Topic: Michael Tobin (1880-1916)

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Miner Michael Tobin worked for the Public Works Department in Tauranga. He was the first New Zealand soldier to die on the Western Front during World War I.

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Michael Tobin was born on 5 June 1880 to Michael and Mary Tobin. He had three older siblings:

  • Mary Tobin (1875-1957). Mary married Joseph Whittle in 1908.
  • William Tobin (1877-1949).
  • Bridget Tobin (1878-1944). Bridget married William John McCloughan in 1895Michael Tobin (1898-1916).

Michael worked as a miner for Tauranga's Public Works Department. On 8 October 1915 he volunteered for the New Zealand Engineers Tunnelling Company (Service No. 4/1639). He embarked from Auckland on 18 December 1915, aboard the 'Ruapehu'.

The Tunnelling Company arrived in France in March 1916. During their time in France they were stationed at Arras. There they worked on a system of tunnels that would be used a year later, in April 1917, during the Battle of Arras.

While working on the tunnels, it appears that several of the miners suffering from colds, whilst others had measles. Tobin himself was taken ill and admitted to hospital on 14 April 1916.

He died the following day, 15 April 1916, from Bronchial Pneumonia. He was aged 35

Tobin was buried at  Lucheaux Military Cemetery. Later, those graves were moved to the Beauval Communal Cemetery in Somme, France. Tobin's is the only New Zealander's grave in this cemetery.

On 9 April 2012 a commemoration was held for the 95th Anniversary of the Battle of Arras.  A delegation of Tunnelling Company descendants and New Zealand officials attended the ceremony in France. Included were relations of Michael Tobins.

Michael's older brother, William, also served in World War I. He embarked on 13 October 1917 aboard the 'Arawa'. William was severely wounded by machinegun fire on 19 July 1917, but survived his wounds. He died in 1949.


Bay of Plenty Times on PapersPast - search here for more information

Birth Record

Cenotaph Record

Honouring Sapper Michael Tobin 2012

Jeff Tobin letter (2012)

New Zealand Engineers Tunnelling Company

New Zealand History Online

Personnel Record

Rodney Times 19 April 1912

Michael Tobin (1880-1916)

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

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Michael Tobin (1880-1916)

Year:1916 and 1880
First Names:Michael
Last Name:Tobin
Date of Birth:5 June 1880
Place of Birth:Pukekohe
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:15 April 1916
Place of death:France
Place of burial:Beauval Communal Cemetery in Somme, France
Family Surname:Tobin
Fathers name:Michael Tobin
Mothers name:Mary
Name of sibilings:William Tobin, Mary Tobin, and Bridget Tobin
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)