 he was studying at the Ontario Agricultural College at Guelph in Canada and obtaining very good results, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. Subsequently he gained a Master of the Science of Agriculture at Cornell University, New York. In 1913 he returned to New Zealand and was appointed “agriculturist” to assist the agricultural Department.

Alexander McTaggart was an agricultural expert at the Central Development Farm, Weraroa, when his name was drawn in the ballot, enlisting on 15 September 1917 at Palmerston North. On 19 September 1917 Alexander McTaggart was classified medically fit for service beyond the seas. He was 5 feet 3¾ inches tall, weighed 156 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 35½-37¾ inches. He had a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all good, his limbs and chest well formed, and his heart and lungs normal. He was in good bodily and mental health, was vaccinated, had no illnesses, diseases, slight defects or fits, although he ‘has catarrh of nose at times’. Class A. He had served for three years in the New Zealand Medical Corps before resigning. Two people were absolutely dependent on him, presumably his parents. He signified his willingness to serve in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in or beyond the Dominion of New Zealand for the duration of the war and six months beyond.

Come October 1917, the Agricultural Department appealed McTaggart’s call into camp and sought exemption. Initially the appeal was dismissed, with leave granted till December. When he was ordered into camp, the local Trustees of the National Efficiency Board were of opinion that it would be contrary to the public interest to allow him to leave the country, as he had special training as a soil analyst and had been advising the farmers of the Dominion in regard to the best means of improving their holdings and increasing production. ‘It has remained for a city paper (the Wellington Times) to enter a strong protest against the pronouncement of the Wellington Military Service Board that “scientific farming is not an essential these days—only a luxury.” “This,” says our city contemporary, “was the astonishing decision of the Military Service Board, which rejected recently the appeal for exemption lodged by the Agricultural Department in respect of Mr Alexander McTaggart, instructor at the Weraroa State Farm. One would have thought that even an Appeal Board, most anxious to secure recruits for our Expeditionary Forces, would have recognised that, more especially in these days, scientific farming is emphatically not a luxury, but most essential.” . . . . . .’ [Feilding Star, 22 March 1918].

Alexander McTaggart left home on 3 April 1918 and arrived at camp on 4 April, with the Manawatu draft of the 40th Reinforcements. He was initially posted as Private to D Company, 40th Reinforcements on 6 April; four days later he was transferred to the New Zealand Medical Corps at Awapuni. He was transferred again on 1 October 1918 and on 7 January 1919. Mc Taggart was granted leave with non-demobilisation and issued with a Certificate of Leave in lieu of Discharge, being subsequently demobilised. It was 10 January 1919 when Private McTaggart, of Details, New Zealand Medical Corps, was discharged from Awapuni Military Camp, it being noted that he was of good character.

An agriculturist to the New Zealand Department of Agriculture, Alexander McTaggart left Wellington on 4 July 1919 for America, to study for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Cornell University. He had been granted extended leave of absence without pay to enable him to continue thus his study of agricultural science. Having received his degree on 8 February 1921, hecame home to New Zealand, going south to visit his relations in Otago. Alexander’s parents and some of his siblings had moved to Waikouaiti, and it was there that his father, John, died on 1 February 1921. Dr McTaggart returned to Canada and to a position as assistant professor at Macdonald College, McGill University, Quebec, Canada. He continued to visit his homeland and share his knowledge and expertise. On 31 December 1924, at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Ottawa, Alexander McTaggart married Scottish-born Elizabeth (Bessie) Sinclair Crawford, of Winnipeg. His mother, Mrs Christina McTaggart died at Waikaouait on 23 May 1925. After Alexander and Bessie moved to Australia in 1927, when he accepted the position of senior research officer to the Commonwealth of Australia, he continued to visit New Zealand and take a great interest in matters of scientific research. In 1932 he was with the Council of Industrial and Scientific Research at Canberra.

Dr Alexander McTaggart died on 16 May 1944 at Sydney, aged 61 years. He was survived by his wife, Bessie, two brothers and two sisters. He was a well-known member of the Presbyterian Church and Masonic lodges in Canberra. “Plant Immigrants and Stowaways”, an entertaining little book which is a collection of romantic stories about plants, was published posthumously.

Duncan McTaggart, the oldest brother of Alexander, served as a farrier sergeant with the 5th Contingent in the South African War. At that time the family was living at Morven, where John, senior, was a blacksmith, as were his sons Duncan and John, while Donald was a farm labourer, and the two youngest girls attended school. They were all later in the Balfour district, before Mr and Mrs McTaggart and two daughters moved to Waikouaiti. The oldest daughter died at Balfour in 1920. Shortly after his return to New Zealand in 1913, Alex McTaggart gave a public lecture on agricultural matters in the Balfour Town Hall, under the auspices of the local branch of the N.Z. Farmers’ Union. While on active service (1900-1902), Duncan corresponded frequently with his family, particularly his father and his brother Alexander, and with Waimate folk/friends. He gives detailed descriptions of their environment, supplies, equipment and conditions. Both Duncan and John were listed in the Reserve Rolls for World War I. John Gilchrist McTaggart, Alexander’s second brother, was drawn in the ballot in March 1918. He was then a farmer at Redan, Wyndham. John appealed, saying that he was “the sole occupier and worker on a farm of 436 acres, which was at present carrying 750 sheep and 27 of cattle. He knew of no one who could assist him.” He was classed C2, and his appeal was allowed. John who had married Flora Warnock from the Waimate district, died in 1941. Alexander’s third brother, Donald Reid McTaggart, a farmer at Blackswamp, Balfour, was listed in the 1916 Reserve Rolls. He had his name drawn in the tenth ballot in 1917, at a sitting of the Military Service Board held at Gore in October 1917, D. McTaggart’s appeal was withdrawn, as he was a reservist classed C2. Donald died in 1952. Mr John McTaggart, senior, died at his residence at Waikouaiti in 1921, and his wife, Christina, in 1925. In her Will, dated 19 September 1923, Mrs McTaggart appointed her son Alexander and her daughter Christina as executors. Alexander and Christina were then the only two the six surviving family members not married. Christina was living at Waikouaiti, while Alexander was residing in Quebec. Probate was granted to Christina, the Court having power to grant likewise to Alexander if required.


NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5544 0076600) [04 & 16 September 2020]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [04 September 2020]; Tuapeka Times, 3 January 1874, Otago Witness, 3 November 1892, 5 September 1917, 10 October 1917, Otago Daily Times, 3 November 1892, 2 February 1921, 18 March 1925, 27 May 1925, 15 October 1932, 25 May 1944, 8 June 1944, Press, 19 December 1893, 10 December 1913, 27 August 1924, 11 April 1925, Timaru Herald, 15 December 1894, 24 December 1895, 26 December 1896, 9 August 1916, South Canterbury Times, 26 December 1896, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 18 February 1899, 31 October 1913, 7 August 1916, New Zealand Mail, 23 August 1905, Evening Post, 19 November 1909, 29 October 1910, 19 October 1917, 28 March 1921, Dominion, 24 September 1913, Southland Times, 4 September 1917, 27 March 1918, 15 July 1918, Mataura Ensign, 21 October 1913, 15 December 1913, Sun, 28 June 1919, Feilding Star, 22 March 1918, Manawatu Standard, 9 April 1918, Evening Star, 30 March 1921, New Zealand Herald, 24 December 1945 (Papers Past) [03, 11, 16 & 17 September 2020]; Canadian marriage record ( [04 September 2020]; NSW, Australia, death registration; The Canberra Times, ACT, 17 May 1944 (Trove) [04 September 2020]; NZ & Australian Electoral Rolls (

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