January 16, 2013 marks the 5th anniversary of the Commons on Flickr. The pool of images has grown to more than 250,000 from 56 different libraries, archives, and museums around the world.

To celebrate the occasion, we have put together a set of photos from our collection showing celebrations at the end of the two World Wars. While most were taken in the streets of Sydney or Melbourne, one was taken in New Guinea and one in Borneo. The joy and jubilation of the people in many of the images is almost palpable.

Have a look; maybe you will recognise someone, or know the place the photo was taken.

The Memorial joined the Commons on 11 November 2008; you can see the images we have added to the site in our photostream on Flickr Commons.  

But wait, there's more to see in this celebration:

My name is Thomas Mittwollen. I’m 16 years old and I am in year 10 at Bulli High School on the South Coast. I am currently doing work experience at the Australian War Memorial. In December I was put in Military Heraldry and Technology for one day and was asked to write a biography for Carl Renner.

Carl, son of Harry and Anna Renner, was a farm labourer from Manly, Brisbane. He enlisted in the AIF on 1 June 1915 at the age of 19 years and 5 months. Carl also had an older brother, Otto who served with the multiple infantry battalions from 1915 to 1918. Otto spent the majority of the war in hospital and being in trouble until he was gassed in 1918. He was returned to his unit when the war ended and was eventually discharged, returning home relatively intact.

25 Battalion colour patch

Carl was assigned to ‘’D’’ company of the 25thInfantry Battalion and was sent to Gallipoli. After about a month, Carl was admitted to hospital with rheumatism. He was discharged about 5 months later during March 1916. By this time the Gallipoli campaign was over and the 25thBattalion had being integrated into the BEF and was being sent to France. About 3 months after arriving in France he was wounded in action with gunshot wounds to the left arm and right thigh during the first battle at Pozières. He was admitted to hospital on 31 July 1916.

Villers-Bretonneux

Carl was discharged from hospital during September, 1916. He was restricted from going into combat for a few months to help with recovery and as a result remained in England until 1918. During his time in England he faced two disciplinary charges. His first offence was allowing a prisoner under his care to go into a pub and get a drink. His punishment was forfeiting his pay for 3 days.  The second was for not wearing a belt on the parade ground, for which he forfeited one day of pay. Nevertheless he returned to duty during April of 1918 and re-joined the 25thBattalion in France on 11 May. Carl Renner at the age of 22 was killed in action in France at Villers-Bretonneux on 17 July1918 by a shell whilst on a ration party. A witness, Private Tillyard, was about 3 yards away from him when he was hit and later was a part of the original burial team. Carl had been involved in an attack on German lines at the time of his death. He is buried at Crucifix Corner Cemetery, Villers-Bretonneux, France. He was later memorialised in his home town. His name is also located on panel 106 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial.

Not much remains of Carl’s military career except for a few service medals and badges such as his Australian rising sun badge, Carl’s 25th infantry shoulder badges, a 1914-15 star, a British War medal, a Victory medal and a mothers and widows badge which his mother received after his death. Unfortunately there are no known photos of Carl-not even the family knows what he looked like.

 

Things are starting to heat up in the Capital which can only mean that summer is well underway and the New Year is approaching fast. The Memorial has some exciting activities planned for the summer holidays for visitors. You can find details about these programs in our new Summer Brochure.

Highlights include special tours of the Remember me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt exhibition throughout January, a variety of hands-on activities for children, and the unique opportunity to watch five classic films in a series of screenings in the BAE Systems Theatre throughout January and February.

On Christmas Eve 1914, soldiers of the British, French and German armies were hunkered down in trenches on the Western Front, their thoughts on their loved ones at home. As night fell, the sound of German soldiers singing carols drifted across no man’s land, and small fir trees and lanterns appeared on the tops of their trenches. Messages were shouted between the two sides, and some soldiers ventured out to meet and exchange gifts. The momentum for goodwill gained pace, and on Christmas Day more men met to talk, take photographs, and even play football.

Christmas and war are not compatible, but too often they are thrust together. The Christmas truce of 1914 ­– a series of unofficial ceasefires – was a statement of peace and humanity amid one of history’s most brutal wars. These ceasefires were permitted by some officers to allow the men a chance to improve living conditions in the trenches. But not all troops took part: in some areas, time was given only to recover and bury the dead; in other sectors, there were casualties as fighting continued. The following year, strongly worded orders from the high commands of both sides were issued in the lead-up to Christmas warning against further fraternisation. A small number of ceasefires were declared, but they were not nearly as widespread as in 1914.

