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George Augustus King

King. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 90034

King. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 90034

No Known Copyright Restrictions AWMM


  • Title
  • Forenames
    George Augustus AWMM
  • Surname
    King AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
  • Service number
    WWI 11/680 AWMM
  • Gender
    Male AWMM
  • Iwi
  • Hapū
  • Waka
  • Rohe
  • Religion

Civilian life

About birth

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  • Birth
    3 March 1885 AWMM ChristchurchCanterbury AWMM
  • Date of birth
    1885 Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record
  • Place of birth
    Burwood, Canterbury Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record
  • Birth notes
    son of George & Elizabeth Clifton KING Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record & Research
  • Address before enlistment
    WW1 Defence Office, Hamilton, New Zealand AWMM
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
    WW1 Mrs A.L. King (wife), C/o Mrs Lister, Canvarin Street, Nelson, New Zealand AWMM
  • Relationship status
    • Pre 16 October 1914 AWMM Married AWMM
      Married, 2 children AWMM
    • 1910 married Annie Letitia Coster Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record


Wars and conflicts

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  • War
  • Campaign
    • 1915-1916 Gallipoli AWMM
    • 1914-1916 Egypt AWMM
  • Armed force / branch
    • Army AWMM
    • NZ Staff Corps, Auckland Mounted Regiment, & NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record
    • and Canterbury Infantry Btn Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record
  • Service number
    WWI 11/680 AWMM
  • Military service
  • Promotions/ Postings/ Transfers

Military decorations

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  • Medals and Awards
    • Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and bar (DSO*) AWMM
      Distinguished Service Order -London Gazette, 3 June 1916, p5570, WA 22/5/10: "Gallipoli April - August 1915. Steady good work for past 3 months. Very valuable." Bar Distinguished Service Order - London Gazette, 1 January 1918, p. 17: "For distinguished service in the field (France and Flanders)." AWMM
    • Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 (France) AWMM
      Croix de Guerre (France) - London Gazette, 17 December 1917, p. 13206: "For distinguished services rendered during the course of the campaign." AWMM
    • Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) Four Times AWMM
      Mentioned in Despatches - London Gazette, 28 January 1916, p. 1207: "In connection with the operations described in General I Hamilton's despatch dated 11 December 1915." Mentioned in Despatches - London Gazette, 13 July 1916, p. 6942: "For distinguished and gallant services rendered during the period of Sir C Munro's command of the Meditterranean Expeditionary Force." London Gazette 4 January 1917, p262, Rec No 443 This Officer has commanded the Pioneer Batt. since formation. During the time the Division has been in France he has earned the highest praise for its efficiency and high standard of work. Mentioned in Despatches - London Gazette, 1 June 1917, p. 5430, Rec No 570: "The services rendered by the Pioneer Battalion which this Officer Commands, during the operations on the Somme at the end of September and the begining of October, were of very greatest assistance, and during the Winter months the same high level of efficiency has been maintained. Lieut-Colonel King deserves the very greatest credit for this work and deserves special recognition." Mentioned in Despatches - London Gazette, 28 December 1917, p. 13575, Rec No 1265: "For gallantry and devotion to duty the past 18 months. The personal influence and zeal displayed by this Officer while in Command of the New Zealand Maori (Pioneer) Battalion from its formation in February 1916, until August, 1917, has made it an extraordinary efficient unit. His coolness under fire, and his tact and judgement have been an example and inspiration to the Native race lately under his Command. I cannot too strongly recommend him for the valuable service he has so rendered to the Service." AWMM
    • Victory Medal AWMM
    • British War Medal (1914-1920) AWMM
    • Plaque & Scroll # 507109 Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record

Training and Enlistment

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  • Military training
  • Branch Trade Proficiency
  • Enlistment
    • WW1 Farmer/Civilian AWMM
    • 9 March 1911 at Tauherenikau, Wgn: NZ Permanent Forces Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record
  • Occupation before enlistment
    Soldier Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record
  • Age on enlistment
    26yrs Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 - Military Record


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Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes
    Killed in Action, Cause of Death AWMM

Biographical information

Biographical information

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    • George King was the son of Elizabeth Clifton King (née Wilson) and the late George King.

      Husband of Annie Letitia King (née Coster), of 27 Fairview Crescent, Kelburn, Wellington. They were married in 1910.

      Was the first Commanding Officer of the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion, (which was from September 1917 known as the New Zealand (Maori) Pioneer Battalion).

      He was posted out from the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion to Command the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Regiment. he was with them when he was killed by British artillery fire during the attack before Passchendaele on 12 October 1917.

      Of the attack where Lt.-Col. King lost his life, it was said that "They had poured out their blood like water. The bodies of 40 officers and 600 men lay in swathes about the wire.". This was the blackest day in New Zealand's experience of war, with 2700 casualities. New Zealand Pioneer Battalion known as this until September 1917 when the unit became known as New Zealand (Maori) Pioneer Battalion

      Auckland War Memorial Museum Scars on the Heart WWI "Remember" display. Display item is the Gus King Lamp. The memorial lamp is of the 'Toc H' Association which was an ex-serviceman's association founded after the First World War to embody christian fellowship. Notes about this label are on the ACF8276.

