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Kenneth BANKS

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Pte 58218 27y7m 15 Jul 1918 AIF / NZ 20 Dec 1914 1 Nov 1918 - D Disease 5

Private Kenneth Banks (1891 - 1918)


Kenneth Banks was Australian-born but left his job as a miner in New Zealand to enlist in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in December 1914. He served in the Canterbury Infantry Battalion (CIB) in Egypt, at Gallipoli and in the UK.

In 1916 in the UK, Kenneth suffered a knee injury and was repatriated to NZ where he was discharged in 1917. However, in 1918 he enlisted in the 1st Australian Imperial Force (not declaring his New Zealand service and discharge), but died of a heart attack - brought on by pneumonia - while being transported to Europe. He was buried at sea.

Early life

Kenneth was born on 17 December 1891 in Balmain, Sydney to John Alfred Banks (a Queensland Customs officer) and Rebecca Georgina nee Rankin.  Both parents died when Kenneth was young - Rebecca in 1897 and John in 1898 – and he was subsequently raised by one of his aunts, Miss Laura Louisa Banks, who lived with some of her sisters in the Brisbane home of their father at 120 Annie Street, New Farm, Brisbane.  Laura and two of her sisters were members of the Wharf Street Congregational Church in Brisbane city.

Kenneth attended the Boys Central School and the Brisbane Technical College, followed by three years as an apprentice to Leonard C. Green, who was practising as a geologist, assayer and manufacturing chemist.


When he enlisted on 12 December 1914 at Greymouth in New Zealand, Kenneth had been working as a miner with the Gold Mining Company at Ross, south of Greymouth.  He was 5’8” (173 cm) tall, weighed 157lbs (71kg) and had a fair complexion, brown eyes and fair hair.  His aunt Laura was listed as his next-of-kin, and his nearest relative living in NZ was his married sister Brenda Walker (although it was not evident that she actually resided in NZ).

Kenneth's Service Number was 6/1459 and he was placed with the 3rd Reinforcements of the Canterbury Infantry Battalion.  He embarked in Wellington on 14 February 1915 arriving in Suez, Egypt on 26 March 1915.

NZ service

In Egypt Kenneth was posted to the NZ Divisional Train No.1 Company, but he transferred back to the CIB at Anzac Cove on 6 July 1915.

The Battalion was at the crucial and dangerous Quinn’s Post at the time – although relatively quiet there were casualties daily, mostly from bombs thrown from the very close enemy trenches.  According to the New Zealanders no-man’s-land was no wider than ‘the width of a Wellington city street’.

While there is no record of exactly what Kenneth did at Quinn’s, it seems likely that given his mining background, he would have been used in tunnelling work.  There were extensive underground works by the Anzacs – with counter tunnelling by the Turks – and incidents when one of the sides would explode mines, collapsing spaces and releasing toxic fumes.  In his book on Quinn’s Post historian Peter Stanley notes that ‘Anzac miners had many traumatic experiences in the claustrophobic gloom of the tunnels’.

Then in August 1915, as part of a concerted attempt by the British and Dominion forces to break the stalemate, the CIB took part in the ultimately unsuccessful attack on Chunuk Bair. Casualties were heavy.

In late August Kenneth was taken severely ill with dysentery and was evacuated to the UK.  After discharge from hospital on 16 December 1915 he was attached to the NZ base depot, but in June 1916 fell 12 feet from scaffolding and injured his right knee.

Classified as unfit for war service for six months due to synovitis of the knee on 17 January 1917, Kenneth returned on the SS Athenic to NZ, where he was formally discharged on 10 July 1917.

Australian service

Kenneth then spent a short time in NSW with his sister Brenda before returning to 120 Annie Street, New Farm.

On 15 July 1918, he enlisted in the 1st AIF in Brisbane and as mentioned earlier, made no reference to his NZ service or discharge. He gave his occupation as assayer.

Kenneth embarked as a general reinforcement on the HMAT Bakara in Sydney on 4 September 1918.  He was admitted to the ship’s hospital on 19 October with a diagnosis of influenza, and again on 27 October with pneumonia.  He passed away on 1 November and was buried at sea the same day.


As well as being commemorated at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Kenneth is among the almost 1900 Commonwealth servicemen and women (of land and air forces, who have no known grave) listed at the Hollybrook Memorial in Hampshire, England.

Kenneth was also named on an Honour Board in the Wharf Street Congregational Church in Brisbane. Today this is one of seven Honour Boards in Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church in Brisbane city (the congregations merged in 1981).

In addition, his name was added to the headstone of his paternal grandparents – sheep and wool expert and breeder John Jones Banks and Elizabeth Sutton Banks (née Bourne) – in Allora Cemetery, Queensland.

The grieving Laura, the beneficiary in Kenneth’s will, was left to apply for his medals, which she duly received.

Select bibliography
• Archives New Zealand – NZEF service record.
• Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour, Red Cross files, embarkation rolls.
• Auckland War Memorial Museum - Nominal Rolls of NZEF, Vol 1, Wellington, NZ, Page 32.
• National Archives of Australia – 1st AIF service record.  
• NSW birth register.
• Queensland death register.
• Bean, C. E. W., Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18, Vol II, Sydney 1921-1943.
• Ferguson, D., The History of the Canterbury Regiment, NZEF, 1914-1919 Whitcombe and Tombs, Auckland 1921.
• Stanley, P.,  Quinn’s Post: Anzac, Gallipoli, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest 2005.
The Brisbane Courier 25 January 1919, p4.
The Queenslander (Brisbane) 1 February 1919, p40.
In respect of John Jones Banks: The Queenslander (Brisbane) 9 September 1916, p29.
In respect of L. C. Green: The Week (Brisbane) 18 July 1913, p15.

Compiled by Ian Carnell, August 2016 ©. New images and details uploaded by Miriam 2021 ©



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