Kinnaird Close, Alexandra NZ. Location: 45.241946, 169.378751

Private James Kinnaird 8/2638, Victory Medal & British War Medal 1914 – 1920. New Zealand Expeditionary Force (WW1).

A resident of Earnscleugh, James Kinnaird (29/06/1893 – 27/09/1916) was an orchardist before he enlisted in the Army. Joining the 6th Reinforcements, he left New Zealand on the 14th of August 1915 aboard the troopship Willochra, bound for Egypt; a staging post for the Dardanelles. A campaign that Private Kinnaird was involved in.

After leaving Gallipoli the NZ Division moved to Northern France, where it took part in the Battle of the Somme. Army records indicate Private Kinnaird was an infantryman in the 8th Company 1st Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment during this period.

On the morning of the 15th of September 1916, NZ troops were tasked with their first major offensive. Their role was to smash through the German held trenches and advance towards the badly damaged village of Flers. Despite some initial gains the battle quickly ground down to attritional trench warfare in appallingly wet and muddy conditions.

Undeterred, the attack was renewed on the 27th Sept, and the 1st Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment was tasked with capturing enemy positions opposite, known as ‘Gird Trench’.

At 2.15pm Otago troops left the cover of their trench system and advanced into “a withering blast of fire from enemy rifles and machine guns posted along Gird Trench and Gird Support {and} they were literally swept away by it” (Byrne p. 131). The survivors driven to ground, were left desperately seeking any cover the shell pitted landscape afforded. Initially held back as the Battalion reserve, Private Kinnaird and other members of 8th Company were now sent forward. Without hesitation they advanced into the hellish nightmare.

Moments later Private Kinnaird was mortally injured; he was only 23 yrs old.

His death was witnessed by his Platoon Sergeant, Joseph. G. Lay (8/1771) who later recounted his version of events to a Court of Inquiry held 29/11/16: “At about 2.15pm on the 27th September 1916, Private Kinnaird was in my platoon when we advanced to attack Gird Trench. The enemy fire was heavy and I noticed Pte. Kinnaird fall. I was quite close to him at the time and by the way Pte Kinnaird fell I consider he was severely wounded if not killed outright. I have not seen or heard from him since.” (Court of Inquiry 29/11/1916).

He was never seen again, his body was never recovered; he has no known grave.

The September 1916 offensive actions yielded some limited successes for the Allies. However, for such modest gains 1629 New Zealanders died and over 4000 were wounded in just over 30 days (Macdonald p. 201).

Private James Kinnaird is remembered on the New Zealand Memorial Wall at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, France. He also features on the Alexandra War Memorial and has a street named after him.

Lest we forget.


Auckland War Memorial Online Cenotaph. Private James Kinnaird 8/2638. Sourced from:,+1914-1918&n=8/2638&from=/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/search&ordinal=0.

Byrne, A. E, Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918.

J. Wilkie & Company, 1921

Macdonald, Andrew. On my way to the Somme: New Zealanders and the bloody offensive of 1916. HarperCollins, 2005

Court of Inquiry into missing servicemen: 1st Battalion Otago Infantry Regiment, NZEF. 29/11/1916. Sourced from:


Alexandra War Memorial. M. Davies

Image of Private James Kinnaird. Sourced from:,+1914-1918&n=8/2638&from=/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/search&ordinal=0.

New Zealand Memorial Wall, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Somme Valley, Northern France. Sourced from:

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