      "Lieutenant Colonel George Augustus King: A brave and diligent soldier

      Cantabrian George Augustus King enlisted with 1st (North Canterbury) Mounted Rifles in 1910 aged 25. At the outbreak of war in August 1914 he joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force as an officer in the Auckland Mounted Rifles. Rapid promotion to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel saw him become the first commanding officer of the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion in March 1916, which was in Gallipoli preparing for a move to the Western Front.

      Seen to be a brave and efficient commander, Lieutenant Colonel King was presented with the Distinguished Service Order (DSO):

      "Gallipoli April - August 1915. Steady good work for past 3 months. Very valuable." - London Gazette, 3 June 1916, p5570, WA 22/5/10.

      Once confirmed as Lieutenant Colonel he was appointed to command the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment in France in August 1917, where he too saw service at the Somme and Messines.

      The 1st Canterbury Infantry Regiment was in the rear during the battle when it came under artillery fire killing Lieutenant Colonel King. King was one of 126 men of the battalion killed during the battle. It later emerged that he had been accidentally killed by British gunners. His body was recovered by men of the Pioneer Battalion, his former regiment. He was given a funeral at Ypres.

      Lieutenant Colonel King was recognised for his bravery and gallantry with a posthumous bar to his DSO in January 1918. Earlier in his service he had been Mentioned in Despatches five times and awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

      "For distinguished service in the field (France and Flanders)"

      Lieutenant Colonel George Augustus King is remembered at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, World War One Hall of Memories, dedicated to fallen soldiers." Excerpt from Coombe, Sophie. 'Faces of Passchendaele', Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira, Published: 12/10/2018. AWMM
    • George Augustus King was born at Christchurch, NZ, on 3 March 1885, the son of George King, a merchant, & his wife, Elizabeth Clifton Wilson. Gus King was educated at Warwick House School & Christ's College, where he played in the First XV. Shepherding at Waitohi Peaks, North Canterbury, & surveying in Hawke's Bay preceded work on his father's sheep run at Gleniti, Nelson. On 25 Oct 1910 at Nelson, King married Annie Letitia Coster.
      Keen on the army from an early age, King had served in the school cadets 7 later joined the Volunteer Force, becoming adjutant of the 1st Regiment North Canterbury Mounted Rifle Volunteers. In 1910 he applied to join the NZ Permanent Forces & received a commission as lieutenant on 14 January 1911. 2 months later he was appointed to the NZ Staff Corps & posted to Hamilton as adjutant of the 4th (Waikato) Mounted Rifles.
      In the NZ Expeditionary Force, which sailed in October 1914, King was staff captain to Colonel Andrew Russell, commander of the NZ Mounted Rifles Brigade. During the Gallipoli landings the brigade remained in Egypt, but in May 1915 was sent to Anzac Cove as infantry. In the push to capture the peninsula during August, Russell's Mounted Rifles Brigade successfully secured the foothills. King recorded a 'great go for the past week', but was pained at the failure to consolidate the Wellington Battalion's capture of Chunuk Bair on 8 August. On the 16th, as a temporary major, King took over the remnant of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment. In the last major thrust of the campaign he was 2nd in command of the unsuccessful attack on Hill 60 on 27 August. During the attack he was wounded, & he was sent to Egypt to recuperate.
      King was appointed a DSO for his service at Gallipoli. As one of the best officers to survive the campaign he was given one of the toughest jobs when Major General Russell formed the NZ Division, namely command of the NZ Pioneer Battalion. This unit provided the skilled labour for making trenches, roads and tramways. It began as a combination of the original Maori Contingent, Maori reinforcements and the Otago Mounted Rifles Regt, & also included Rarotongans, Niueans & other Pacific islanders.
      King moulded these disparate elements into a well-disciplined battalion, which went to France in April 1916. To break the monotony of trench digging they were permitted to send night-raiding parties across no man's land in the vicinity of Armentières in July 1916, but these were not successful. However, in the battle of the Somme in August & September the battalion distinguished itself at the front. The communications trench known as Turk Lane, which King dubbed 'our masterpiece', was 'just about the largest trench in France'. The Pioneers earned a reputation as the 'Digging Battalion' & soon their sobriquet, 'Diggers', was adopted for the N Z Division &, eventually, all the Anzacs.
      Early in 1917 the battalion was moved to Belgium & in June took part in the battle of Messines (Mesen), building forward trenches and a tramline to bring up ammunition & evacuate wounded. A brief attachment to the French First Army with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade led to King's receipt of the Croix de guerre. After a short period of leave in England, on 30 August 1917 he took over as officer commanding the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment.

