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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


WEIR, Major-General Sir William Norman McDonald, K.B.E., C.B.


Soldier, Chief of Staff of the New Zealand Army.

William Weir was born on 6 July 1893 in the Heathcote Valley, near Christchurch. His father was James Weir, from County Antrim, Ireland, a fireman, and his mother was Jessie, née McDonald, of Christchurch. From the time young Weir commenced his secondary education at Christchurch West District High School, his parents were left in no doubt as to his ambitions. He was determined to become a professional soldier. To this end he went at the age of 18 as a foundation student to the Royal Military College at Duntroon. He had not finished the full programme of preparation for his career that he had mapped out for himself when the First World War broke out. With typical determination and impatience he set about transferring from the parade ground of Duntroon to the overseas forces, and he was successful to the extent that he was in time to take part in the fighting on Gallipoli, where he was wounded. On his return to New Zealand he was posted to the Permanent Force, and in the years that followed the war he showed the extent of his complete absorption in the profession of soldiering. In 1937, with the rank of colonel, he led the New Zealand Contingent at the coronation of King George VI, and on his return was appointed aide-de-camp to the Governor-General. In 1940 he was appointed to the command of the Northern Military District with the rank of brigadier. He then went to the Central Military District in Wellington, and two years later, as an acting major-general, he assumed command of the 4th New Zealand Division. He served with the 2nd New Zealand Division in the Middle East and Mediterranean theatres from 1942 to 1944, and was mentioned in dispatches. He received the appointment of aide-de-camp to the King in 1945, and in the same year became Quartermaster-General of the New Zealand Forces. When he became Chief of the General Staff in 1946 his rank of major-general was made substantive. He retired in 1949, and died at his home in Cambridge on 11 July 1961. He was knighted in 1948, and was awarded the C.B.E. in 1942 and the C.B. in 1946.

General Weir was a notable example of the dedicated soldier. Soldiering was his whole existence, and it can be said of him that he served his country as effectively in peace as in wartime. He was an able administrator and his staff work in the years before the Second World War contributed substantially to the maintenance of standards in the New Zealand forces at a time when Government and public alike were inclined to regard the defence forces as an expensive luxury that could be reduced to a minimum. He had the faculty not only of training and developing his officers, but also of attracting and retaining their confidence.

by Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.

  • Dominion, 12 Jul 1961 (Obit)
  • Evening Post, 12 Jul 1961 (Obit).


Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.