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2/436 Gunner Jonh Graham McConnell MM

NZEF Military Medal Group - NZ Field Artillery

  • The MM, 1914-15 Star Trio, WW2 pair and NZ TSM group to John Graham McConnell who was awarded the Military Medal for bravery under fire in October 1916.


    John Graham McConnell was born 10th May 1894 at Westshore, Napier, New Zealand. Son of John and Matilda McConnell (née Campbell). At the time of his enlistment in the NZEF in August 1914 McConnell was working as a carpenter for a local building firm. Througout his known military service he appears to have gone by his middle name of Graham, presumably this was his usual name to differentiate himself from his father, also called John.


    McConnell's service file is quite brief, but it is known he sailed with the Main Body in October 1914 and subsequently served on Gallipoli. A number of the NZFA men served on the peninsula for the entire campaign, but in McConnell's case these details are unable to be confirmed. He transferred to the Western Front, serving with 3rd Battery, 1st Brigade, NZ Field Artillery. During the Battle of the Somme in September/October 1916 the NZFA suffered greatly, and it was here the McConnell earned the Military Medal. The official history of the NZ Field Artillery described this period: "October was a bad month for the batteries. It rained almost incessantly; the batteries were heavily shelled in their advanced and exposed positions and lost a great many of their personnel; and for the drivers and the men of the Ammunition Column, the journey to the guns was a nightly struggle against the elements; while since the departure of the rest of the Division the rations had become so meagre and unvaried as to warrant the making of representations on the subject, after which there was an improvement. The enemy gunners harried the pack columns on the roads, and used their heavy guns unsparingly in the effort to destroy battery positions. With the absolute shortage of material and labour, nothing but splinter-proof shelters could be built at the most, and every battery suffered losses in guns and men, direct hits on the pits being suffered very frequently. In the 3rd Battery three direct hits were obtained on pits on October 3rd; and two days later, when the enemy shelled the area all day with 5.9in. and 8in. howitzers, a big shell landed on one pit, and destroyed the gun and ammunition, and killed the whole detachment".  It was during one of these bombardments that McConnell displayed the bravery that earned him the MM, the citation for which read: "On October 1st near Flers. The left section of 3rd Battery were in action in a semi-covered position in hastily constructed pits. Zero time for an attack on this day was 3.15pm but this section received orders to fire an hour earlier in order to enfilade trenches in front of the Division on the left. 20 minutes after starting thesection was subjected to a very heavy bombardment by 7.7, 5.9, and 8 inch guns. This hostile bombardment was intense for 2 1/2 hours and intermittent till 8pm.During the bombardment the pits and the detachment were hit several times by large pieces of flying splinters. About 4.45pm the enemy obtained a direct hit on“C” gun pit killing one and wounding the whole of the detachment, and destroying all the ammunition in the pit. The section was now reduced to these three under asergeant, but they gallantly worked all through the heavy fire, continuing the fire with the remaining gun and eventually clearing away the wreckage and woundedfrom the other gun and eventually firing both guns". McConnell was evacuated to the UK in late 1916, and transferred to the NZ Army Service Corps where he remained until the end of the war.


    McConnell was mobilised for service in New Zealand during the Second World War (32173 T/Sergeant) although the nature of his service is unknown.  He was awarded the NZ Territorial Service Medal in 1943 (per NZ Army Order 1943/92).


    Following his retirement from the carpentry trade, he remained in Napier where he died on 26th June 1982. His remains were cremated and were interred in Taradale Cemetery. 


    The medals are in a frame, making photographing of the naming difficult. The Military Medal, 1914/15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and Territorial Service Medal are all correctly impressed. The WW2 pair are unnamed as issued.

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