      On 12 October 1917, during the battle for Passchendaele (Passendale) King was killed when a shell from the supporting barrage exploded on the battalion headquarters. His body was recovered by the Maori Pioneers, who buried him at Ypres (Ieper). King was survived by his wife, Annie, and two children. He was awarded a bar to the DSO posthumously in January 1918. Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 -
    • Continued:
      Gus King was one of the best of the first generation of the New Zealand Staff Corps. He was five feet nine inches in height, with blue eyes, brown hair and a clipped moustache. He loved sport and was a fine horseman. Pre-war confidential reports noted a 'good eye for country, a genial disposition, full of common sense', and that he had 'the knack of handling backblocks men'; when billeted with French civilians he preferred to sleep on the floor. His letters from Gallipoli and the western front show that he relished the activity of battle, yet he longed for the war to end and to get home. Though exasperated at times by his 'menagerie' of a battalion, King fully justified Russell's choice by creating one of the most admired Pioneer units among the empire's armies. Had he lived, he would very likely have been given command of a brigade. King was an effective commander, lost at age 32, before he had reached his prime. Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 24 March 2016 -
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About death

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  • Death
    12 October 1917 AWMM
    Age 32 AWMM
    YpresBelgium AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
    Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium AWMM I.H.28. AWMM
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
    Lieutenant-Colonel George A. King, late of Hamilton, who has been killed in action, was a native of Canterbury, and was educated there, being an old Christ's College boy. He formerly was engaged in farming in the northern part of the South Island. On the institution of the territorial system he was appointed adjutant to the 4th, Waikato, Mounted Rifles. Subsequently he was promoted to the charge of No. 4 group, and he held this position on the outbreak of war, when he immediately volunteered for active service. He left New Zealand as staff captain in the Mounted Rifle Brigade. He went through the Gallipoli campaign, and was wounded there. When the troops returned from Gallipoli to Egypt Colonel King was placed in charge of the Maori Pioneer Force, and so far as latest advices show he held that position until the time of his death. Colonel King was the holder of the D.S.O. and also a French decoration. He leaves a wife and two children. (Auckland Weekly News, 1 November 1917, p. 22) AWMM
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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  • Memorial name
    • Memorial plaque, Auckland Garrison Officers Club, St Mary's Church (part of Holy Trinity Cathedral ), corner St Stephens Avenue & Parnell Road, Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
    • Hamilton Memorial Park, Memorial Drive, Hamilton East, 3216 AWMM
    • Auckland War Memorial Museum, World War 1 Hall of Memories AWMM
    • Nelson Cenotaph, Anzac Park, Nelson Public - Peter - Researcher - 30 October 2018 - on site

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  • I am a distant cousin of George Augustus King and came across his obituary while researching. If he had survived Passchendaele he would probably have been promoted to Brigadier. Another of New Zealands finest -lost in his prime.
    Rest in peace George -you will always be remembered.
    Public - Irene - Other relative - 10 October 2021
  • I remember you always, my grandfather (Kelynge Everest England's) cousin. You were the son of my great great aunt. I spoke to your daughter Nan Simcox once and I could hear your adventurous spirit and the solid platform of good strong values in her voice. She told me she was 'past her used by date'. She was funny and she sounded just like family, one of us. I lost my father at a young age and I felt so sad that she lost you. Your wife, her mother, never remarried. "There was only one man for me," Nan told me her mother had said. I am not surprised. What a great good man you were, loved by the tangata whenua, died at Passchendale. What war does. Thank goodness you'd had a child and that your descendants live on.
    Public - Jane - Other relative - 18 September 2017
  • To the Grandfather I (Patty) never met but was dearly loved by Granny and his daughter Nancy and whom I knew through family memories and diary. Mum and family were able to meet his horse when he arrived back on the wharf in Wellington.
    Public - Patty - Direct descendant - 15 March 2016



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  • External links
  • References
    • McDonald, W. (2013). Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War, 1914-1918. (3rd ed.). Hamilton, N.Z.: Richard Stowers. AWMM
    • New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force. (1914-1919). Nominal Rolls of New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Volume I. Wellington, N.Z.: Govt. Printer. AWMM
      Vol1: 394 AWMM
    • Studholme, J. (1928). New Zealand Expeditionary Force record of personal services during the war of officers, nurses, and first-class warrant officers, and other facts relating to the N.Z.E.F. : unofficial but based on official records. Wellington, N.Z.: Government Printer. AWMM
    • Stewart, H. (1921). The New Zealand Division 1916-1919 : a popular history based on official records. Auckland, N.Z.: Whitcombe & Tombs. AWMM
      Stewart, H. (1921), p. 275 AWMM
    • Ferguson, David (1921). The history of the Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 1914-1919. Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd: Auckland, N.Z. AWMM
      Ferguson, D., (1921), p. 112. AWMM
    • Beattie, P.J. & Pomeroy, M. (2013-2020). Onward : portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (vols 1-5). Auckland, New Zealand: Fair Dinkum Publications AWMM
      Vol. 1: Includes portrait AWMM
    • Information kindly provided by family AWMM
    • Roll of Honour, Auckland Province (digital copy), 1914 - 1919. Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. MS-2016-2. AWMM


Command item
Command item
Add new record Refresh
DateFirst namesLocationRelationshipContact
10 October 2021IreneGold Coast AustraliaOther relative
30 October 2018PeterNelsonResearcher
18 September 2017Jane Christchurch New ZealandOther relative
24 March 2016Lorraine MGisborne, NZ Researcher
15 March 2016PattyAustraliaDirect descendant

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