(Service number 78520)

Aliases Enlisted as John MAXFIELD; birth & death registered as John James MAXFIELD
First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 26 October 1882 Place of Birth Glenmaggie, Victoria, Australia

Enlistment Information

Date 12 October 1917 Age 34 years
Address at Enlistment Waihao Downs, Waimate
Occupation Farm labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin H. MAXFIELD (brother), Post-office, Ngatapa, Poverty Bay, New Zealand; Henry MAXFIELD (father), "Tinambra", Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
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 39th Reinforcements, A Company
Date 13 June 1918
Transport Athenic
Embarked From Destination Liverpool, Merseyside, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Regiment

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 11 June 1919 Age 36 years
Place of Death Gisborne
Cause Suicide
Memorial or Cemetery Taruheru Cemetery, Gisborne
Memorial Reference Block S, Plot 4
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

John Maxfield was born – as John James Maxfield - on 26 October 1882 at Glenmaggie, Victoria, Australia, the second son of Henry Herbert and Mary (née Sandford) Maxfield.

John was a farm labourer for W. Black at Waihao Downs, Waimate, when he enlisted on 12 October 1917 at Timaru. His name had featured in the final calling up of the First Division of Reservists for the South Canterbury Recruiting District at the beginning of October. There was J. Maxfield among the men who would form South Canterbury’s quota for the 35A Reinforcements and were to leave Timaru for camp on 12 November 1917. They were given a public social on the Bay on 8 November and a brief farewell at the Drill Shed before leaving. He named his older brother as next-of-kin – H. Maxfield, Post-office, Ngatapa, Poverty Bay. Herbert had enlisted at Gisborne in October 1914, having been in New Zealand for 12 years. John’s father was also named – Henry Maxfield, “Tinambra”, Gippsland, Victoria.

But, at the Timaru sitting of the South Canterbury Military Service Appeal Board on 22 January 1918, John Maxfield, farmer, Waihao Downs, said that he was right in the middle of harvesting and wanted till April. He was allowed till 1 April. Come 5 April 1918 and J. Maxfield was in the South Canterbury quota of the Fortieth Reinforcements who left for camp. The Band of the 2nd (S.C.) Regiment played the recruits to the station.

Private J. Maxfield embarked with the 39thy Reinforcements by the “Athenic” on 13 June 1918, headed for Liverpool, England. After service in France, he embarked at Tilbury on 12 March 1919 to return to New Zealand by the “Corinthic”. Disembarking at Lyttelton on 22 April, he arrived at Gisborne, where his brother lived, on 27 April. He had not been discharged and was not employed.

All too soon, tragedy struck. On 11 June 1919 John Maxfield showed signs of delirium tremens and was lodged in the police cells at Gisborne. He was suffering from delusions and, it was alleged, had been drinking heavily, something which had occurred only since his return from the Front. He was usually of very sober habits. He “complained that people were going to kill him and he wanted protection, readily accepting the offer of accommodation at the police station.” After two hours in the cells, he was found to be dead, death resulting from strangulation by his braces. He had shown no signs of suicide. At the inquest, the secretary of the Returned Soldiers’ Association asked that men not be discharged until they were medically fit. He had seen quite a number of such cases – “men who were apparently fit, but suffering from mental stress at times.” The verdict was that deceased had committed suicide during a fit of temporary mental aberration.

John James Maxfield died on 11 June 1919 at Gisborne and was buried at the Tareheru Cemetery. Private John Maxfield, No. 78520, was accorded a military funeral, with a firing party and the sounding of the “Last Post”. Gisborne returned soldiers and others were asked to attend and form a firing party at his funeral. He was interred in the Services section of the cemetery, his grave marked by a services stone.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [21 October 2021]; Timaru Herald, 2 October 1917, 8 November 1917, 23 January 1918, 4 April 1918, Press, 2 October 1917, Evening Post, 12 June 1919, Poverty Bay Herald, 12 & 14 June 1919, Gisborne Times, 13 June 1919, NZ Truth, 28 June 1919 (Papers Past) [20 & 22 October 2021]; Taruheru Cemetery headstone image & burial record (Gisborne District Council) [21 October 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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