By the time Australians experienced Christmas on the Western Front, the British command saw the date as an opportunity to wreak even more havoc on the enemy. Australian official historian Charles Bean records that on 25 December 1916, “at the hour when it was thought probable that the Germans would be sitting down to their midday feast, every gun of the [British] Fourth and Fifth Armies fired two rounds at the points where the enemy’s troops and staffs might be foregathering”. Bean notes that the order was considered “ruthless” and “repugnant” by many of the British troops, who were “by no means opposed to ‘disgracing’ Christmas by exhibitions of brotherliness and good humour”.

Hundreds of thousands of Australians have spent Christmas at war: freezing in First World War trenches, as prisoners of war of the Japanese, or on reconnaissance and ambush operations in Vietnam. Even today Australian soldiers find themselves spending Christmas far from home, on operations in Afghanistan.

Soldiers are not forgotten at this time of year, and efforts have always been made to bring a little joy – and a decent meal – to those serving, or those recovering from wounds. For Christmas 1915, the Australian Comforts Fund Committee distributed 20,000 boxes containing handkerchiefs, cigars, cigarettes and matches to men in camp in Egypt. Many had just returned from Gallipoli. In a letter home in early January 1916, Sister Lettitia Moreton of the Australian Army Nursing Service described the efforts that had been made for wounded men recovering at the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Egypt:

We gave our patients out at Ma’adi Hospital a very nice little Xmas. A very nice dinner, roast turkey, chicken, ham, plenty vegetables, plum pudding, claret cup, beer, soft drinks, sweets, etc. They did enjoy it, poor things. The Drs helped us with it too, one carved the turkey and ham while the other gave out the drinks. The place was rather nicely decorated and everyone enjoyed the day.

Sadly, that was Sister Moreton’s last Christmas: the following year she was posted to India for service, and died there of enteric fever in November.

Staff and patients at No. 14 Australian General Hospital, Egypt, decorated for Christmas.

Christmas is often a marker of time for a soldier at war. They count their service by each one that comes and goes, and are optimistic that it will be the last spent away from home. In 1918, Private William Lewis of the 17th Battalion sent a pretty Christmas card from Belgium to his mother and younger brother Charlie, wishing all the best and “hoping to be with you all for the next, 1919”. Fortunately, he was.

The freezing cold Christmases of the Western Front gave way to tropical heat and humidity during the Second World War, as most Australian servicemen spent at least one festive season in the Pacific. But that did not necessarily mean an end to the traditional hot Christmas lunch: in his book The hard slog, Karl James writes that on Bougainville for Christmas 1944, the senior command of the Australian II Corps sat down to “turkey, ham, fresh potatoes peas and onions, followed by plum pudding and sauce”. The 26th Battalion held a Christmas Eve concert party that included a jazz performance, and went swimming on Christmas Day; and the 27th Battalion ate fresh fish and roast pork from wild pigs.

Troops of the 9th Infantry Battalion enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch on the island of Bougainville, 1944.

Some prisoners of war even managed to rustle up a decent meal for Christmas. Jock Mathieson was interred at a camp on Banka Island for Christmas 1943. On 24 December he wrote to a friend, Captain Wilma Oram of the 2/13th Australian General Hospital, who was interred at the nearby women’s camp:

Great preparations are being made for tomorrow’s food. I believe we will be eating throughout the day. Three pigs have been slaughtered – they are being prepared just now for the cooking pot. The local authorities have contributed a great deal towards tomorrow’s food. There will be Church services and carol singing.

Other prisoners of war were grateful to the Red Cross for providing food parcels that made Christmas a little bit special – but they would have much preferred their freedom. WJ Wood was a British pilot who was captured after the Fall of Singapore and was sent to Japan. In 1944, he wrote this poem:

This is but a memory

Of a Christmas one of three

I’m trusting God I don’t see four

As a Prisoner-of-War.

 

It was no doubt the best of three

Thanks to Red Cross Society

But let us hope in Him above

We spend the next with those we love.

