Sunday, 9 February 2014

Jock McGruther: Items of Historical Interest.

Additional Documents and Pictures of Major Jock McGruther

Appreciation card from Jocks parents to well-wishers.

Below: The full military record of Jock McGruther

Full Name: John Robert McGruther
: John Robert
Rank Last Held: 
: McGruther
Also Known As: 
Jock McGruther
 World War II, 1939-1945
Serial No.
: Male
Place of Birth: 
Tamahere, Waikato, New Zealand
First Known Rank
  • Second Lieutenant
  • Lieutenant
Occupation before Enlistment
  • Farmer
  • Farmer
Next of Kin
  • Mr John McGruther (father), Pirongia, via Te Awamutu, Waikato, New Zealand
  • Mr John McGruther (father), Pirongia, Waikato, New Zealand
Marital Status
  • Single
  • Single
Enlistment Address
  • Pirongia, Waikato, New Zealand
  • Pirongia, via Te Awamutu, Waikato, New Zealand
Military District
Te Awamutu, New Zealand
Body on Embarkation
  • Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF), 1st Echelon
  • Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF), 11th Reinforcements
Embarkation Unit
  • Headquarters, 18 Infantry Battalion
  • Infantry Reinforcements
Embarkation Date
  • 5 January 1940
  • 1944
Place of Embarkation
  • Wellington, New Zealand
  • Wellington, New Zealand
  • Orion
  • Mooltan or Willem Ruys
  • Egypt
  • Egypt
Nominal Roll Number
  • WW2 1
  • WW2 13
Page on Nominal Roll
  • WW2 112
  • WW2 76
  • Greece
  • Crete
  • Italy
Last Unit Served: 
24 Infantry Battalion
Place of Death
: Italy
Date of Death
: 14 July 1944
Age at Death
: 29
Year of Death
: 1944
Cause of Death
: Killed in action
Cemetery Name
: Assisi War Cemetery, Italy
Grave Reference
: VI.G.1.
Memorial Name: 
   Auckland Domain, an Olive Tree (Olea europaea) planted close to the Auckland War          Memorial Museum in the grounds of the Auckland Domain commemorates those who    fought on Crete in 1941.
Biographical Notes
  • John McGruther was the son of Mr John McGruther, of Te Awamutu.
  • Jock McGruther attended King's College (St John's House) from 1929 to 1934. He was Head Boy and a member of the rugby team and was subsequently on the teaching staff of King's School.
  • He was commissioned in the 1st Echelon and served in Greece and Crete. He was wounded and invalided back to New Zealand in 1941. He returned to serve on the instructional staff of NMDSI at Narrow Neck in January 1942 where he remained until the end of 1943 with the rank of Captain. He was chief instructor when he left and returned to the fighting front in January 1944, having taken a drop in rank to Lieutenant. He soon regained his captaincy and was almost immediately promoted to Temporary Major.
  • Jock was killed in action at Monte Camurcina (south west of Florence).
  • At this point in the war the 2 New Zealand Division was attempting to dislodge the enemy which was standing firm south of Arezzo in order to delay the advance up the Arno valley. In June 24 Battalion had advanced through Sora and Captain McGruther, commanding C Company, had occupied a castle dominating Sora. In July 2 New Zealand Division joined the concentration of forces in the push north. By 13 July C Company was

    moving forward towards Monte Camurcina, half-way between Lignano and Cavadenti and Major McGruther installed his advanced company headquarters in a house near the summit of Mt Camurcina. On the morning of 14 July the headquarters was being heavily mortared from about 7 am. Shortly before 10 am Major McGruther was badly wounded by shellfire. Sergeant Thompson promptly came up from the RAP to carry him out, only to find on arrival that he had died in the meantime. The second-in-command, Captain Casling-Cottle, took over the company. [Official History of 24 Battalion, by R.M. Burdon, p. 265]
Description of Image
New Zealand Electronic Text Centre topic page
Further Reference

  • Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force Nominal Roll No. 1 (Embarkations to 31st March, 1940)
  • Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force Nominal Roll No. 13 (Embarkations from 1st January, 1944 to 31st March, 1944)
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission. URL:
Above: One of Major Jock McGruther's service medals (Memorial Medal). It's known that there are five more that have exchanged hands from time-to-time and now owned by a collector. Efforts are being made to see if the medals can be traced and possibly returned to the family. It appears no-one in the family knew they even existed until very recently. It will be a fascinating story to know the journey they have been on since 1944 and how they came to be out on the public market in the first place.
                            Below: The back of the medal showing name and number.

