Framing History-John McArthur, Officer in the British Marines

In 1745 an attempt was made by Charles Edward Stuart, also known as ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ to regain the British throne for the exiled house of Stuart of Scotland.

At this time most of the British Army was on the European Continent involved in what was termed the ‘Austrian Succession’.

Making the most of this opportunity, Bonnie Prince Charlie sailed from France for Scotland where he was supported by several highland clans. They were known as the ‘Jacobites’. Under the Stuart banner, they marched south claiming victory at Preston near Edinburgh. Now bold with success, they continued marching southwards over the border into England. They were stopped at Derby when some of the British Army was hurriedly recalled from Europe to defend the realm.

The Jacobites retreated north to Inverness where the British Army caught up with them on the moors of Culloden. Here the Jacobites were defeated with Bonnie Prince Charlie fleeing back to France.

It has been claimed that members of the McArthur family were part of the Jacobite army. Several family members were killed including five out of a family of six brothers. The sixth brother, reportedly one Alexander McArthur returned home to the highlands. Fearing retribution he and his young wife, Catherine, along with several other family members sailed for the Americas.

After a few years Alexander and Catherine McArthur returned to England. We believe they were involved in the cloth trade in Kent, and there a son was born on 12 January 1752. He was named James, possibly for his Paternal Grandfather, and was baptized 20 January in the Independent Chapel in Canterbury.

We lose sight of the McArthur family for some years but believe they had a large family of both sons and daughters. They possibly remained in the cloth trade and moved around England as the industrial revolution brought big changes in this trade in particular. Their children are believed to have been baptized in some of the many dissenting Presbyterian Churches scattered throughout England.

In the mid-1760’s we know the McArthur family settled in Stoke Dameral a parish of the Plymouth area in Devon. Here they opened drapery business.  Another son was born in August 1767. There were no Presbyterian Chapels in Stoke Dameral and this son was baptized on 3 September in the parish church of St Andrews. He was named John.

Stoke Dameral Church, Plymouth, Devon, England2

St Andrews, Stoke Dameral, Plymouth,Devon

Two years later another son was born and was baptized in the same church on 27 August 1770. He was given the name William. Sadly he died as an infant and was buried on 24 November 1772.

John was now the youngest surviving son in the family.

John was only ten years of age when his mother Catherine died and was buried in the churchyard on 31 August 1777.

John had a good education, and keeping in mind subsequent events, it would appear he may have attended Plympton Grammar School. This now very famous school was founded from the bequest of Elize Hele, a local landowner and attorney who had been Treasurer to King James I. In his Will, he left all his estate and money for pious uses. His executors built three schools. One at Plympton and two in Exeter. Although it began as a ‘charity’ school the Plympton school had an excellent reputation for scholarship, and many wealthy Devon and Cornwall landed families sent their sons there.

Plympton is not far from Stoke Dameral, and it is highly likely that John spent his early years of education here as he later ‘toyed with the idea of studying law’, which would have necessitated a good grounding in Latin and the Classics. John’s older brother James, and Evan and Nicholas Nepean sons of Nicholas Nepean of Saltash, Cornwall, are also believed to have attended this reputable school.

John would have left school about aged 14 years. He could have joined his father as an apprentice in the cloth trade, but it is believed John would have none of that. Then his father suggested he should join the Navy or the Marines as a career serviceman. It is believed some of his brothers had already joined the Navy and Marines.

In the navy, you needed to begin at the bottom and spend many years at sea to earn your way up the promotion ladder and to sit for an extensive examination before you could become a commissioned officer.

However, in the Marines, you could purchase officer positions for a sum of money. John’s father was able to purchase him an Ensign’s commission in the Marines in 1782. He was mustered into Fish’s Corps destined for the American Colonies. They were housed at the newly built Stonehouse Barracks. However, the War of Independence came to an end soon afterward and the newly founded Corps were not needed and disbanded. The officers were put on half-pay and the lower ranks turned out to find their own employment. Several senior officers of this Corps were also from Devon and Cornwall landed gentry and returned to their estates when the corps was disbanded.