Christmas for those who served in the Vietnam War may have featured festive concerts by Australian entertainers, and parcels provided by the Australian Forces Overseas Fund. In Fighting to the finish, the final volume of the official history of the Vietnam war, Ashley Ekins records the diary entry of Captain David Wilkins of C Company, 5RAR, who wrote that his company’s officers and sergeants began Christmas Day 1969 by “serving coffee royale [coffee laced with rum] to the diggers IN BED. Later we continued our duties and served the diggers Xmas dinner, much to their delight. Will have to knock ’em back to size tomorrow.” They had earned it, having spent the previous ten days on reconnaissance and ambush operations in rugged, jungle-covered territory west of Binh Ba.

However, Ekins writes that the soldiers of 8RAR were not so lucky, and found themselves continuing to fight in spite of a so-called Christmas Day truce. Second Lieutenant Neil Smith of 8RAR, who was stationed at a remote fire support base, wrote: “Christmas Day was just another day to us. The battalion had four contacts on Christmas Day and killed two VC [Viet Cong].”

Across the world, and through the ages, diggers have always yearned to “be home by Christmas”.

Troopers Ian Johnston (left) and Graham "Shorty" Maycock of B Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, open Christmas parcels from the Australian Forces Overseas Fund at Nui Dat, South Vietnam, 1969.

The audio you hear playing at the beginning of this video is S05008, a Christmas message from Lieutenant Colonel William John Victor Windeyer (later Major General Sir William John Victor Windeyer, KBE, CB, DSO & Bar). Lieutenant Colonel Windeyer was stationed in the Middle East as the commanding officer of 2/48 Battalion when he recorded this very personal Christmas message to his family. He makes no mention of the war as he speaks to them “from the land where the first Christmas was”. 

 Messages such as this were recorded by the ABC Field Recording Unit to be broadcast by radio stations in Australia. In 1942 the ABC recordings were made available for purchase by families in aid of fundraising for the Red Cross.

Some of these fragile metal-core discs have survived seventy years since they were made, kept as precious mementoes by families. On occasion, the families have decided to donate their discs to the Australian War Memorial, where we preserve them for all Australians to hear.

-Jennifer Selby, Assistant Curator - Sound. 

The footage in this light-hearted Christmas video has been selected from 22mins of rushes and offcuts from F01123, film taken by Frank Hurley in Palestine in November, 1941. The footage was originally intended to be edited together into a comic Christmas story for friends and family back home entitled, Xmas Greetings from the AIF overseas.

It stars troops from the 6th Division Cavalry Regiment  and the four ‘leads’ in the pudding making scene (from left to right) are troopers D. Inglis, J. Emmell, M. Brady and S. O'Leary. Reasons for the film never being completed are unclear, though technical issues with parts of the footage is a possibility. However, detailed records in the collection do outline Hurley’s intended final cut of the film. The film was to have an introduction by General Sir Thomas Blamey, substantially more adventures surrounding the cooking of the Christmas pudding, further scenes in Jerusalem (including footage of the carolling nuns who can be heard in this video) and songs from the troops themselves and a number of nurses. The unedited footage of all these scenes, including people forgetting lines and multiple takes, is retained in the Australian War Memorial collection under F01123.

-Daniel Eisenberg, Assistant Curator - Film.

 

My name is Maxwell Warren and I am a work experience student at the Memorial. One part of my work experience was to research a person and one of his belongings held by the Memorial). This person was Private Frank Pendlebury, a soldier during the First World War.

HMAT Borda in 1916

Frank was born in Newcastle, NSW in December 1890. Frank was a tailor, living at Plattsburg, NSW when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 31 March, 1916 at the age of 28 years. He was allocated to the 4th Reinforcements to the 34th Battalion and embarked from Sydney on 9 October 1916 on the troopship A30 BORDA, disembarking at Plymouth, England on 9 January 1917.

Strafer's Nest and Ploegsteert Wood, December 1917

During his service on the Western Front, Frank was wounded twice. The first time he was one of several men gassed on the way to an attack near Ploegsteert Wood in Belgium on the night of 6 June 1917. He was admitted a day later to the 9th Field Ambulance where he was treated for the gassing, rejoining his unit on 11 June.

Men gassed in 1918.

During the early hours of 26 July 1917, he was wounded in action again, this time in his left leg and thigh. His battalion had been in the front line in the Messines area in Belgium for two days and were relieved later that morning by the 36th Battalion. Frank was sent to England to recover from these wounds on 29 July and was later classified as being unfit for service. He departed from England on 18 October 1917, disembarking at Sydney on 10 December 1917. He was then discharged medically unfit from the AIF on 16 January 1918. 

