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Costello, James Jasper (1858–1934)

by Peter Burness

This article was published:

James Jasper Costello (1858-1934), soldier, was born on 25 June 1858 in Dublin, son of John Costello, bootmaker, and his wife Elizabeth, née Murphy. He enlisted in the British Army, and was a sergeant in the 7th Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) when he married Ruth Hayes on 20 August 1881 at Farnham, Surrey. Next year as colour-sergeant with the 1st Battalion of the 87th Regiment (Royal Irish Fusiliers) he saw action in Egypt, receiving the Egypt medal with Tel-el-Kebir clasp and the Khedive's Bronze Star. He also served in India, and was discharged in December 1891.

On 1 April next year Costello became an instructor with warrant rank in the Tasmanian Rifle Regiment at Hobart. In 1894 his services were dispensed with due to financial restrictions. After working as a clerk in Melbourne he rejoined the Tasmanian Defence Force on 23 February 1898. When the Tasmanian Infantry Company (later mounted infantry) under C. St C. Cameron was raised for service in the South African War, Costello was its sergeant major. The unit sailed on the Medic in October 1899 and formed part of the Australian Regiment serving in the De Aar-Modder River district. After operations around Colesberg, Bloemfontein and Pretoria, it took part in engagements at Diamond Hill and Belfast. In October it returned to Pretoria and on 3 November embarked at Cape Town for return to Australia. Mentioned in Lord Roberts's dispatches, Costello subsequently received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. For campaign service he received the Queen's South Africa Medal with five clasps.

Costello was appointed regimental sergeant major for the Australian Corps at King Edward VII's coronation in London. In 1903 he joined the Commonwealth Military Forces, and next year represented the 12th Australian Light Horse Regiment at the presentation on 14 November of the King's Banner to the Tasmanian Mounted Infantry for its South African work. In 1907 Costello and his family moved to Sydney and he transferred to the New South Wales administration and instructional staff, as an instructor for the large citizen force component of the Commonwealth forces. In 1910 he was awarded the Meritorious Service and in 1912 the Long Service and Good Conduct medals. Next year he was promoted honorary lieutenant and temporary adjutant and quartermaster of the 33rd Infantry Regiment (Citizen Forces).

Too old for active service, Costello served in New South Wales during World War I, but five of his eight sons enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force; two of them, James Albert (b.1882) and Thomas (b.1894) were killed in action on Gallipoli on 2 May 1915. In 1918 Costello was promoted honorary captain and his retirement age extended. On 1 November next year he retired with honorary rank of major and thereafter lived in Sydney. He died on 14 November 1934 and was buried in the Roman Catholic section of Randwick cemetery, survived by his wife, one son and three daughters. His estate was sworn for probate at £1665.

A long-serving and decorated soldier, Costello was one of the small number of regulars whose extensive experience provided a solid core of instructors and administrators for the early Commonwealth Military Forces.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Bufton, Tasmanians in the Transvaal War (Hob, 1905)
  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • South African War Honours and Awards, 1899-1902 (Lond, 1971)
  • London Gazette, 16 Apr, 27 Sept 1901
  • Weekly Courier (Launceston), 29 Nov 1934.

Citation details

Peter Burness, 'Costello, James Jasper (1858–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 27 January 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

Life Summary [details]


25 June, 1858
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


14 November, 1934 (aged 76)
New South Wales, Australia

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