John was at a loose end. A few weeks later an incident happened in the streets of Plymouth that set the towns people against the Marines. A riot erupted between the Town’s Guard (Town Constable and his men), and a party of the 36th Regiment who were stationed at the Stonehouse barracks. It was quelled with the assistance of other marines, but the town folk were concerned.

Although not mentioned by name, oral family history suggests that one of John’s senior officers was a landowner at Holsworthy and when the Corps was disbanded he returned to his estates at Holsworthy and took young John with him. John was there several years and learned about running an estate. He is said to have been an excellent horseman and rode with the hounds frequently.

There is little doubt the family hoped John would make a good match with the daughter of landed gentry to improve his social position and financial prospects, as his older brother, James had done. One of the landed families in Holsworthy were the Kingdon family who was to play a part in John’s life. There were also a number of Linen Drapers who would have been known to John’s family, and two landed attorney’s in the parish who may also have been interested in John clerking for them.

In 1887 John McArthur was employed as a tutor in the Grammar School where Thomas Hockin, the son of the Rev John Kingdon, Vicar of Bridgerule, was being educated. John was invited to visit the Kingdon family at Bridgerule. It was there he met Elizabeth Veale.

To improve his career prospects  John applied to be reinstated as an Ensign in the Marines in a regiment on deployment. The problem was that this was difficult as Britain was at peace and officer positions in the Marines were more difficult to find placement. He was finally granted an Ensign’s position in the 68th Regiment in April 1788 and returned to Full Pay. At the time this regiment was stationed at Gibraltar and John McArthur was expected to join his regiment immediately. However, he took personal leave and remained in Devon to pay court to Elizabeth Veale.

 

 

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Framing History- Elizabeth McArthur, Descendant of Devonshire Landed Gentry-3.

Here we continue the story of Elizabeth Veale, born 1766, and a descendant of Devonshire Gentry. She later married John McArthur and emigrated to Australia on the Second Fleet in 1790.

Elizabeth Veale was about 12 years of age when her mother remarried and moved away from Bridgerule.

It is believed that it was at this time, she moved into the household of the Rev John Kingdon. Although John and Jane Kingdon had several sons, they only had one daughter at this time.

The Rev John Kingdon was also from a landed family of Holsworthy. He was born in 1735, the eldest son of  Roger and Judith Kingdon. He began his education at Holsworthy and later is believed to have attended a Grammar School in Exeter, before going to Exeter College, at Oxford University. In later years, he was well known for his great scholarship.

John Kingdon was appointed Vicar of Bridgerule in 1765 but lived at nearby Holsworthy.

On 25 June 1766, the Rev John Kingdon married, Jane Hockin, of Okehampton, Devonshire.

Bridget Kingdon, their eldest child was born at Holsworthy in 1767 and was baptized there on 21 July.  The family moved into the Bridgerule vicarage, known as East Park, soon afterward. All their subsequent children were born there and baptized at St Bridget’s.

Elizabeth Veale had grown up in the village with Bridget Kingdon, and she was welcomed into the household as a suitable companion.

St_Bridget's_Church_-_geograph.org.uk_-_253382

St Bridget’s Bridgerule, Devon

John Kingdon also believed that girls should be well educated to run the family estates, while their husbands were absent, and so privately tutored his daughter, Bridget, and Elizabeth Veale. Not only to read and write well but also to study literature and sciences. She lived there several years before returning to the Hatherly home.

John Hatherly, Elizabeth Veale’s grandfather is known to have doted on his granddaughter and was preparing her for a ‘good’ marriage. Although Lodgeworthy in Bridgerule, was now in the hands of Edmund Leach, it had prospered and was intended for Elizabeth Veale’s dowry. Life was good on those Devonshire farms as Elizabeth Veale grew into womanhood.