After his discharge he returned home and was presented with a watch fob by the Wallsend Soldiers Citizens Committee, on 13March 1918. These types of gold fobs were often given to returning servicemen like Frank as a way of saying thank you for his service. His collection also includes other badges acknowledging his service including a silver war badge, a returned from active service badge and a membership badge from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen – Imperial Australian League (Now the Returned Soldiers League). After receiving these badges, Frank attached them onto an old silver watch chain which is now in the Memorial collection.

A lot of work has been carried out on the Hudson since the last blog update.  A large number of structural components have been manufactured and fitted into the lower airframe, culminating in the trail fitment last week of the 'Tunnel Gun' position.  Work will soon move forward and concentrate on the Navigators step and forward cabin detail, folowed by construction of the Radio Operators room directly behind the pilot.  

A wrecked D.H.5 aircraft near Railway Dugout in the Ypres Sector. It had crashed whilst assisting the operations of the infantry in the attack on Passchendaele Ridge.

Dogfights and daring feats define the way we remember the airmen of the First World War. Popular imagination has been captured by the aces that ducked and dived in aerial duels with the enemy, notching up “kills” and narrowly avoiding crashes to return to their squadron as instant heroes.

But for many airmen, the reality of the air war was not so glamorous and there were many casualties. Planes were fragile and highly flammable, and parachutes were not provided. In the Australian Flying Corps (AFC), one in five pilots and observers were killed in training, air crashes or air combat. 

A small group of airmen defied the odds after being shot down or crash landing, and became prisoners of the Germans or the Turks. At a history conference in Victoria last week, Australian War Memorial historian Aaron Pegram presented his research on the 35 AFC airmen who saw out the war in captivity.

“Those airmen whose machines were chalked up as ‘kills’ by enemy pilots have received less attention than what they deserve, and among them were prisoners of war,” he said. “Captivity plays such an important part in the Allied airman’s story of the Second World War, but it barely registers in the memory of what air combat was like a generation earlier.”

The first Australian airmen to participate in the war went into action in Mesopotamia in April 1915, and the first complete flying unit of the AFC, No. 1 Squadron, were sent to the Middle East in March 1916. Among their ranks were some of Australia’s aviation pioneers. 

By late 1917 three more squadrons – Nos 2, 3, and 4 – had been formed to fight in France. A further four training squadrons were based in England to provide pilots for the Western Front.

The first aircraft flown by Australians were inferior to German aircraft, but by late 1917 the allies were equipped with stronger and faster planes. Aircraft were used in a variety of roles: for reconnaissance or artillery spotting, as fighters or for bombing operations inside enemy territory.

Aircraft were either twin-seater or single-seater, the latter being the “scouts” or fighters that went head to head in dogfights over enemy territory. Twin-seater aircraft contained a pilot and observer, who might also perform a bombing role.

A total of 410 pilots and 153 observers flew operations with the AFC, of which 110 died from combat-related causes.  Of the 35 Australian pilots and observers of the AFC taken prisoner during the First World War, 14 were captured by Ottoman forces in the Middle East, and 21 on the Western Front in the war against Germany.

“These considerably small numbers reflected the extremely hazardous nature of aviation at a time when death was more a likely outcome for air casualties than capture by the enemy,” Pegram said. “But if an airman managed to survive a landing in hostile territory, and was captured, the chances of him surviving the war as a prisoner were remarkably high.”

Airmen were treated relatively well by the Germans or Turks upon capture, more so if they were wounded. “The Germans probably had less sympathy for an Allied airman who wasn’t wounded, because ground troops were often strafed and bombed by them. There are instances where airmen were kicked, slapped, beaten and verbally abused.”

In Palestine, there was one instance where a captured Australian airman was given a tour of Jerusalem by the Albatross pilot who had brought him down. The German pilot, Gerhard Felmy, later flew over No. 1 Squadron’s airfield and dropped a photograph of himself with the Australian pilot Claude Vautin to let them know he was alive and well.  

Lieutenant Claude Vautin, No 1 Squadron AFC, on the left, and German aviator Oberleutnant Gerhardt Felmy. The photo was dropped to the No 1 Squadron AFC airfield as proof that Lt Vautin was unharmed after he was forced down in German territory and was taken prisoner.

But the treatment of airmen who fell into the hands of the Arab tribesmen in the desert could be a lot worse: one of the four Australian pilots with the Mesopotamian Half Flight was killed by Arab tribesmen after landing in Ottoman territory; two others were assaulted with clubs, rifles, axes, and hammers before the Turks arrived and took the Australians prisoner.

The German Air Service conducted all interrogations. Allied airmen were considered a great source of intelligence to the enemy “because they were flying some of the most advanced technology of the period, they had a good sense of geography, great technical capabilities, and they knew the nature of operations,” Pegram said. “By comparison, the standard infantryman would have known next to nothing.”

Pilots were well informed of the techniques enemy intelligence staff used to extract information from prisoners, and “to prevent their machines from being captured, studied, salvaged or pressed into service by enemy forces, Australian pilots flew with a flare pistol in their cockpits so that a disabled aircraft and any maps, letters or operations documents could be set alight after a forced landing”.

The captured airmen were detained in a prison camp in the homeland of their captors. Conditions for prisoners in Turkey were primitive: their quarters were cramped, rations were basic and Red Cross food parcels would go missing or be delayed for several months. One Australian pilot, Thomas White, managed to escape. In June 1918, White stowed away on a Russian merchant ship in Constantinople harbour bound for Odessa in the Ukraine. He eventually made his way back to London.

Airmen captured in Germany were treated much better, and some were even given parole on the understanding that they would not attempt to escape. But, overall, the imprisonment of AFC pilots and observers – all officers – was tolerable, and when the war ended on 11 November 1918, all 35 Australian airmen captured in Mesopotamia, Palestine and on the Western Front were alive.

“Their humble experiences behind barbed wire were not as glorious or as well -known as the deeds of the leading air aces of the war, many of whom were killed in their pursuit of triumph,” Pegram said. “But the experiences of the AFC’s captured airmen reminds us of the harsh realities of aerial combat when aviation was in its infancy, and of the certainty that not all who took to the skies became the stuff of legends.”

The papers from the Military History and Heritage Victoria conference, By the seat of their pants: Australian airmen and their aircraft 1915–1918, will be published by the Office of Air Force History.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. -- British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, 10 November 1942 

The nature and timing of the turning point of the Second World War has been debated and redefined numerous times since the end of the conflict in 1945.

The Russian victory at Stalingrad in January 1943 has often been seen as the key to the eventual defeat of Germany, although other historians have pointed to the failure of the Germans to capture Moscow in December 1941 as the watershed event. The Allied victory at the second battle of El Alamein in North Africa in November 1942 – a victory which inspired one of Churchill’s most memorable speeches – is a strong contender, along with the D-Day invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.

In the fight against the Japanese, some pinpoint the battle of Midway in June 1942 as the milestone; to others, it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor in early December 1941 that brought the United States into the war, bringing with it unbeatable military might.

But to consider just one battle or event as the decisive moment in the Allies’ campaign to beat the Axis powers is to view the conflict too narrowly, according to esteemed British author and military historian Antony Beevor.

“The Second World War was such a huge conglomeration of different conflicts that it’s almost impossible to point to a single battle as a turning point,” he said at the Australian War Memorial’s recent international history conference.

“The real turning point inevitably came when both Germany and Japan had reached their full extent of advance; they were overextended, and everything was going to turn. It happened to coincide in the case of Germany and Japan around October and November of 1942.

“The geopolitical turning point was December 1941 [when the United States entered the war] and the really perceived turning point – strategic and psychological – came in the [Northern Hemisphere] autumn of 1942.”

Australians played an important part in two of the campaigns of that period. In North Africa, the Australian 9th Division helped to end the Axis threat to Egypt, the Suez Canal and the Middle Eastern oilfields with victory in the second battle of El Alamein. In the Pacific, the Second AIF and the Militia finally ended their struggle against the Japanese on the Kokoda Trail, in Papua, stemming Japan’s southernmost advance.

Troops of the Australian 9th Division help a wounded German prisoner after capturing a German strongpoint during the second battle of El Alamein.

The second battle of El Alamein began on 23 October and lasted 13 days. Under the command of Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery, the British Eighth Army (including the Australian 9th Division) launched an offensive against Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Panzerarmee Afrika, composed of German and Italian infantry and mechanised units. Rommel, known as “The Desert Fox”, and his forces had held sway in North Africa since January 1942, when Rommel began a counter-offensive against the British at El Agheila, on the western edge of Libya. By the end of June, Rommel had forced the Allies deep back into Egypt, and the capture of Cairo and the Suez Canal seemed a very real possibility.

