5131 RQMS M. McDonnell, 8th NZMR Contingent
10/1095 Captain, Wellington Infantry Battalion, NZEF
QSA/1897 Group to McDonnell, Adj to Lt-Col. William Malone
The scarce Queen's South Africa Medal and 1897 Diamond Jubilee Medal in bronze to Michael McDonnell, a member of the 1897 Diamond Jubilee Contingent, RQMS of the 8th NZMR Contingent and Adjutant to Lt-Col. William Malone on Gallipoli. Included is a rare original studio portrait photo of McDonnell taken in 1909.
Born 22nd June 1873 at Tuamarina, New Zealand. Served with the Marlborough Mounted Rifle Volunteers. Michael was educated at the Tuamarina Public School, where he served with the school cadets, and on leaving school was employed on his father’s farm. Michael enrolled in the Marlborough Mounted Rifle Volunteers in 1893, and was selected for the 1897 Diamond Jubilee Contingent. On his return from London, Michael succesfully applied for a position in the Permanent Militia, as a gunner. In late 1901 Michael was serving as Camp Quartermaster at Trentham when he was nominated for the role of Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant for the North Island Battalion, 8th NZMR Contingent. He sailed for South Africa on 1st February 1902, returning to New Zealand on cessation of hostilities.
In early 1903 Michael transferred to Fort Takapuna in Auckland before applying for a position as Drill Instructor on the NZ Permanent Staff. This was approved, and Michael resigned from the Permanent Militia to take up his new appointment in April 1903. His character on his discharge was noted as being ‘very good’. Michael remained in Auckland in his new role over the next few years, and in 1909 was promoted to warrant officer. On introduction of the Territorial system of military training into New Zealand in 1911, McDonnell was appointed as Area Staff Instructor for Whangarei, and in May 1991, received the New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal. In 1913 Michael received a commission and was posted to 11th (Taranaki) Regiment, and appointed Adjutant of the Wellington Regiment under Lt-Col. William Malone.
With the formation of the NZEF in August 1914, Michael quickly attested for service and embarked with the Main Body. Michael struggled to come to grips with the role of an officer - he had spent twenty years in the ranks - and often fell foul of Lt-Col. Malone’s expectations. He served on Gallipoli, and seems to have mainly supported the battalion in an organisational role from Monash Gully. Malone’s opinion of him changed somewhat, describing him in May 1915 as ‘quite a good chap now, and loyal to me’. Michael was invalided off Gallipoli in June 1915, suffering from dysentery, and was evacuated to the UK. He was subsequently declared unfit and returned to New Zealand for discharge.
In 1921 Michael was declared medically unfit and discharged from the New Zealand Military Forces. McDonnell had married Eileen Eva Boyle at Paeroa on 9th May 1910, and on his retirement relocated to Takapau in central Hawkes Bay to take up a farm. They remained here until the end of World War Two, when they retired to a property at Parnell in Auckland. There does not appear to have been any children of the marriage. Michael McDonnell died on 23rd July 1951 and is buried in Auckland’s Waikaraka Park cemetery. His wife, Eileen, died in 1969.
Queen's South Africa Medal is correctly impressed 5131 R. Q. M. SJT: M. McDONNELL. N.Z.M.R. 8TH CONT: the 1897 Diamond Jubilee Medal is unnamed as issued. This group also comes with an original photo of McDonnell, taken in 1909 when he was a warrant officer on the New Zealand Permanent Staff.
Medals to the 1897 Diamond Jubilee Contingent are seldom seen on the market, and with McDonnell's association with Lt. Col. Malone on Gallipoli, this is a rare opportunity to secure a slice of history. McDonnell is mentioned several times in the published diary of William Malone "No Better Death".