Meanwhile down in Stoke Climsland, Edmund and Grace Leach had also prospered and they had had a daughter, Mary Isabella. She had been born in late 1780 and was baptized at All Saints Parish Church, Stoke Climsland on 14 January 1781.

However, when the American War of Independence ended in 1782, it changed life everywhere including those farming communities in Devon. Depression hit Britain quickly and severely with few markets, failing crops and increasing population by migration and immigration. Over the next five years disaster was to slowly engulf many families in that part of the country.

The result was that Edmund Leach gradually sank into bankruptcy, and had to sell all his property, including Lodgeworthy at Bridgerule, leaving Elizabeth Veale without any means for a dowry.

Elizabeth’s mother, Grace Leach, along with her youngest daughter Mary Isabella, returned to her father, John Hatherly’s home at Bridgerule, on the death of her mother, Grace Hatherly, in 1785. Her husband Edmund Leach remained at Stoke Climsland, where he died a pauper and was buried in All Saints Churchyard on 1 April 1791. His grave is unmarked.

In 1787, Elizabeth Veale was just 21 years of age when she met the dashing John McArthur. He was a tutor at the school where the young Thomas Hockin, a son of the Rev John and Jane Kingdon, was a pupil. He was invited by Thomas’s parents, to visit them at the Bridgerule vicarage. Thomas’s sister, Bridget was a close friend of Elizabeth Veale, and she too was invited to the vicarage to meet the charming young man.

Elizabeth Veale married John McArthur the following year at St Bridget’s, Bridgerule. The McArthurs left the parish soon afterward, and within a short time emigrated to the other side of the world.

Bridgerule Parish

Bridgerule, Devon. St Bridget’s on the hill with Vicarage.

In 1792,  shortly before her father’s death, Grace Leach married on 27 March, John Bond, a friend of her father, who had known Grace all her life.  Her father was ill and wanted someone, who could take care of her after he died. He died at Bridgerule and was buried in St Bridget’s Churchyard on 16 August 1792.

Elizabeth McArthur, when she heard her mother had married him, made a comment that leads us to believe that she thought him not socially acceptable, and her mother had married beneath her. Something Elizabeth’s mother thought Elizabeth had done when she married John McArthur.

Elizabeth, by this time, was in New South Wales far away, and no comfort or help to her mother.

Grace Bond’s youngest daughter Mary Isabella Leach, was only eleven years of age when her mother remarried. John Bond died on 16 July 1824 and Grace Bond died 22 June 1836 aged 89 years.

Mary Isabella Leach married Thomas Hacker on 22 January 1801 at Poundstock (Cornwall) and had a family of seven daughters. She later emigrated with some of her children and their families in 1852, to Prince Edward Island, Canada, where she died in 1858.

Framing History- Elizabeth McArthur, Descendant of Devonshire Landed Gentry-1.

Elizabeth Veale, who was to marry John McArthur, of later Australian Wool Industry fame, was born on 14 August 1766. She was the eldest daughter of Richard and Grace Veale (nee Hatherly) of Bridgerule. It is a small rural parish in north-west Devon with mixed farming of sheep, cattle, and cropping. At this time, there were about fifty families in the parish.

The Veale family had resided at Bridgerule, from at least the early 17th Century. One Richard Veale died there in 1636 and left a detailed Will.

St Swithun’s Church, Pyworthy, Devon

By the late 17th Century one William Veale was the owner of the family farm. He married on 10 October 1690, Elizabeth Jewell, at the parish church of St Swithin, Pyworthy, a parish adjacent to Bridgerule. Their eldest daughter, Grace was baptized there on 20 September 1691. She is believed to have died as an infant.

St_Bridget's_Church_-_geograph.org.uk_-_253382

St Bridget’s Bridgerule, Devon

The second daughter, Mary was baptized at St Bridget’s, Bridgerule on 28 February 1692. The following children were all baptized at St Bridget’s.

