Topic: John Joseph Wooler

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John Joseph Wooler (Service number 24/622) enlisted for the First World War with a Peterborough Street address.

Born in Amberley on the 6th of August 1893, John was one of five children born to Elizabeth Jean and Frederick Wooler. English born Frederick was a draper to trade and ran his own business in Amberley while Elizabeth Jean was from a Leeston farming family. Her mother Annie Taylor (nee Manson) was born in Lyttelton prior to the arrival of the First Four Ships.

The family of four daughters and one son lived in Leeston until around 1914 when the family moved to Christchurch. John's father Frederick seems to have either died or to have separated himself from the family as Elizabeth, John's mother, was now living alone with her children on Peterborough Street and running a boarding house. One of her boarders was Antony Thomas Forsyth, another Peterborough Street enlisted soldier, who later married Florence Annie (Flossie) John's sister. 

5 foot, 8 1/2 inches tall, grey eyed and brown haired John enlisted from 148 Peterborough Streeton the 29th of May 1915 as a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade. He had been working a clerk with the New Zealand Farmer’s Co-operative on Cashel Street.

King Edward Barracks, corner of Cashel and Montreal Streets, Christchurch

On the evening of May 29th 1915 Family, friends, and local dignitaries gathered to farewell the Rifle Brigade contingent newly re-named The Earl of Liverpool’s Own. Among the 240 new recruits at the King Edward Barracks was John. A variety of bands played songs such as “Tipperary” and “Sons of the sea”; speeches were made by the Mayor and Colonel Chaffey, officer commanding the district, hakas performed and hats thrown up in the air. The men then left for training at Trentham Camp. Rifleman John Wooler disembarked for Egypt on the 18th of November 1915. Next stop was Ismailia, a settlement midway along the Suez Canal and then finally disembarkation for France in April 1916.

After a period of training the Rifle Brigade (The Earl of Liverpool’s Own) were deployed at Armentieres in French-Flanders. The tedium of trench warfare had begun. John was put on fatigue duty with the Canadian Engineers in October 1916. In February 1917 he was attached to the 2nd Australian Tunneling Company and then the Canadians again. This tunneling activity was part of the Battle of Messines where a network of tunnels were mined and packed with explosives. The explosives were detonated on the 7th of June killing some 10,000 German troops. The detonation was followed up by a wave of ground and aerial attacks.

Towards the end of June 1917 John spent some time in hospital with anaemia. He was granted leave in mid-July and again in February 1918. In total John spent 2 years and 269 days in France and Belgium. He was detached to the United Kingdomin November 1918. His active war was over.

In January 1919 John was assessed for disability by the Medical Board. The cause of his disability was identified as a nervous condition due to stress and he was rated 20% disabled. 

John returned to New Zealand on the Athenic from Liverpool on the 3rd of February 1919. During the return trip he was admitted to the ship’s hospital for treatment for scabies, a common parasitic disease caught in the trenches. The Athenic arrived in Wellington on 18th March 1917. John caught a steamer to Lyttelton and was officially discharged from service on April 18th 1919. He received the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal

SS Athenic









Back in civilian life John was re-employed as a clerk and based himself out at Rangiora. John was engaged to Dulcie Henry in 1922 but it must have been called off as she married a Mr Hunter in 1926.

John married Thelma Pretoria Howell in 1940, the couple having met while both living on Packe Street in Saint Albans, John at number 65 and Thelma at number 63. John and Thelma continued to live on Packe Street after their marriage. In later life John worked as a carpenter.

They had no children. John died on October 3rd 1961 at their home, and Thelma in 1977. John is buried at Ruru Lawn Cemetery.


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John Joseph Wooler

First Names:John Joseph
Last Name:Wooler
Place of Birth:Amberley