Topic: Patrick Cunningham

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Patrick Cunningham (Service no. 28988) was an Irish born World War One soldier with ties to Halswell.

Patrick Cunningham was born in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, Ireland, on August the 1st, 1889. His parents were farmers, Bernard and Julia Cunningham. When the 1901 census was taken he was living with his parents, an older brother James and an older sister Mary. He had two other brothers, who were not living at home in 1901. Both parents could read, and all of the children could read and write, and spoke both Irish and English. 

According to the blog of a family member, Patrick had a couple of nicknames, “The Kid” and “Paddy White Waistcoat” the latter because he was noted for his sense of dress.

On his military personnel file, Patrick listed two different people for his next of kin.  One was his father Bernard, care of the post office County Monaghan, Ireland. Another was Owen McGough Junior, who was listed as a friend, in Halswell, Christchurch. He had known Owen for almost all of his life, both were from County Monaghan in Ireland. Patrick came to New Zealand with some members of the McGough family in 1908.

It is possible but not certain that the McGoughs and Patrick arrived in Lyttelton on the Ulimaroa, which arrived in 1908 carrying three McGoughs and a Cunningham, but it does not give their first names. They seemed to have arrived from Ireland to Sydney, then to Wellington and finally to Lyttelton.

In Christchurch, Patrick worked with Owen Junior at the Halswell Quarry for a couple of years before taking up a job as a bacon curer for Wardell Bros in Cashel Street, which is what he was doing at the time of his enlistment. He was very well liked in the Halswell district. There was a good community of Roman Catholics in the Halswell area, many originally from Ireland and several of whom also went to war, like Patrick McGough, the Collins boys Archie and James, and Herbert and Edward Moyna. When Patrick enlisted, he was living out of Halswell a little, at 7 Whiteleigh Ave in Addington. 

When he enlisted for the war in May 1916, he was 26 years (and 9 months) old, 5 foot 8 (176cm), 150 (68kgs) pounds. His complexion was dark, his eyes grey, his hair black. He joined the G Company, 18th reinforcements. According to the Press, it was a ‘splendid week’ for recruiting the week that Patrick signed up; a grand total of fifty five registrations on the Saturday alone made it the biggest number of recruits from Christchurch since the Main Expeditionary Force left at the outbreak of the war. A total of 323 men signed up.

He left New Zealand on the ss Willochra, with the 9th Reinforcements, 3rd Battalion, G Company of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on the 16th of October, and arrived in Devonport, England, a little over two months later on the 28th of December.

Patrick spent time training in Sling camp till April 1917, when he marched out to Codford on the 3rd, with the Auckland Infantry Regiment. Codford, a few miles from Sling, was not a training camp but a general hospital camp, set up to look after men from Sling camp who were sick or wounded and to provide rehabilitation to get the soldiers fit enough to fight. The New Zealand Command Depot was also at Codford. Patrick spent April and most of May in Codford till he left for France on the 28th May 1917.

Only a couple of weeks later, Patrick was killed in action in the field, 13th of June, 1917.

He is buried in the Motor Car Corner Cemetery, in Belgium, on the Menin Road, not far from Armentieres in France. On Patrick’s military file, he was recorded as killed in ‘France or Belgium’, as the battle covered the border between both countries.

A few weeks before his death (this according to family story) he had been back at home on furlough and had enjoyed showing off his New Zealand Army uniform. 

Several of his death records say he was 29, but if the date of birth he gave was correct when he signed up, he would have only been 27. He served in the army for less than a year before his death.

According to his will, he appointed his friend Owen McGough to be executor and trustee of his will. He left all his property to his father, or to his three brothers and sister equally if his father should die before he did. He had £250 in a post office savings bank in Christchurch, which Owen faithfully sent to Patrick’s family back in Ireland. Owen McGough the younger said that he had known Patrick nearly all his life, and they came out together to New Zealand in 1908 and worked together. He said that he had seen Patrick a few days before the force left New Zealand when he was down in Christchurch on special leave. He had several letters from Patrick, in one he informed Owen that he had been transferred to the new (Fourth) Brigade formed in England.

Patrick is remembered on the Halswell War Memorial



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Patrick Cunningham

First Names:Patrick
Last Name:Cunningham
Place of Birth:County Monaghan, Ireland