ELSOM, William James
(Service number 55458)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 1 February 1897 Place of Birth New Zealand (Temuka or Macraes Flat, Otago)

Enlistment Information

Date Age
Address at Enlistment Peel Forest
Occupation Teamster (Tripps, Orari Gorge, Geraldine)
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs F. C. ELSOM (mother), Macraes Flat, Otago
Religion Church of England
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 28th Reinforcements, Canterbury Infantry Regiment, C Company
Date 26 July 1917
Transport Ulimaroa
Embarked From Destination Plymouth, Devon, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Infantry

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 9 August 1965 Age 68 years
Place of Death Timaru
Memorial or Cemetery Geraldine Cemetery
Memorial Reference Services Section, Row 503, Plot 1
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William James Elsom was born on 1 February 1897, perhaps at Temuka, perhaps at Macraes Flat, Otago. He was the second son of Frederick Charles and Mary Ann (Ann, née Griffin) Elsom. Mr Elsom was a blacksmith at Macraes Flat. He died on 16 September 1905 at the Dunedin Hospital, leaving Ann with seven young children (one unborn). He was buried at Macraes Flat Cemetery, Mary Ann with him more than 53 years later.

William Elsom was a rouseabout at Peel Forest, when his name was drawn in the ballot for the 30th Reinforcements. When he enlisted, he was a teamster for the Tripps at Orari Gorge. He named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs F. C. Elsom, Macraes Flat, Otago.

Among the recruits for the South Canterbury quota of the 30th Reinforcement was W. J. Elsom, one of about 15 men who had gone from Geraldine to Temuka to join the train. The men from the Temuka and Geraldine districts going into camp to join the 30th Reinforcements were given one of the “send-offs” from Temuka, which have now become famous. (Temuka Leader, 29 May 1917.) They were entertained at luncheon – “a splendid spread”. After a few addresses, all assembled, with the exception of those going into camp, rose and sang “For they arc jolly good fellows”. “They were going to face dangers, some might perhaps lose their lives, but as one of the boys had said here a few nights ago there was no more glorious death than to die fighting for the right.” On behalf of the district, the Mayor of Geraldine wished them “God speed,” a good time as soldiers, and a safe return to their native land and their district; if it should be their luck to go to “Blighty” they would get a good time there. The men were lined up in the street, and, headed by the Temuka Brass Band, a procession was formed and marched to the station. “Mr Torepe’s Maori singing company sang several farewell songs and the Band played a number of appropriate airs. The men were cheered again and again, and as the train left the station the soldiers on board were cheered, and they warmly responded.”

Private W. J. Elsom actually embarked with the 28th Reinforcements (Canterbury Infantry Regiment), leaving for Plymouth by the Ulimaroa on 26 July 1917. Drafts 199 and 200, which were expected in late December 1918, were bringing home 55458 W. J. Elsom (Draft 199), of Macraes Flat, plus 23 officers, two nurses, a clergyman, and 790 more other ranks, as well as a supplementary roll of 13 additional names.

William James Elsom returned to South Canterbury, where he worked as a labourer. He died on 9 August 1965 at Timaru, but of Orari Gorge Road, Geraldine, and was buried at the Geraldine Cemetery, where his grave is marked with a services plaque. His next-of-kin at death was a sister in Dunedin.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [04 April 2021]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [04 October 2021]; Geraldine Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [04 October 2021]; Temuka Leader, 19 April 1917, 29 May 1917, Timaru Herald, 29 May 1917, NZ Times, 12 December 1918, Dominion, 12 December 1918 (Papers Past) [04 October 2021]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [04 October 2021]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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