List of War Medals Awarded 

1. 1939-45 Star
2. Africa Star
3. Italy Star
4. Defence Medal
5. War Medal 1939-45
6. New Zealand War Service Medal

Above: Jock in his youth.

The following is a special letter from Jock's Chaplain, Rev. R.M. Gourdie, to Jock's grieving mother, dated 21st July 1944.

Dear Mrs. McGruther,

Please accept my deepest sympathy in your sad bereavement and with it the sympathy of all those of the 18th Regiment who knew Jock. His passing has come as a great shock to his many friends over here, so what it must mean to you over there I can only imagine. I do truly believe that you mothers have far more to endure in suspense and anxiety than we have, and then the loss of such a one as your son must make things almost unendurable.

Nearly two years ago when I first joined Jock's old Battalion I heard of him, tales of his gallantry and accounts of his personality which described him as a truly great man with a most lovable character. I did not have the good fortune to meet Jock until about three weeks ago, but I found that all the wonderful things I had heard of him were indeed true. Why such men as he have to go I can't understand. God knows we need men like him when this fearful affliction of war is over. Perhaps it is that they are too good for this world.

I do wish there was something I could write to give you comfort, but I know that it will help you to know just what a giant in character your son was, and what everybody thought of him.

I'm afraid there is not much I can tell you of the actual tragedy, but the R.S.M. of 24 Battalion did tell me that Jock spoke after he was hit, and so typical of him, he inquired about the condition of his men who were there, asking if they were alright.

Colin, who has done many, many, deeds of gallantry (and, thank God is being restored to you), asked me to take the funeral service which I did. There were many there from other units, 18ths, 21sts, and even though his own Battalion was in action, quite a few from his own unit. He was laid to rest in a quiet, peaceful spot of Italy and the grave was fixed up nicely with a cross. Later his remains may be shifted to a more central cemetery and if this is done his grave will always receive care and attention. As it is now it will be quite well looked after.

There is little more I can write except to assure you of our prayers that God will give you comfort, and, more than that, the courage and strength to carry on. Perhaps it will help a little if you try to think of it not in terms of what you have lost but what he was and what he fought for.

Believe me, Mrs McGruther, there are many hearts in Italy and Egypt which reach out to you in deepest understanding and sympathy.

Yours very Sincerely,
R.M. Gourdie,

In May 2014 Uncle Jocks great-niece, Miriam Esteves, wrote to the Christchurch Star in her efforts to trace Jock's missing medals. The following is the excellent article printed in the May 14th Christchurch Star by The Star reporter, Emma-Jane McClennan.

Note: I had to do some adjusting to fit it on the on the page so while it's not exactly as it came in the Star, all the information is there (Press the control key on your keyboard and then the + key to enlarge the article).

The following is the reply to the reporter from the NZDF Archives office to her enquiry about Jock's medals.
Good afternoon Emma-Jane,
Thank you for your enquiry into the service records of the late Mr John Robert MCGRUTHER, service number 2699.
Mr McGruther enlisted in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force of the NZ army on the 19th September 1939 and was embarked for overseas service on the 5th January 1940 with the first draft of New Zealand troops. He was posted to 18 Battalion and served with this unit in Greece and Crete where he was wounded by German air attack, being hit by machine gun fire in the arm and chast. He was medically evacuated back to New Zealand and occupied an appointment as an instructor while recuperating. Once recoveerd he re-embarked for overseas service on 12th January 1944, and served further in Italy. John McGruther was commanding C Company of 24 Battalion at Monte Camurcina in Italy when we was fatally wounded by shellfire. He had risen to the rank of Major.
For his second world war service he was eligible for the following medals, which are all campaign medals or service medals:
·         1939-45 Star
·         Africa Star
·         Italy Star
·         Defence Medal
·         War Medal 1939-45
·         New Zealand War Service Medal
I will keep this enquiry open in case you have any subsequent questions.
Kind regards
Dave Gibson
Archive Enquiries Officer
NZDF Archives | HQ JFNZ
Private Bag 905 | Trentham Military Camp | UPPER HUTT 5140
Tel: +64 4 5275273 | Fax: +64 4 5275275

The following is a copy of an email from the medals Dept. NZDF in reply to a request concerning the issuing of Jock's medals.

Hello David,

For his service 2699 John Robert MCGRUTHER was awarded the following medals:

1939-45 Star

Africa Star

Italy Star

Defence Medal

War Medal 1939-45

NZ War Service Medal

On checking his records it has been noted that for his service during WWII these medals have been issued to his father 14/03/1950. The memorial cross was issued to his mother 18/05/1948. All the medals and the memorial cross were replaced 01/04/1954 on the application of his mother after the originals had been lost in a house fire.

