David William Keane

Additional Information: 

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Keane, of Ardgowan, Oamaru, New Zealand.

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  • Archives New Zealand
David Keane
Dave Keane is named on the war memorial in the grounds of Ardgowan School.
Brass plaque from the cross located next to a former oak tree at Ardgowan commemorating Dave Keane.
WWI Memorial in Ardgowan Hall which includes Dave Keane's name
Dave Keane is also commemorated on his parents' headstone in the Old Oamaru Cemetery
Dave Keane's Memorial Cross located in central Dunedin for Armistice Day 2018.
Edmund and Grace  le Grelle at Dave Keane's grave, Anzac Day 2019.

Public Contributions:

Submitted by: Edmund le Grelle
Relationship to casualty: Great Nephew
Biography of David (Dave) William Keane David William Keane was born on 8 November 1894, probably at home in Ardgowan, a couple of kilometres north west of Oamaru, New Zealand. He was baptised at St... Read More
Biography of David (Dave) William Keane David William Keane was born on 8 November 1894, probably at home in Ardgowan, a couple of kilometres north west of Oamaru, New Zealand. He was baptised at St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Oamaru on 5 December 1894. His parents were Patrick Keane and Catherine Reilly, who had separately emigrated from Belmullet Peninsula, County Mayo, Ireland to Oamaru in the late 1870s. Patrick and Catherine had married in Oamaru in 1881, and lived initially in Trent Street. The first of their nine children was born in 1882. Dave was the seventh child and fourth of six sons. About 1890, the family shifted from Trent Street in Oamaru to an 11 acre section in Ardgowan. They lived in a house which is still standing at 258 Ardgowan Road. Dave’s father was farming and also worked as a carter and contractor. However, tragedy struck the family in 1901, when the mother, Catherine, died of bowel cancer. Dave and his younger siblings were brought up by their older sister Mary for the next few years. The younger Keane children attended Ardgowan School after it opened in 1903, where Dave is shown in the 1904 and 1905 school photographs. The family surname was originally (phonetically) spelt Kane, and this seems to have changed to Keane about 1900. (Keane is how the name is spelt in Ireland). In 1907 and 1908, Dave won academic prizes in Standards Five and Six, respectively, at St Patrick’s Boys’ School, Oamaru. Having just turned 14, he won the Aggregate Prize for Standard Six. At the time of enlisting, Dave was working as a barber for C Herbert in Thames Street, Oamaru and was living at 1 Coquet Street. Dave’s military file states that he was previously rejected from enlisting due to eyesight. There is a family story that Dave had received a white feather in the mail from someone who thought that he should have enlisted sooner. But on 13 March 1916 he passed the medical examination, and was enlisted at Trentham on 6 April as a Private in D Company of the 15th Reinforcements. Dave’s army number was 15185. He enlisted at the same time as his cousin Anthony (Tony) Riley (#15240). (Tony’s father and Dave’s mother were siblings. Originally from Sydney, Tony was working on a farm at Whitstone, west of Oamaru, when he enlisted). Two of Dave’s brothers also fought in World War I. Eldest brother John (Jack) and younger brother Denis enlisted soon after Dave, and were both part of the 17th Reinforcements. Jack was in the 2nd Otago Infantry Battalion, while Denis joined the 6th Field Artillery Battery. Both brothers survived the war. Dave sailed with the 15th Reinforcements on the SS Waitemata (Troopship 59), from Wellington on 26 July 1916 and went via Albany (Western Australia) and Cape Town, before arriving in Devonport, Plymouth, England on 3 October 1916. In one of Dave’s letters written on the ship, he states that he was “enjoying my trip splendidly”. However, in a letter home from his cousin Tony, it mentions that while the Troops had stopped over in Cape Town, Dave was knocked down by a car one night on the wharf while returning to the ship. “He got off very lightly with a few bruises. Nothing serious”. Dave was soon deployed to the Western Front, departing England on 21 October 1916 to join the 10th (North Otago) Company, in the 2nd Battalion of the Otago Infantry Regiment, which was part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. In a postcard home, dated 4 November 1916, Dave states he had initially been made a battalion clerk, “but eventually got away to France …, so I expect to be in the thicket any day now”. The ‘Official History of the Otago Regiment’ records that a total of 170 reinforcements joined the 2nd Otago Battalion at Armentieres in Northern France on 9 November. Dave was one of them. The Battalion returned to the front line on the 13 November, and was relieved on 19 November, when it moved back to the subsidiary line where it remained until the 25th, supplying working parties and carrying out a certain amount of training. On the 26 November, the day following the Battalion's return to the line, the enemy replied heavily to a brief trench mortar ‘shoot’, which resulted in considerable damage to the Otago trenches. It is probable that Dave died in this action – only a couple of weeks after his 22nd birthday and his arrival at the front. The words from his last postcard turned out to be prophetic. On 11 December a cable from London was sent notifying Dave’s family that he had been killed in action. The ‘Oamaru Mail’ recorded Dave’s death on 14 December 1916. Dave was buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetary in Armentieres. This is where he rests today in Grave IV. B. 44. There are 453 New Zealanders among the 2619 soldiers buried here. This is the biggest New Zealand war cemetery in France, and is located just a few kilometers from the Belgian border. Information about Dave’s grave is found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website:,-david-william/ Exactly a year after Dave’s death, his cousin Tony Riley died of wounds. (Tony is buried about 20km away near Ypres, Belgium). Following these two deaths, Bridget Reilly, their 95 year old grand mother was heart broken and became bedridden in her home in Oamaru for her remaining two years. Only one letter and one postcard written by Dave to relatives in Oamaru have survived. These are in the possession of daughters of Dave’s cousin Mary. A number of photographs of Dave exist also. After the war, Dave’s medals, memorial scroll and plaque were sent to his father, but the whereabouts of these are unknown. However, a small black and white photograph from the 1920s of his grave stone in Armentieres is in the possession of a niece in Oamaru. Following the end of World War One, a scheme of planting memorial oak trees occurred throughout North Otago. A tree for Dave was planted just west of the intersection of the Ardgowan and Redcastle Roads - near his family home. However, this tree didn’t survive. The brass plaque on the original wooden cross beside the tree is now in the possession of a niece of Dave who lives nearby. Dave Keane is commemorated on the War Memorial in the Ardgowan Hall, as well as the plaque in the grounds of Ardgowan School. He is also named on his parents’ gravestone in the Old Oamaru Cemetery. For the centenary of the Armistice, a wooden cross with the name of each soldier who died in the First World War was installed for about a month in one of the four main cities of New Zealand. A cross for Dave was one of those erected in Dunedin in November 2018. Compiled by Edmund le Grelle, (great-nephew of David Keane). October 2019. [email protected]

Personal Tributes:


Service Number: 
David William Keane
Date of Birth:
Not known
Next of Kin: 
Patrick Keane (father), Ardgowan, Oamaru, New Zealand
Date of Enlistment:
Not known
Occupation on Enlistment:
Armed Force: 
NZEF, Otago Regiment, 2 Battalion

Casualty Details

Cause of Death:
Killed in action
Date of Death:
26 November 1916
Day of Death:

Embarkation Details

Embarkation Body:
New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Embarkation Place:
Wellington, New Zealand
Embarkment Date:
26 July 1916

Waitemata or Ulimaroa
Devonport, England

Text in italics supplied by Cenotaph Online, Auckland War Memorial Museum


Cemetery Reference: 
IV. B. 44.
Cemetery Location: 
David William Keane
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