Topic: John Henry Wetherall

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John Henry Wetherall (Service No. 35342) was a First World War soldier with links to Heathcote.


John Henry Wetherall


John was born in Prebbleton, outside of Christchurch, New Zealand, on the 24th of May 1886. John was the fourth child out of eleven from parents Robert John Wetherall and Robertina (or Robina) Wetherall, nee Sutherland. His father emigrated from Ireland to New Zealand, and his mother immigrated at age four from Scotland. They met and married in Christchurch on May 18th, 1880, before having their first child later that year.

John’s family was based at 26 Bridle Path Road in the Heathcote Valley. He worked at Canterbury Seed Company as a maltster, responsible for taking cereals and making malt out of the grain to be used to create beer. In his death notice it states that he was a favourite at work and in the community. He worked at the malt works up until he enlisted at the end of August in 1916.

He is described in his Army Medical as having a fresh complexion with grey eyes and fair hair. He stood at 5 feet 10 inches and was 152 pounds. The doctor noted that he also had a tattoo, but no description was given. He was 32 years old.

After his enlistment on the 29th of August, he was put into the 19th Reinforcements Mounted Rifles, in the machine-gun section, as a Trooper. He left for active service on the HMNZT Waihora on the 5th of December, 1916, arriving in Suez, Egypt on the 13th of January, 1917. It appears he was based at Moascar Camp, near the Suez Canal, until he entered the field on the 20th of March. He was given a brief respite and sent to Rest Camp on the 29th of August, 2017. He returned to the field on the 4th of October.

John survived another month until the Battle of Ayun Kara in Palestine, on November 14th, 1917. The NZ Brigade was vastly outnumbered, with only 800 men to the Turkish force of 1,500 with support from artillery and machine guns. Despite the disparity in numbers, the New Zealand Brigade lost only 44 men, as opposed to the loss of 170 men suffered by the enemy. John Wetherall was one of the 44 casualties of this battle, with his record stating that he was killed in action and buried in Palestine. His grave can be found in the Ramleh War Cemetery.

This push by the Turks was a last try to secure communication between Jaffa, Ramleh, and Jerusalem.

John was one of four brothers fighting in the First World War. Unfortunately, both he and his older brother, Robert, died in the war. Two brothers survived, Frank and Stewart, and another brother was too young to enlist, but died quite young due to a flu epidemic in Nov of 1918. That same epidemic took his younger sister, Jane, as well as his mother, Robertina.


Related Resources


  • Papers Past Death Notice: HEATHCOTE NOTES., Star, Issue 12174, 24 November 1917
  • Description of the Battle of Ayun Kara. New Zealand Mounted Rifles Association website.
  • Further description of The Battle of Ayun Kara. Wilkie, A.H., 1924, Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919.  New Zealand Electronic Text Collection
  • Photograph sourced from Onward: Portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Vol 1, by P J Beattie and M J Pomeroy, page 450

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John Henry Wetherall

First Names:John Henry
Last Name:Wetherall
Place of Birth:Prebbleton, Christchurch