All medals for former NZ service people have been and continue to be issued by the NZ Defence Force. The only time NZDF will refer people to someone outside of the NZDF is if it is a family member wanting to replace a deceased relatives issued medals.  All WW2 medals were issued by “Base Records” after stock was received from the UK in 1948.  NZDF Medals (part of the re-named Base Records) still continue to issue some medals from this original stock for unclaimed WW2 applicants.

I can not give you any advice on if the medals on Trade Me are original or not as there is no longer a photo of them on that listing (286165814).  The only comment I can make is that no NZ WW2 medals were issued engraved. Some former servicemen or their families did have the medals privately engraved so can only assume that the medals sold in 2010 were some of these.



Assistant Staff Officer Medals

Yvonne Morrow (1915-1999), Jock's Fiance

Yvonne was the first born daughter of Ruby and Vivian Morrow and sister of Gwen and Alison. She attended Whitiora School and Hamilton Technical College then later worked for FAC, (AFC) Hamilton all her working life. She lived with her parents at Ulster Street and later with her sister Gwen at Cardrona Avenue. She later moved to Glenbrae, Rotorua, in February 1999. Yvonne died in Rotorua 1st June 1999.

Yvonne Morrow (1915-1999)

Father:Walter Vivian (Viv) Morrow (1883-1956)
Mother:Ruby Leask Mundy (1887-1966)
Siblings:Gwen Morrow (1917-1990), Alison Vivian Morrow (1925-2008)
FiancĂ©:John (Jock) Robert McGruther (1915-1944)

Before the outbreak of the Second World War she was, according to a niece, engaged to Jock McGruther who was killed in action. No one ever measured up to Jock and she remained single. When she died the following notes supported the eulogy.
Yvonne Morrow was born in 1915 during World War One, the oldest of three girls in the family of Ruby and Walter Vivian Morrow of Ulster Street, Hamilton. Yvonne’s sisters were Gwen and Alison.They all attended the Whitiora School where Yvonne was a prefect and Dux. She continued her Secondary schooling at Hamilton Technical College.
WORK TRAINING. 1930-1975: Yvonne entered as a junior in the typing pool at AFC (now FAC) and rose to be secretary to the manager at FAC where she stayed all her working life expressing her gifts of administration and management. One day at the age of 60, Vonnie arrived home with a cooked chicken and a bottle of wine and announced to her family members that she had retired and said, “Let's celebrate.”
INTERESTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: This attractive, capable woman was a gentle risk-taker. Vonnie was a woman who enjoyed her independence and her personal freedom. She was a lady who knew her own mind and enjoyed discussion and could actively listen on a deep level. She was a wise lady who was not afraid of sharing her true feelings and emotions.
To her own family she was known affectionately as Aunt Bunny and also by her great-nieces and great-nephews. Jane could not say 'Vonnie' when she was small and called her Bunny and this was adopted by the rest of the family. Vonnie was a vital and creative woman who appreciated the aesthetics of a room, a garden, and the natural world of crystal and shells fascinated her.
She lived with Gwen, her sister, for 24 years at Cardrona Avenue. Gwen died in 1990. They were a complimentary pair, though with very different personalities and gifts. This allowed their individual creativity and flair to be expressed. Gwen was the practically creative one Vonnie the creative and  imaginative one. Vonnie loved her garden and all beautiful and pretty things. There was always fresh flowers on the table to decorate the room.
IMPRESSIONS: Vonnie Morrow was like a fairy godmother to her nieces and nephews. They remember the bowl of fresh sweets and chocolates, and the sponges and scones when they visited. There was no sitting around wondering what to do at Aunt Bunny's. She actively encouraged her nieces and nephews to enter into games of all kinds. She had a marvelous imagination and play-acting and writing was in. Games of all sorts were in. Although she had no children of her own, Vonnie enjoyed her nieces and nephews. She was generous and full of fun, ready to take them off to town and always having something different to do. The normal run-of-the-mill toys and games were to be found at Cardrona Avenue, instead, many fascinating activities.
PASSIONS: Vonnie's passions were reading, writing and music. She was an exceptionally good letter writer; salting her text with humour and her poems. Vonnie loved music and was honoured with a Life Membership to the Recorded Music Club in Hamilton.
Vonnie had a large circle of friends. She was tiny and dainty and a beautifully dressed lady. She loved dressing up and enjoyed times with her family and other friends. Vonnie liked to be adventurous. She toured New Zealand and visited Rarotonga and Australia a few times.
In her 83rd year Vonnie Morrow moved to Glenbrae in Rotorua to live and be near her sister Alison and other family in Whakatane and Napier. This was a fairly traumatic experience for Vonnie, leaving behind her home and lifelong friends and all she knew and loved. It was a matter of necessity that she move, but Vonnie did not accept it fully and never truly settled in Rotorua. She always yearned to return to Hamilton. Isn’t it true the saying: Home is where the heart is.
Vonnie was a strong Christian believer. She prayed daily that the Lord would Guide her. She held a strong belief in the power of prayer: Ask and you will receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 6). Vonnie believed and acted on this prayer: Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, said Jesus, the Father will give you (John 15:16).

