Topic: Joel Briggs

Topic type:

Joel Briggs (Service no. 15485) was a First World War soldier with links to Burwood

Joel Briggs was born 3rd May 1893; on what would become known as Briggs’s Road Christchurch. He was one of eleven children born to John and Elizabeth Briggs; a prominent and highly regarded family of the Mairehau district.

Tragedy would strike this family early though. Joel would never know two of his brothers, James Joel and William Henry because they died in terrible circumstances eight years prior to his birth. Both parents were away from the house and attending to work and shopping; leaving James (Jimmy - 4 years 3 months), Joseph Edward (2 years 9 months) and William (Henry - 11 months) home alone. By the time their mother had returned Jimmy and Henry had both been severely burned as Jimmy’s shirt sleeves had accidently caught fire at the coal range. Jimmy had already passed away from his injuries and his brother Henry died the next day in hospital. Thankfully Joseph was physically unharmed in the incident but bore witness to the event. An inquest was held on May 13th 1885 and while the deaths were ruled accidental, great negligence was attributed to the parents, particularly their mother.

PRIVATE J. BRIGGS. Died of Wonndf.,Sun, Volume IV, Issue 1104, 25 August 1917

Joel was educated at Burwood School and passed the Fourth Educational Standard. When he left school he initially worked for a Mr H McBratney of Quinn’s Road Shirley and subsequently went on to be employed as a gardener by A. Goodman of Burwood. In his spare time he was a member of the Avon Rowing Club. On 29th February 1904, Joel’s father passed away at the age of 60.

Previously, Joel had been rejected as unfit for military duty with the reason given as “Not physically big enough”. But this limitation obviously didn’t last as he enlisted with the Canterbury Regiment in April of 1916 and was given the service number 15485.

It was a common occurrence to give a soldier a send off just prior to them going into camp. A “Private Joseph Briggs” was given a fine farewell in June 1916 at the Mairehau Hall. It is more than likely that this was in fact for Joel Briggs and not his brother Joseph who didn’t go into camp until Nov 1916. It was Joel who was on his way with the 15th Reinforcements before a month had passed and he was known to have had a popular send off prior to leaving. Both Private Briggs and Middleton were presented with a pipe on behalf of local residents and there was dancing late into the night.

The 15th Reinforcements departed Wellington New Zealand on 26th July 1916 and landed in Devonport England on the 3rd October 1916 aboard either HMNZT 59 or 60. (Waitemata or Ulimaroa). After two weeks in Sling Camp he left for France and joined the 1st Company of  2nd Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment on the 8th November, 1916. Barely a month later he was confined to barracks for one day with the reason being: “Disobedience of orders in that his rifle was dirty on parade when marching for guard”.

By the 13th June 1917 Joel was reported ‘Wounded in Action’ which was later amended to ‘Killed in Action in the field France or Belgium’. He was 24 years old.  His Battalion reported that they had no record of his grave but did record the approximate coordinates of where he fell. The 2nd Canterbury Battalion was relieved by the 1st Wellington Battalion which led to some confusion over precise details but noted that he may have been buried by the 1st Canterbury Infantry Regiment.

Joel is named on the New Zealand memorial at Messines Ridge Belgium and he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. By the time the medals, plaque and scroll were made available for his family, his mother had passed away and they were sent on to his brother Joseph Edward Briggs.  

The Briggs’ family plot is in what was once the churchyard of The Holy Trinity Avonside church, which was pulled down after significant earthquake damage. Here you will find the graves of John and Elizabeth Briggs, their two young boys James Joel and William, the later interments are of Mary Gilbert (Poppy) nee Briggs and John William Briggs. The grave is also a memorial to Joel and George Edwin Briggs who both fell in France in WWI.


Related Resources

  • Online Cenotaph record for Joel Briggs. Auckland War Memorial Museum.
  • Joel Briggs military personnel file. New Zealand Archives (Archway)
  • New Zealand War Graves Project - Casualty details for Joel Briggs.
  • Births, Deaths and Marriages
  • Image of Joel Briggs’s memorial - New Zealand War Graves Project
  • Briggs’s family grave - Find A Grave
  • Portrait of Joel Briggs - Papers Past - Sun, Volume IV, Issue 1104, 25 August 1917
  • Entry for Joel Briggs, 1914 Electoral Roll, Avon, Canterbury. New Zealand Electoral Rolls, 1853–1981. Auckland, New Zealand.
  • New Zealand Cemetery Records 1800-2007 for James Joel Briggs - Row O, 173-174 via



Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

Joel Briggs

First Names:Joel
Last Name:Briggs
Place of Birth:Christchurch, New Zealand