Topic: William Joseph Cunningham (1882-1917)

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Tauranga farmer William Joseph Cunningham was part of the New Zealand No 1 Field Ambulance during World War I. He was killed in action on 12 October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele at Ypres in Belgium. Story by Debbie McCauley

William Joseph Cunningham was born in Burrawang, a village in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, on 25 April 1882. HIs parents were Thomas and Alice Cunningham (nee Costello).

William worked on the family's Yarrunga farm before deciding to try his luck in America with his brother Jack. In 1903 the two left Australia on board the SS Sonoma. A rough passage across the Tasman Sea made William extremely seasick and so the pair decided to disembark at the next port of call which happened to be in New Zealand. On 9 February 1903 they landed in Auckland. The decided to stay and their parents and two younger brothers joined them in New Zealand later that year.

In 1910 the family moved to Tauranga where William worked as a farmer on Cambridge Road.

On 8 January 1916 William enlisted to fight during World War I and served with the Auckland Regiment (2nd Battalion) in France (Service No. 11422). However, just eight days after arrival in France William was severely wounded and evacuated to England for treatment.

William Joseph Cunningham (1882-1917)

After a nine month recovery, which included several operations on his shoulder, William was fit enough for further service.

William arrived back in France in June 1917 where he transferred to the New Zealand No 1 Field Ambulance. He was in trouble for drunkenness on 31 July 1917, losing 20 days pay.

On 12 October 1917 Private William Joseph Cunningham was killed in action during the Battle of Passchendaele at Ypres in Belgium. He was aged 35. William is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

William Joseph Cunningham (1882-1917)

At the time of William's death his parents were living in 9th Avenue, Tauranga.

When his mother, Alice, died in 1911 she was buried in the Tauranga Catholic Cemetery. His father Thomas died in Auckland in 1924 and was buried in Hillsborough Cemetery.



Archives New Zealand: Military Personnel File.

Auckland War Memorial Museum: Cenotaph Record.

Bay of Plenty Times (1916, October 23).

Births, Deaths & Marriages Online (New Zealand).

McLean, Heather (1996). Tauranga Catholic Cemetery Headstones.

National Archives of Australia. The Southern Highlands 1200. William Joseph Cunningham 11422.

New Zealand War Graves Project.


A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC

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William Joseph Cunningham (1882-1917)

Note:Service Number: 11422
First Names:William Joseph
Last Name:Cunningham
Date of Birth:25 April 1882
Place of Birth:Burrawang, New South Wales
Country of birth:Australia
Date of death:12 October 1917
Place of death:Ypres, Belgium
Place of burial:Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Fathers name:Thomas Cunningham
Fathers date of birth:1850
Fathers place of birth:Braidwood, New South Wales, Australia
Fathers date of death:8 July 1924
Fathers place of death:Auckland, New Zealand
Mothers name:Alice Costello
Mothers date of birth:25 January 1861
Mothers place of birth:Little River, New South Wales, Australia
Mothers date of death:6 September 1911
Mothers place of death:Tauranga, New Zealand
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)