Vonnie has been part of the fellowship and life of 1st Church in Hamilton since she was 7 years old. We shall all miss Vonnie Morrow as a sister, a wonderful aunt and friend, a confidant and inspiration. As the Lord has given Vonnie as a gift to you all let us release her in the sure and loving hands of the Lord. 

An interesting footnote
In a letter from Jock’s brother, Colin, written to his parents from the front lines during World War Two we read: I had a very welcome letter from Jock not long ago. He said, ’I have fallen and got it badly this time. Her name is (blank) and she is from (blank). Please don’t tell anyone about it. Colin, while bursting to tell all was obviously honouring his older brother’s wishes to not reveal her name. He continues: Needless to say, I showed all the boys in the Mess who knew Jock. They were tickled to bits as you can imagine, and over a few pints quoted anecdotes about him when he was in the mess.

The letter was written 22 November, 1942 when Jock was back home recovering from his wounds.

Jock's War Service Medals Sold at Auction

On 5 July 2016, Jock's military medals were auctioned at Cordy's Auction House in Auckland and sold to the Auckland Museum for $NZ3,000. This, I expect, will be their final destination after a long journey since they were separated from our family probably soon after World War Two. How they got out onto the open market is still a mystery but it is pleasing to see that they now repose in a place where everyone can view them and where they will be secure for generations to come; no more wandering from collector-to-collector. They are in medals heaven, one might say.

Left to right: 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, Defense Medal, War Medal 1939-45, New Zealand War Service Medal 

The following is the description from the auction catalog.


Major John Robert (Jock) McGruther was born 25 June, 1915, to John Honi Ruki Pohepohe McGruther and Daisy Mary Te Kurawhakairi Ormsby at Tamahere. He was head boy at King's College in 1933. He received his commission as a Lieutenant and was assigned to the Eighteenth Battalion thirty-fourth anti tank battery to serve in the Middle East stationed in Egypt. Jock saw action in Crete, Greece and Italy. While in Crete, around 1941, he was severely wounded and was sent to a field hospital for over a month before being repatriated back to New Zealand to complete his recovery. He didn't have to return to the front lines, his wounding was sufficient to allow him to see the rest of the war out at home, but he was desperate get back to be with his comrades. He returned to the Second NZDEF fighting front in January 1944 and was posted to the Twenty Fourth Battalion as a company commander with the rank of Major. It was a fateful decision; he was killed in action just seven months later, 14 July, 1944. A clear account of his death is given in R. M. Burdon's Official History of 24th Battalion. He was killed in action at Monte Camurcina (South-west of Florence). Second New Zealand Division was attempting to dislodge the enemy, which was standing firm south of Arezzo, in order to delay the advance up the Arno valley. In June 2, the battalion had advanced through Sora and Captain McGruther , commanding C-Company, had occupied a castle dominating Sora. On the morning of the 14th of July the headquarters was being heavily mortared from from about 7 a.m. Shortly after 10 a.m. Major McGruther was badly wounded by shellfire. Sergeant Thompson promptly came up from the R.A.P. to carry him out, only to find on arrival that he had died in the meantime. The second in command, Captain Casling-Cottle took over the company. 

Mounted on bar with ribbons and copies of military records. $2,000 ~ $3,000.


  1. Hello David

    Thank you for your interesting research around Jock's life. This may come as a surprise but I believe my grandmother's sister Yvonne was engaged to Jock. It wasn't something talked about apparently, perhaps it was even a secret engagement. You can read a little about Vonnie here.

    Yvonne Morrow (1915-1999)

  2. I found this by luck
    My grandfather was seriously wounded by the same shell that mortally wounded Jock
    His name was Lance Corporal Jack Ryland Franks
    I always remember the wound in his bicep where the shrapnel went through and lodged near his heart, it remained there the rest of his life and eventually contributed to his death
    The story my grandmother tells is the the Germans were shooting the roof off the house they were sheltering in and Jock had just ordered granddad to go to battalion headquarters to let them know what was happening when the shell landed
    Obviously I never knew Jock but I loved and respected my grandad immensely, and I know he respected Jock as well because his death was always remebered