Tohill Court, Alexandra NZ. Location: 45.241332, 169.378507

Private Hugh Augustus Tohill 39359, Victory Medal & British War Medal 1914 -1918. New Zealand Expeditionary Force (WW1).

Hugh Augustus Tohill (23/10/1892 – 25/07/1918) was born and raised in Alexandra, where he attended the local District School along with his three brothers Daniel, Edmund, and John. Hugh became well known in the district for his prowess on the football field. On the 6th October 1916, Hugh enlisted, joining the 22nd Reinforcements. He left New Zealand on the 16th of February 1917, aboard the Troopship Aparima bound for the Western Front.

After arriving in July of that year, Private Tohill was initially posted to the 3rd Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment. In February 1918 Private Tohill was then transferred to 10th (North Otago) Company 2nd Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment where he presumably saw action, when the NZ Division was thrust into the front line in an attempt to stymie the massive German offensive (Kaiserschlacht), which swept across the northern battlefields on the 21st of March, 1918.

The official Otago Regiment historian Lieutenant A. Byrne MC recorded that the Division confronted the approaching German Army on the Somme, near the French village of Mailly Maillet. The New Zealanders held firm against repeated enemy advances, before launching a series of localised counterattacks in order to stabilise their defensive positions (pg 272 – 289).

July 1918 found Private Tohill and 10th Company on the front line at Rossignol Wood near Hebuterne, ready to take up the offensive. Byrne recounts: “At . . .  5 p.m. on July 24th . . .  two Companies of the Regiment {were} committed to the operation, 10th Company of the 1st Battalion on the left and 10th Company of the 2nd Battalion on the right, advanced to the attack. The enemy being busy with his evening meal was taken completely by surprise . . . and his posts were either rushed or bombed in quick succession. {10th Coy 2nd Battalion} parties, working from the flank, drove the post out; the enemy abandoning a machine gun in his flight . . .  A number of the enemy were killed, and three prisoners, two machine guns, and a quantity of equipment captured. The assault . . . had thus achieved distinct success” (pg 312).

It was at some point during this engagement that Private Tohill suffered multiple serious shrapnel wounds to his legs from artillery fire. He was taken to an advanced medical aid post for treatment, where he died the following day. He was 25 years old.

Some days later the news of Private Tohill’s death reached Alexandra, and as illustrated it widely impacted the close knit community.

On the 5th of August at the local Alexandra Borough Council meeting, the Mayor Mr W. Black had the death of Private Tohill recorded in the minutes and put forward a motion: “That the clerk be instructed to write to both families conveying {illegible} sympathy of the council in their bereavement.” This was seconded by Councillor Weaver, and carried by the remainder who stood at the time to show their respect (AH&COG, 7th August 1918, p 4).

Two days later the Alexandra Herald & Central Otago Gazette published the following obituary: “Still another of our fine local boys has laid his young manhood on the altar of National Service. Word reached Alexandra on Saturday that Private Hugh Tohill . . . had died as the result of wounds received on or about 25th July. Hugh was one of our own, born, brought up and educated in our township. He enlisted and proceeded to Europe with the 22nd reinforcements, taking part in several engagements . . . Hugh ever possessed the indomitable courage which shirks at no danger . . . Hugh Tohill was a keen footballer, and . . . he put up many a hard battle on the football field . . . Alexandra will know him no more, but his many local friends honour his passing, and will revere his memory” (AH&COG 7th August 1918, p 5).

Private Hugh Augustus Tohill is buried in the Foncquevillers Military Cemetery, in the Pas de Calais region of France. He is also remembered on the Alexandra War Memorial, on the Alexandra District High School Roll of Honour, and has a local street named after him. All three of Hugh’s brothers fought in and survived the war.

Lest we forget.  


Alexandra Borough Council Meeting Minutes 5th August 1918. Alexandra Herald and Central Otago Gazette (AH&COG), 7th August 1918, pg 4. Sourced from:

Alexandra Herald and Central Otago Gazette, Issue 1143, 7 August 1918, Page 5. Sourced from:

Auckland War Memorial Online Cenotaph. Private Hugh Augustus Tohill 39359. Sourced from:,+1914-1918&n=39359&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.

Archives N.Z. Military service records: Tohill. H. A. Sourced from:

Troop ship sailings: