Topic: Joseph Alexander Govan (1896-1969)

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Joseph Alexander Govan lay severely wounded on a battlefield for two agonising days before he could be rescued and treated. He received three white feathers whilst convalescing at his mother’s home in Buckland. The bullet that struck him in the abdomen would remain lodged against his spine until it could be removed twenty years later. Joseph was my first cousin thrice removed - Debbie McCauley.

Does this article look wrong? Click here for an archived version.Joseph Alexander Govan (1896-1969)

Joseph Alexander Govan was born in the Coromandel on 16 December 1896 (reg. 1897/540). His parents were John Alexander and Sarah May Govan (nee McCauley) who married on 1 August 1896.

He enlisted in World War I on 28 August 1915 (Servicel No. 24/1565), attesting at Trentham on 20 October 1915. His occupation was noted as ‘school teacher,’ (Pareuga, North Auckland) his previous military experience ‘territorial Forces in Waihi.’ His physical description was as follows: complexion dark; eyes brown; hair dark; height 5 foot 8.5 inches; weight 10 stone 8 pounds and distinguishing marks of an 8 inches long scar on the outside of his left knee.

Joseph embarked from Wellington on board the Tahiti for Suez, Egypt on 8 January 1916 as part of the 3rd Reinforcements, 2nd Battlation, F Company, of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (he transferred to 2nd Battalion Auckland Infantry Regiment 11 March 1916, Moascar).

He served in the campaigns in Egypt and Western Europe and received the British War Medal (1914-1920) and the Victory Medal. Joseph was wounded in the abdomen on 15 September 1916, and was only admitted to the No. 26 New Zealand General Hospital in Etaples for medical treatment on 17 September 1916 after lying on the battlefield for two days. He was at Etaples until 30 September 1916 then transferred on the HS Panama to the New Zealand No. 1 General Hospital in Brockenhurst, a convalescence centre for wounded troops in New Forest, Hampshire, England, on 3 November 1916. 15 September 1916 was the second phase of the Somme offensive when the New Zealanders left the Windmill at Pozieres Ridge for Flers, and it is thought that this is where Joseph was wounded.

Joseph was classified unfit for service on 18 January 1917 and embarked for New Zealand on 17 March 1917. His discharge date was 9 June 1917, the reason given as ‘medically unfit for service due to wounds received in action’. Joseph’s biographical notes include:

  • Appointed temporary Lance Corporal 11 March 1916, Moascar.
  • Appointed temporary Corporal 23 April 1916.
  • Promoted to Corporal 14 May 1916, Armentieres.
  • Received three white feathers while convalescing at his mother’s home in Buckland.
  • Shot in the abdomen and carried the bullet against the spine for 20 years before being able to have it removed. He kept the bullet, with attached flesh, in a jar of methylated spirits (Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database).

Joseph married Monica (Mona) Emily Mayall (1895-1972) on 31 July 1918 in Tuakau (reg. 1918/4629). Warren Power writes;

Joe was really a Jack of all trades as he did everything from engineering, welding and carpentry. He built his own house in the late 1940s at Weymouth; also building a spiral staircase for Ralph Bennett of Weymouth and enclosing it in glass. He was possibly an independent Member of Parliament during Michael Joseph Savage’s time. I can remember listening to his speech on a gramaphone, one where the needle went from the inside to the outside. Joseph had been with the National Party to begin with but changed to an Independent. In latter years he was a Justice of the Peace in Weymouth’ (personal correspondence, 26 January 2012).

The three children of Joseph Alexander Govan:

  1. Lillian Maude Govan (1919-2008). Born in Tauranga on 14 April 1919. She married Jack Naylor Jones (1909-1982) in 1940. Lillian died in Auckland on 25 October 2008 (reg. 2008/27330).
  2. Audrey Jean Govan (1921-2005). Born in Auckland on 3 May 1921. She married Ainsleigh (Buster) Leslie Power (1919-1982) on 24 October 1942 in Auckland. Jean died on 7 July 2005 in Tiverton Rest Home, Blockhouse Bay, Auckland. She was cremated and her ashes scattered.
  3. Joseph Arnaud Govan (1924-1995). Born in Auckland on 6 March 1924. He married Elizabeth Isabella MacFarlane (1928-1996) on 24 February 1948 in Te Puke and had five children. In 1984 he married Thelma Louise Alcock (née Lorrigan) (1925-2008). Joseph died, aged 71, in Tauranga, on 5 November 1995 (reg. 1995/56012).

Joseph died, aged 72, on 28 June 1969 (reg. 1969/47512), his occupation recorded as ‘general engineer’. He was cremated at Waikumete Cemetery, Great North Road, Glen Eden, and his ashes scattered (Waikumete Cemetery Records Online). Monica died, aged 78, on 5 April 1972 (reg. 1972/33076) and was also cremated at Waikumete Cemetery. ‘I remember that Nana’s hearse caught fire as it arrived at the Waikumete Cemetery’ (Warren Power, personal correspondence, 26 January 2012).



Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database

MacDougall, A. K. (2002). Australian at War: A Pictorial History (Melbourne: Five Mile Press,  pp 94-95).

Military personnel file

The McCauley Family of Katikati, New Zealand: 1876-2012 by Debbie McCauley (Mauao Publishing, 2012).

Warren Power (grandson of Joseph Alexander Govan)



This article was archived at Perma CC on August 11, 2016 (

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Joseph Alexander Govan (1896-1969)

Note:Service Number: 24/1565
First Names:Joseph Alexander
Last Name:Govan
Date of Birth:16 December 1896
Place of Birth:Coromandel
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:28 June 1969
Place of burial:Waikumete Cemetery
Occupation:General Engineer and School Teacher
Other places of settlement:Auckland
Spouses name:Monica (Mona) Emily Mayall
Spouses date of birth:2 April 1895
Spouses place of birth:Waipu, North Auckland
Spouses date of death:1972
Date of marriage:31 July 1918
Place of marriage:Tuakau
Fathers name:John Alexander Govan
Fathers date of birth:10 August 1873
Fathers place of birth:Coromandel
Fathers date of death:18 November 1918 ('flu pandemic)
Fathers place of death:Tuakau, Auckland
Mothers name:Sarah (Sally) May McCauley
Mothers date of birth:10 February 1875
Mothers place of birth:Crossowen, Clogher, County Tyrone, Ireland
Mothers date of death:7 December 1947
Mothers place of death:Tuakau, Auckland
Mothers nationality:Irish
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)