AITKEN, William James
(Service number 26736)

First Rank Quartermaster Sergeant Last Rank Corporal


Date 19 July 1878 Place of Birth Herbert, Otago

Enlistment Information

Date 31 May 1916 Age 37 years
Address at Enlistment 82 Rose Street, Timaru
Occupation Railway shunter
Previous Military Experience South African War, 6th Contingent - 3 months; SC Railways - 2½ years - disbanded
Marital Status Married, Three children
Next of Kin Mrs Agnes AITKEN (wife), 82 Rose Street, Timaru; Victoria Street, Timaru
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation
Unit, Squadron, or Ship
Date 15 November 1916
Embarked From Wellington Destination Plymouth, Devon, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Engineers

Military Awards

Service Medals (SA) Queen's South Africa Medal, bars, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902; (WWI) British War Medal, Victory Medal; (WWII) 1939-45 British War Medal, 1939-45 New Zealand War Service 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 Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Railways employee


Date 4 May 1966 Age 87 years
Place of Death Auckland
Memorial or Cemetery Papakura Cemetery, Auckland
Memorial Reference Servicemens Lawn, Row J, Plot 037
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William James Aitken was born on 19 July 1878 at Herbert, Otago, the eldest son of William and Jane Turnbull (née Oliver) Aitken. His father had arrived at Port Chalmers in 1859 by the Strathallan. After some time in North Otago he took up contracting work in the Fairlie district in the early 1880s. So it was that William junior was educated at Totara Valley School, starting in 1887 and leaving in September 1891. William James Aitken married Agnes O’Brien on 26 August 1908 at Mosgiel. Their four children were all born at Timaru – Phyllis Theresa on 12 September 1909, William Michael on 17 October 1910, Desmond Brian on 23 September 1914, and John Robert Redmond in 1920 after William’s return from the war. Agnes died in September 1920 at Christchurch Hospital (Louise Agnes Aitken). In 1923 at Christchurch, William married Sarah Ann Dougherty. Sarah died in November 1937 at their Christchurch residence and was buried at Port Chalmers with her sister.

William James Aitken, who had served in the South African, was a railway shunter, living in Timaru, when he enlisted for World War One. He had also served with the United Fire Brigade Association for five years, receiving the Long Service Medal with bars on 28 August 1912. Quartermaster Sergeant W. J. Aitken embarked at Wellington on 15 November 1916, destined for Plymouth, Devon. Corporal W. J. Aitken, 26736, of Timaru, returned to New Zealand for demobilization, one of 1128 soldiers aboard the “Maunganui”, leaving on 17 May 1919 and arriving at Wellington on 24 June 1919. He served with the Royal New Zealand Air Force in World War Two.

William James Aitken died on 4 May 1966 at Auckland, aged 87 years, and was buried on Papakura Cemetery. He had married (Elizabeth) Josephine Batchelor on 30 March 1943 in Christchurch. She died in 1983. Just before he left for overseas service, William James Aitken lost two brothers in the war – Robert Lyal Aitken died of wounds on 30 September 1916 in France and John Alexander Aitken died of wounds on 8 October 1916 in England from France. William James Aitken, who had embarked with the 19th Reinforcements in November 1916, remembered his brothers in an In Memoriam notice in the Timaru Herald of 1 October 1919 - “In proud and loving memory of my brothers”.

A letter from his son, J. R, Aitken, which recalls incidents from his military service, is attached to his personnel file.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [29 July 2021]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [30 July 2021]; School Admission record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [30 July 2021]; Papakura Cemetery burial record (Auckland Council) [30 July 2021]; Papakura Cemetery headstone image (Find A Grave) [30 July 2021]; NZ Times, 14 June 1919, Timaru Herald, 1 October 1919, Evening Star, 7 December 1925, Otago Daily Times, 8 December 1925 (Papers Past) [July 2021]; Papakura Cemetery record (Auckland Council) [30 July 2021]

External Links

Related Documents

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

Not assigned.

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