The information below is from John's Defence Force Personnel Record, from Archives NZ.
According to his History-Sheet, his occupation was Shepherd, last employed by Robert Murrell, last New Zealand address was Manapouri, his religion was Church of England, and his birth-date was 14 September 1886 at Lumsden.
His next of kin was listed as Mr Robert Murrell, Father, of Manapouri, Southland.
His Attestation was dated 7 March 1917, at Queenstown. His birth-place was Lumsden, on 14 September 1886. His parents are cited as Robert and Margaret Murrell, both resident in NZ from birth. His occupation is given as Shepherd, from Manapouri. He had passed the Fourth Educational Standard. He was not married.
His physical description is given as: 30 years 6 months, 5 foot 7¾ inches, 15lbs, chest measuring 35½ - 39 inches, Fair complexion, Blue eyes, Dark Brown hair. His vision and hearing were normal. He was classified Fit Class A.
John's service number was 59216. He was assigned to H Company 30th as a Private on 25 June 1917.
- On 13 December 1917 he was taken in to the NZ Rifle Brigade as a Rifleman and assigned to A Company 5th Battalion
- 13 October embarked at Wellington and disembarked at Liverpool on 8 December 1917
- On 13 December 1917 he marched into Brocton Camp and posted to the Rifle Brigade
- On 6 April qualified as Marksman
- 15 May left for France, arriving on 17 May at Etaples
- 19 May joined the Battalion in the Field
- 8 June 1918 he was assigned to A Company of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd NZ Rifle Brigade
There is no record of a 'Will'.
- 29 January 1918 at London admitted to Military Hospital Cannockchase with Bronchitis and Catarrh
- 18 March 1918 he was reported as Progressing Favourably
- 11 February 1918 he was discharged to Brocton Camp
September 8 1918, John Robert was Killed in Action in the field.
Awards / Medals
He appears to have been awarded the British War Medal (Red Chevrons) and the Victory Medal (Blue Chevrons).
This lists his service as 114 days in NZ, 355 in UK, 1 year 87 days in France/Belgium and 56 days at sea, says he was wounded 2 times, and has employment guaranteed on discharge by Murrell, Manapouri Lake.
John Robert sent this postcard home to "Nan" - his grandmother. It is dated 16 March 1918, and reads "Dear Nan, Just to let you see how much like a soldier I look. Have just returned from a trip to Birmingham. It is some city but the drink traffic is its curse. Had a good time. Hope you and family are well. From yrs sincerely Jack R. Murrell 59216" The image-side of the postcard has the studio portrait of John Robert shown above.
How did he meet his end?
The following extracts are taken from "The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade" by Lieut.-Col. W. S. Austin, published by L. T. Watkins Ltd., 1924, Wellington.
CHAPTER XVI. THE BATTLE OF HAVRINCOURT AND EPEHY.
The enemy's main line of resistance north of Havrincourt was the Canal du Nord, and south of the village it was the Hindenburg Line.
The position held by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade was some little distance in advance of an old British trench running roughly north and south. In front of us the ground sloped to the bottom of the Trescault Valley, in the southern end of which was Gouzeaucourt Wood.
Part of the line finally taken up by our Brigade on the afternoon of September 7th lay along the western edge of Gouzeaueourt Wood, ... patrols went out at daybreak on the 8th to ascertain the position and strength of the enemy posts within it, ... One of these, led by Rifleman J. C. Dibble, working beyond the southern boundary, had an encounter with an enemy party just on the point of rushing one of the 17th Division's posts on our right, Dibble's arrival and prompt action averting what threatened to be certain disaster to the garrison. [p378-96]"
The encounter by Dibble's patrol is the only incident recorded for the date of John Robert's death.