Alexander Ormond

Alexander Ormond, 11th Battalion, 1st Manchester Regiment, British Army, killed in action, 30 September 1916.

Second Lieutenant Alexander Ormond is one of many New Zealanders who died as a result of First World War service. He is included on the British War Office’s list of soldiers who died in the Great War.

Born on 30 May 1890, Alexander Ormond was the third of Maraea Kiwiwharekete and George Canning Ormond’s 15 children. Of Ngāti Rongomaiwahine and Ngāti Kahungunu on his mother’s side, Alexander spent his early years in Māhia, northern Hawke’s Bay, where the family owned land. From 1903 to 1910 Alexander attended Wanganui Collegiate School, where he excelled in both academic and sporting pursuits. He then undertook a Diploma of Agriculture at Canterbury Agricultural College, where he became vice-captain of both the cricket First XI and rugby First XV. At his graduation in 1913 he was awarded a special prize for being second in the class overall. Alexander then took up work managing one of the family estates.

In September 1915, one year after war broke out, Alexander sailed for England with the intention of enlisting in the British Expeditionary Force then fighting in France and Belgium. Arriving in London, he joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps, which trained officers prior to their deployment on active service. In July 1916 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 27th Battalion of the 1st Manchester Regiment. A month later he was attached to the 1st Manchesters’ 11th Battalion and sent to join the fighting.

At this time the British Expeditionary Force was one month into its Somme offensive, and Alexander soon found himself taking part in the battle. In September, the Manchesters were sent to a position near Pozières, north-east of Amiens in the heart of the Somme battlefield, and to the west of the New Zealand Division’s position at Flers. On 29 September Alexander was given charge of a position which attracted heavy enemy fire. He and his platoon successfully defended it, but the following evening, just before they were to be relieved, Alexander was killed when he was hit by a shell. He was 26 years old. 

Following Alexander’s death, an officer in the Manchesters wrote that although he had not known Alexander very long,

I never wish to go into action with a braver man or a better officer. He was perfectly cheerful under the heaviest fire, and I can’t speak too highly of the way he commanded that bombing section … he will be very much missed ... [1]

Alexander is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, and also on the Māhia Soldiers’ Memorial erected by his parents in 1922. In addition, the Ormond Memorial Chapel in Napier was dedicated to his memory in 1919, and he is also listed on Lincoln College’s (now Lincoln University) First World War Roll of Honour.

Two of Alexander’s brothers, William and John (Tiaki Omana) fought in and survived the First World War as part of the New Zealand Māori (Pioneer) Battalion. In 1943 Tiaki Omana defeated Sir Āpirana Ngata to become MP for Eastern Māori, an electorate he went on to represent for 20 years.

Further information

Auckland War Memorial Museum online cenotaph

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Alexander R. Ormond’, Lincoln University Living Heritage 

Roll of Honour’, Poverty Bay Herald, 8 December 1916, p. 7. 

Men who have fallen’, New Zealand Herald, 16 October 1916, p. 9. 

Lincoln College Memorial. Official Opening of Hall’, Press, 14 August 1924, p. 3.

[1] ‘Casualties occurring to New Zealanders serving in British Units’, Chronicles of the N.Z.E.F., 15 November 1916, no. 6, p. 129, reprinted in Chronicles of the N.Z.E.F., vol. 1, Cadsonbury Publications, Christchurch, 2014.

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