Grace (2),born 1696, died 1718

Martha, born 1699, died 1703

Richard, born 1702, died 1772

Martha(2), born 1706

William, 1709, died 1757

John, 1712, died 1763

Elizabeth Veale, the wife of William Veale, died and was buried on 16 April 1714 in St Bridget’s churchyard.

In the 1721 Devonshire Freehold Land List, William is listed as ‘William Veale, Gentleman.’

His sons Richard, William, and John are believed to have been assisting him on the family farm.

William Veale died and was buried on 21 December 1744.

His son, William Veale died and was buried on 20 June 1757, and son John, on 9 June 1763. Richard Veale was the sole surviving freeholder of the family farm. He is listed in the 1771 Devonshire Freehold List.

Richard Veale was born in Bridgerule, the son of William and Elizabeth Veale. He was baptized at St Bridget’s on 29 April 1702. He grew up on Lodgeworthy Farm. This farm is on the edge of Bridgerule, and the farmhouse is still there today.

He began his education under the Rev William Bayly, long-term rector of Bridgerule. We do not know whether he was also educated at a nearby Grammar School.

The Veale family were considered Upperclass having been on the land for many generations. To protect their land ownership, these families not only married within their class, but many of these marriages were arranged by parents. ‘Romance and love’ were not the driving force of unions. ‘Social position and land’ were considered a family’s most valued commodity.

Richard Veale lost his father and brothers within a few years. He was no longer a young man and needed an heir to protect the family estate.

He married on 8 August 1764, at St Bridgets, Bridgerule, by Banns, Grace Hatherly. She was the youngest daughter of John and Grace Hatherly, also a landed family of Devon and Cornwall.

Grace was born c 1747 and was baptized on 15 April 1747, at Launcells, Cornwall.

Their daughter, Elizabeth Veale was born at Bridgerule in 1766. Her story is continued in following blogs.

Framing History-Elizabeth McArthur and Harriet Hodgetts

When we are writing our family’s history we need not only the specific facts of their lives but also to put them into the context, of the time and place. That is when, where and how they lived.

However, “All history is conjecture. All of it. It is the height of folly and arrogance for anyone to say that he or she knows definitely what happened in the past. We piece together the story as best we can, with the shreds of evidence that exist. When we are very lucky the pieces come together to form a beautiful and cohesive collage”….[from The Book of Love, Kathleen McGowan]

I am interested specifically in the Second Fleet story, because one of my husband’s ancestors, Harriet Hodgetts, is believed to have arrived in Australia, as a free woman, on the Second Fleet.

When we are writing about specific events, such as the “Second Fleet”,  we need to dig deep into a whole range of records. We have to study them carefully if we are to get the most out of them.

The following blogs are my interpretation of the documents and information I have found, and my version of what happened all those years ago, and why. How close it is to the ‘real thing’ I do not know, but believe it is a possible explanation of the events of that time.

The only surviving personal record of the Second Fleet is part of a Journal written by Elizabeth McArthur, the wife of John McArthur, a Lieutenant in the Marines. They embarked on the ‘Neptune’ in London. It is a personal record of some of her experiences, and what she thought about some of the things, going on about her. It only covers a few weeks of the voyage, on board the Neptune, not the whole seven months at sea. Much has been written and inferred by these few pages. Many historians have studied them, and written whole books on their interpretation of that collection of remarks and musings.

For the First Fleet there are more than twenty accounts of the voyage out, and indeed even the return voyage. It is hard to believe Elizabeth McArthur was the only person recording that voyage. True, a few letters written about the arrival of the Second Fleet in Sydney have survived, but no other records of personal experiences on board the ship itself. It was a popular thing for, particularly educated men to record their experiences, and publish them in book form, usually in their life-time. There also would have been the Captain’s Log, the Surgeon Superintendent’s and the Naval Agents reports, of the day to day running of each of the ships in the Fleet. However, these have not survived, possibly destroyed to avoid blame and recrimination, after such a disastrous voyage.

