GUNN, David John
(Service number 84378)

First Rank Last Rank


Date 18 September 1888 Place of Birth Waimate

Enlistment Information

Date 7 May 1917 Age 28 years
Address at Enlistment Gordon Bush, Waimate
Occupation Farmer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mr A. GUNN (father), Alexandra South, Otago
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information

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 Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations



Date 25 December 1955 Age 67 years
Place of Death Hollyford River, South Westland
Cause Drowning
Memorial or Cemetery
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

David John Gunn, known as Davey, was born on 18 September 1888 at Waimate, the older son of Scottish parents, Alexander Gunn and Isabella Grierson née Robertson. His father was a shepherd at Station Peak, near Waimate. Davey was educated at Hakataramea and Hook schools and at the Waimate District High School. David John Gunn was a farmer at “Gordon Bush”, Hook, Waimate, when his name was drawn in the military service ballot. He enlisted on 7 May 1917 at Waimate, and named his father as next-of-kin – Mr a. Gunn, who was then living at Alexandra, Otago. On 16 May at Timaru, his appeal was heard – he said he had one brother under age, and he managed his aunt's farm of' 420 acres freehold, and 70 acres leasehold. He received money when be wanted it, but no fixed wage. He had lived with his aunts, who were both over 60 years of age, since he was 13 years old. His father, with the help of David’s brother, ran a sheep farm of 27.000 acres in Central Otago. The appeal was adjourned for further information. In June he said that he could not get anyone to manage his farm and wanted a little time, which he was given. At the December hearing he said that he was the only one on the farm. His case was adjourned sine die. The following May his appeal was referred to the Efficiency Board.

David married Ethel May Willetts on 10 July 1919 at Morven. They had three children. In 1926 Gunn and a mate purchased the McKenzies’ remote cattle station at Martin’s Bay, South Westland. Davey Gunn acquired more land and moved to to the Hollyford Valley. His wife took the children to Oamaru for education and Davey visited only twice a year. The Hollyford had become his passion. Although his holdings were not especially profitable, he lived frugally and cut many bush tracks in the area. In 1936 he began guiding parties through the Hollyford, providing huts, and becoming a well-known and popular figure in doing so.

In 1937, Mr David John Gunn, of Martin’s Bay, Glenorchy, was the recipient of the Coronation Medal. This acknowledged his “conspicuous service” and remarkable tramp to seek aid for the victims of a plane crash at Big Bay on 30 December 1936. His son, Murray Gunn, and two companios blazed a new track to Milford Sound in 1949. Sixty-two year old David Gunn was badly injured in September 1950 when he fell from the top of a high cliff and lay overnight on a ledge, with broken ribs and facial injuries, before being rescued. On Christmas Day 1955, he and a 12-year-old boy riding with him were swept away when their horse fell in the Hollyford River. His body was never found. He was survived by his wife, Ethel, and their children.

Gunn’s Camp is a reminder of Davey Gunn’s presence and exploits in the Hollyford Valley. In 1951, he purchased the former Public Works Department huts to use as a base for his farming and tourism ventures.


NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [09 January 2021]; Oamaru Mail, 17 April 1917, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 17 May 1917, 20 June 1917, Timaru Herald, 17 May 1917, 20 June 1917, 13 December 1917, 16 May 1918, Evening Star, 12 May 1937 (Papers Past) [09 & 10 January 2021]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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