The fighting at El Alamein was fierce, and the 9th Division – commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Morshead —played a major part, holding the vital northern sector of the line. The Allies eventually broke through the Axis line and drove Rommel’s forces westwards, ultimately leading to their surrender in Tunisia in May 1943. It was the first victory in a major offensive against the Germans since the start of the European war in 1939, and it revived the Allies’ morale.

The 9th Division suffered heavy casualties at the final battle of El Alamein: between October and early November, it recorded 520 dead, 1,948 wounded, and 218 men missing, about half of whom were later found to be dead.

In the Pacific, November 1942 also marked the end of the Kokoda campaign, which had begun in July. The rugged, mountainous Kokoda Trail across the Owen Stanley Range was used by the Japanese to advance on the Papuan capital of Port Moresby after an earlier attempt at a seaborne landing was disrupted by the battle of the Coral Sea. Capturing Port Moresby was part of a broader Japanese strategy to isolate Australia from the United States.

Native New Guinea carriers meet Australian officers along the Kokoda Trail.

The Japanese came menacingly close to their target, as the Australians were poorly equipped and had not yet developed effective jungle warfare tactics. But in September the tactical situation swung in the Australians’ favour, as artillery came within range and their supplies could be trucked most of the way forward. Severe losses suffered by the Japanese on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands following the American landing there in August also led to an order for the South Seas Force on the Kokoda Trail to withdraw to the north coast of Papua and establish a defensive position.

The Australian force went on the offensive and by mid-November they had crossed the Kumusi River at Wairopi, effectively ending the Kokoda campaign. It had been some of the most desperate and vicious fighting encountered by Australians in the Second World War: 625 Australians were killed on the Kokoda Trail, and over 1,600 were wounded. Casualties due to sickness exceeded 4,000.

The Australian 9th Division was recalled to Australia following their victory in North Africa, and then sent to fight in the Pacific. Within days of their victory on the Kokoda Trail, the AIF and the Militia encountered even fiercer fighting around the Japanese beachheads at Gona, Buna, and Sanananda. It would be another three years before the war came to an end, with the unconditional surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945, and the Japanese surrender on 15 August. Nevertheless, as early as November 1942 the Australians had played an important part in the turning points that ultimately led to victory.

My name is Brady Davison and I am a work experience student from St Stanislaus College, Bathurst. As part of my week at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra I researched the Next of Kin plaque commemorating the First World War service of Private John Joseph Edward Darnedt. Here is his story.

Jack Darnedt's Next of kin plaque

John Joseph Edward “Jack” Darnedt was born in Collingwood, Victoria in 1899, one of eight children to William and Mary Darnedt. He was working as a trainer when he joined the AIF under the alias Jack Kerrigan on 23 August 1916. Enlisting with the 6th Reinforcements of the 59th Battalion he embarked aboard HMAT Nestor on 2 October, bound for training in England.

A month after his arrival, Jack (now a member of 15 Training Battalion) made a sworn statutory declaration confessing that his correct name was John Joseph Edward Darnedt. He had taken the name Jack Kerrigan to pass the medical examination for entry into the AIF as he had already failed under his real name due to a problem with his left foot. It is not known why he chose the name Kerrigan.

After his confession Jack embarked overseas to France on 30 December 1916 aboard the Princess Clementine. The following day he marched into Etaples and was taken on strength by 59 Battalion on 7 February 1917. After only three weeks with his unit Jack was detached for duty with the YMCA, where he worked for five months, rejoining his unit on 1 August.

The 59th Battalion were involved in the Third Battle of Ypres at Polygon Wood from 26 September. Jack was killed in action on that day near Blackwatch Corner. His body was not recovered for burial at the time and could not be located after the war. His name is commemorated on the Menin Gate.

Watercolour of the Polygon Wood and Nonne Boschen Area on the Western FrontThe unveiling of the Menin Gate Memorial, 24 June 1927Jack’s widow, Mary Darnedt received his Next of Kin plaque on 16 October 1922. The couple had married in 1916 shortly before Jack embarked for overseas service. She later remarried and died in Castlemaine, Victoria in 1978. The ultimate fate of the plaque was unknown until 2000 when it was found in a paddock in Castlemaine. It was later donated to the Australian War Memorial.

Subscribe to