I have been studying the Elizabeth McArthur story, so I can better understand our Harriet Hodgetts. She had been born in the same year as Elizabeth, and faced many of the same challenges, as their parallel lives stretched well into the 19th Century. They both died in Australia in the same year. There are very few records that even mention Harriet ‘Hodgetts’ by name, and absolutely none in the way of family stories, letters, diaries, or journals, telling of her thoughts, attitudes, and her victories and sorrows over the 83 years, of her long and eventful life.

As I have studied the life of Elizabeth McArthur and this specific part of our history, I see a different interpretation of what was going on around Elizabeth, than is recorded in her Journal.  Her reaction to things she had no former experience of. The things she was not a witness to, but only heard second or third hand. Finally, of things, that were specifically kept from her, particularly by her husband, John McArthur.

Let me say at the outset I have great admiration for Elizabeth McArthur and Harriet Hodgetts, and as women, how they met the day to day challenges, not only of the voyage but in the infant colony at the edge of the known world.

View_of_Sydney_Cove_1792

View of Sydney Cove-1792

To really understand Elizabeth McArthur and Harriet Hodgetts, I believe I needed to go right back to the beginning, and study their ancestors and families. I wanted to  find not only where and how they lived, but how they may have influenced the women’s outlook on life.  I wanted to find some possible explanations, not only for some of their decisions and indomitable faith, but how they managed to live in a male dominated society and world, so far away from their ‘roots’, with no family support.

Who was the real Elizabeth McArthur? Who was the real Harriet Hodgetts?

Harriet Hodgetts and Elizabeth McArthur -Interesting Coincidences and Parallel Lives.

 

I have said in former blogs I have been researching and writing Harriet Hodgetts story for some time now. In recent times I have been exploring and writing about four sea voyages she made in her life-time. Her first voyage was in cramped quarters on a convict ship in the Second Fleet.

The only surviving written record of a personal experience of that voyage is a few pages of a journal kept by Elizabeth McArthur, one of the marine’s wives.

To write Harriet’s story, I needed to explore and write Elizabeth’s story too. While doing this, I was completely blown away, with the unbelievable coincidences of the parallel lives, of these two incredible women.

  • Both were born and baptized in country parishes in England, within months of each other in 1766. Elizabeth in Devonshire and Harriet in Staffordshire.

  • Both were the eldest daughters in their family, who were effectively disinherited by the early deaths of their respective fathers.

  • Both came under the guardianship of their grandfathers. Elizabeth, her Maternal Grandfather and Harriet, her Paternal Grandfather.

  • Both fell in love, and let their heart rule their head. They ‘choose’ to accompany their ‘husbands’ on the Second Fleet, although by all the ‘rules’ and ‘social norms’ at the time, neither should have been on that voyage.

  • Both arrived in Sydney at the same time and lived near each other in the infant colony.

 

View_of_Sydney_Cove_1792
View of Sydney Cove-1792

  • Both moved to Parramatta and lived there for some time.

Lycett_Parramatta_02_Elizabeth-Farm_wr
Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta

 

  • Both settled on the land and became ‘farmer’s wives’.

  • Both became widowed, Elizabeth in 1834 and Harriet in 1823.

  • Both died in Australia in 1850, within a few months of each other, aged 83 years. Elizabeth in New South Wales, and Harriet in Tasmania.

Regardless of all these coincidences, I believe although they may have set eyes on each other, from time to time, they never met. Elizabeth McArthur, being a Marine Captain’s wife, at the high end of the social scale of the colony, and Harriet Hodgetts being the wife a convict blacksmith, at the other end of the social scale.

 

World War II Family Hero, John Bernard Mackey,VC

Our grandchildren had been on a school group visit to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. While there, they had admired some medals for bravery in the form of the Military Medal and the Victoria Cross.

There was a whole section on those who had been awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I and all theatres of war up to the present time.

For the children one name stood out, “John Bernard Mackey”, because he had the same surname as us.

First of all they wanted to know if he belonged to our family, and then what he had done to deserve the honour.

I helped them research this soldier on the internet.

