Topic: Charles Edward Coffey

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Charles Edward Coffey, (Service No. 33695), was a First World War soldier with links to Upper Riccarton

Charles Edward Coffey was born in Christchurch on the 29th of October 1898. His parents were Michael Stephen Coffey and Caroline Boon, who married in 1891. They lived at 76 Elizabeth Street, Lower Riccarton, Christchurch. He had five other brothers and sisters; Mary Eveline (born 1891), Sarah Feducia (born 1893), Thomas Michael (born 1895), John Henry (born 1906), and Harold Vincent James (born 1907). 


Michael Coffey arrived in New Zealand as a nineteen year old farm labourer from Tipperary, Ireland on the ship Hereford. He was accompanied by Thomas Coffey aged 24, Johanna Coffey aged 26, and Mary and Ann Coffee both aged 15 years old. It is likely they were siblings. Michael died in 1924 and his wife Caroline died in 1940. They were buried in the Sydenham cemetery


He volunteered to fight in the war on the 20th of September 1916 and gave his date of birth as the 20th of October 1896, however, he was really born in 1898 which made him one month shy of being able to fight. He was given the service number 33695. 


This was the description Charles had on his army file; he had black hair, a dark complexion, blue eyes, and stood at five feet and seven inches tall. He was a Roman Catholic and worked as a labourer for W. Greer of 25 James Avenue, Papanui, Christchurch. Charles never married.


The Press of 20th of September 1916 describes the happy atmosphere surrounding the new recruits as they bid their relatives farewell at the King Edward Barracks before catching the train to go to various North Island training camps. "They were a merry crowd, and imparted a degree of hilarity to the proceedings at the King Edward Barracks last night that must have been refreshing to the relatives who came to bid them farewell. " The article also notes the high standard of physical fitness of the men. 


Charles embarked with the NZ Expeditionary Force, at Wellington, New Zealand for England on the 19th of January 1917 in a ship named Ulimaroa HMNZT74. He arrived in Devonport, England on the 27th of March 1917 and went to Sling Camp on the Salisbury Plain. He left for France on the 28th of May 1917 but was then killed in action on the 4th of October 1917 in the third battle of Ypres in Belgium. He didn't last long in the war and fought for a very short period of time. 


His last rank was private, Canterbury Regiment, N. Z. E. F. 3rd Battalion.


Charles Coffey is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium, the Upper Riccarton Memorial Library Roll of Honour and St. Barnabas Church Roll of Honour. Charles' name is on panel 2A of the Tyne Cot Memorial indicating that his remains were not identified. 

Related resources

New Zealand Birth, death and marriage indices

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Charles Edward Coffey's  military personnel file. Archives New Zealand (Archway)

Christchurch City Council Cemeteries Database Coffey burials at Sydenham Cemetery




Researched by Riccarton High School students Monica Koster and Cassidy Berry


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Charles Edward Coffey

First Names:Charles Edward
Last Name:Coffey
Place of Birth:Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand