Topic: Captain Leslie George O'Callaghan
A soldier of the Anglo-Boer War and the Great War, he was killed in action during the attack at Passchendaele.
Captain Leslie George O'Callaghan - 24291
Leslie was born at Lincoln 6th April 1879, son of Arthur Pyne O'Callaghan and Florence O'Callaghan. He was 5ft11in tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes and grey hair. He married Julia Marie Stephanie Wheeler (born 22 November 1882) at Waimate on 20 February 1904 and they had one child, a daughter, Florence Marie Hindmarsh O’Callaghan, born 1905 at Waimate. His wife Julia also took part in the war effort. She and their daughter followed her husband to England, travelling on board the Rimutaka and arrived on 1st December 1916. She signed on for special duties on 26th December 1916, as a member of the N.Z. Red Cross, Voluntary Aid Detachment working as a clerk in a Military Hospital. In 1919 before her discharge she was commended for Good & Meritorious Service. Julia returned to New Zealand in 1919 on board the Corinthic and settled first in Timaru in the couple’s house in Evans St. She did not remarry and died 14 June 1949 in Waitomo and is buried in the Old Block Cemetery, Te Kuiti.
Leslie had a great deal of previous military experience. He started as a volunteer with the Timaru City Rifles and then the South Canterbury Mounted rifles. During the Anglo-Boer War, aged 20, he was drafted into the 2nd Contingent (as no 428) where he served as Squadron Quarter Master Sergeant. He then enlisted with the 8th Contingent where he was given a commission as Lieutenant, Squadron F and sailed from Lyttelton on the Cornwall on 8th February 1902. His occupation at that time was teacher. On returning from South Africa he became an auctioneer in Waimate. He also served as Captain with Timaru Senior Cadets, Lieutenant with the South Canterbury Volunteer Reserve. He was appointed Captain with the 18th Reinforcements at Trentham Camp reporting on 2nd May 1915. His occupation before enlisting in 1916 was farmer at Sherwood Downs, South Canterbury. In 1912 his wife won the ballot for a run at Sherwood Downs, Fairlie which was then named "Leslie Downs" in honour of her husband.
Leslie enlisted on 22nd May 1916 at Trentham. On 11th October 1916 he embarked on the SS Tofua as Captain with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), 18th Reinforcements, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, C Company. They arrived in England and Sling Camp on 28 December 1916. He was posted to the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry on 4th January 1917 and left for France on 1st February arriving in Etaples Depot on 3rd February. He then joined the Battalion in the field a week and half later on 14th February. On the 12th March he was appointed Company Commander substituting for Major Blair. He was detached to 2nd Army School on 21st June and re-joined unit five weeks later on 27th July. He was detached for three weeks leave in England, probably to meet his wife, on 19 August, arriving back on 7th September. He was killed in action five weeks later, during the disastrous attack at Passchendaele on 12th October, aged 38. His record notes he was buried at D9 D83 99, Waterloo Farm by Rev C. J. Robson. This was a Casualty Clearing Station. During the battle the situation at Waterloo farm was desperate. The regimental history records that “This long, ugly, grey mass of concrete, pierced with openings so close to the ground that a man must crouch to crawl in, was packed with wounded, and yet more came in all day that had to be placed about the walls outside and in rear of the structure, where they lay exposed to rain, bursting shells, and occasional storms of machine gun bullets. During the morning, the post could be approached only by creeping from shell hole to shell hole.” Even though his body had been buried after the war it could not be retrieved and his name is inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, New Zealand Apse, Panel 2. In New Zealand Leslie is remembered on the Lincoln War Memorial Board. He is also remembered on the Memorial Wall, Timaru; Sherwood Downs-Ashwick Flat War Memorial; Basilica of the Sacred Heart; St Mary's Anglican Church, Timaru; St Stephen's Anglican Church, Fairlie; Fairlie War Memorial; Waimataitai School War Memorial. His service in the Boer War is also remembered on the Sherwood Downs, St Mary's Church, Timaru, Waimataitai School and South African War memorials in South Canterbury.
Researched and written by L M Seaton. Photograph kindly supplied by Marie Woods.