Topic: George Macann

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George Macann (service number 6/1905) was a First World War soldier with links to Upper Riccarton

George Macann was born on 10th July 1889 at West Eyreton to Robina Robinson and William Macann. They were married on 12th January 1880 in New Zealand. They had five other children; Elizabeth Ann (born 1880), Mary (1883), William (1887), Rubina Isabella Caroline (1892) and Dewey Eric Arnold (1899). George was educated at Riccarton School. William Macann arrived in New Zealand from County Antrim in Ireland on the ship Lady Jocelyn in 1879. Robina's family was also from Ireland. William and Robina farmed in Eyreton before moving to a farm in Riccarton where they lived for twenty years before moving to Ohoka.  William died in July 1922 and Robina died in 1923. They are both buried at Oxford Cemetery, North Canterbuury. 

George volunteered for the army on 14th January 1915. At the time he was working as a farmer with his father in Ohoka. He was given a farewell by the local Methodist Church and the Ohoka Morris Tube Club. There was singing, games and speeches. Reverend Martin presented him with a watch from the congregation and the Miniature Rifle Club gave him a writing case. George was a sunday school teacher and lay preacher for the Ohoka Methodist Church. The community obviously held him in high esteem.

While George was at training camp at Trentham his engagement to Cara Taylor was announced in the newspaper.

George's medical records describe him as being 5 feet 6 ½ inches tall and weighing 150 pounds. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. There was a scar on his left shin. He was declared fit for the army.

George was assigned to the Canterbury Company, fourth Reinforcements with the service number 6/1905, He left New Zealand on 17th April 1915. By 13th June 1915 he was in the Dardenelles, Turkey with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion but a month later was admitted to hospital for five days with enteritis probably caused by contaminated food or water. On 5th September 1915 George was unwell again with diarrhoea and debility and was assessed at the ANZAC clearing station. This must have been a serious case as he was soon admitted to St Andrew's Hospital in Malta and then shipped out to the 2nd Western Hospital in Manchester, England.

By January 1916 George was in better health and working at the New Zealand Contingent Command Depot at Grey Towers just outside of London. In mid December 1915 ANZAC troops had withdrawn from Gallipoli and were still regrouping in Egypt. On 6th March 1916 George rejoined his unit in Ismalia, Egypt. A month later they boarded the ship Franconia at Port Said and headed to France for the war in Europe. Sadly George was killed at Armentieres, France on 9th July 1916. He was buried at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery.

The Macann family recieved a number of letters of condolence from the front. One of his sisters and his father received letters from Chaplain Taylor reporting that George was buried in a special cemetery for New Zealanders in France and the burial service was led by Chaplain Ross. This must have given the family some comfort as George was committed to his religion. Private Pring said George died instantly indicating he didn't suffer. His commanding officer, Captain Grey, said George died "like a hero beating off the attack. I was proud of him."

A year later an unnamed soldier placed a poem dedicated to Private G. Macann in the Greymouth Evening Star.

DEDICATED TO PRIVATE G. MACANN.

In France on a gory battlefield,
Like a soldier true and brave,
Fighting for his country,
His bright young life he gave.

In youthful bloom death claimed him,
In the pride of manhood days.
None knew him but to love him—
To speak his name was praise.

Lying under a mound of brown earth
With a cross to mark the brave
Far from home in a foreign land
He found a soldier's grave.

Though buried in a distant land,
Amidst the shot- and shell,
For country's sake his life he gave,
And he did his duty well.

No matter how we think of him,
His name we often recall
There's nothing left to answer
But the photo on the wall.

Peaceful is thy rest, dear George;
You have left an honoured name.
In life we loved thee very dear,
In death we do the same.

—By Ex-Lancer

George was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. A stamp on his Army record dated 24 April 1967 says he was eligible for the Gallipoli Medalion.

George's brother William Macann (service number (26296) also served in France in World War 1 and was in the Rangiora Battalion of the Home Guard in World War 2.

George Macann is remembered on the Roll of Honour at Upper Riccarton Memorial Library, Christchurch, New Zealand.

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George Macann


First Names:George
Last Name:Macann
Place of Birth:West Eyreton, North Canterbury, New Zealand