First of all we went to the War Memorial website at  https://www.awm.gov.au/

And was able to find the ‘citation’ that went with the medal when it was awarded.

NX20317 CORPORAL JOHN BERNARD MACKEY VC, 2/3RD PIONEER BATTALION, AIF. CORPORAL MACKEY WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS FOR BRAVERY ON 1945-05-12 DURING AN ATTACK ON THREE JAPANESE POSITIONS AT A FEATURE KNOWN AS HELEN, EAST OF TARAKAN, BORNEO. MACKEY MANAGED TO SILENCE THE POSITIONS BUT WAS KILLED WHILST ATTACKING THE THIRD.

https://www.awm.gov.au/index.php/collection/C56109

Jack Mackey VC

However the RSL Virtual Memorial website at

https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/people/637210  gave us all the information we needed on this soldier, including some photographs.

Biography:-

‘John Bernard ‘Jack’ MACKEY was born on 16 May 1922 at Leichhardt, Sydney, and until his enlistment worked in his father’s bakery. He embarked with the 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion in November 1941, serving in Syria and in the later operations at El Alamein. He also took part in the New Guinea campaign. The landing on Tarakan Island, Borneo, was the battalion’s final campaign.

Mackey had already been recognised as an outstanding and brave junior leader. On 12 May 1945 he displayed those qualities again on Tarakan Island, Netherlands East Indies. Together with his lance corporal, Mackey approached a well-defended position along a steep and narrow spur. Reaching a Japanese light machine-gun post, the two men killed four enemy soldiers, but Mackey’s companion was wounded. Mackey killed the remaining Japanese, then dealt with a heavy machine-gun crew in an adjacent bunker. Taking up an Owen gun, he moved towards another heavy machine-gun nest, and managed to silence it before he was mortally wounded. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The recommendation for the award reads:

‘For most conspicuous bravery in the face of strong enemy resistance in the attack on the HELEN feature at TARAKAN on 12 May 1945.

Cpl MACKEY was in charge of 3 section 16 Platoon D Coy 2/3 Aust Pnr Bn in the company attack on the feature known as HELEN East of TARAKAN town.

This section was in the van and led by Cpl MACKEY moved along a narrow spur with scarcely width for more than one man when it came under fire from 3 well sited positions near the top of a very steep razor-backed ridge. The ground fell away almost sheer on each side of the track making it almost impossible to move to a flank so Cpl MACKEY led his men forward.

He charged the first LMG [Light Machine Gun] position but slipped and after wrestling with one enemy bayoneted him and charged straight on to the HMG [Heavy Machine Gun] which was firing from a bunker position six yards to his right. He rushed this post and killed the crew with grenades.

He then jumped back and changing his rifle for his comrades [sic] submachine gun he attacked further up the steep slope to another LMG position which was firing on his platoon. Whilst charging he fired his gun and reached within a few feet of the enemy position when he was killed by LMG fire but not before accounting for two more enemy.

By his exceptional bravery and complete disregard for and the sacrifice of his own life Cpl MACKEY was largely responsible for the killing of 7 Japanese and the elimination of two machine gun posts which enabled his platoon to gain its objective from which the coy continued to engage the enemy. His fearless action was an inspiration to the whole battalion and although he was killed his name is legendary.’ ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ Page 2459, position 1 Date: 15 November 1945

He was eventually buried in the Labuan War Cemetery.”

Jack Mackey War Medals

Personal Details:-

Service Number: NX20317
Enlisted: 5 June 1940, Paddington, New South Wales
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion
Born: Leichhardt, New South Wales, 16 May 1922
Home Town: Portland, Lithgow, New South Wales
Schooling: St. Columba’s School, Christian Brothers’ High School, St Joseph’s Convent School
Occupation: Baker’s labourer
Died: Killed in Action, Tarakan, Borneo, 12 May 1945, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Labuan War Memorial Cemetery

Plot. 27 Row. C Grave. 9

Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour

His World War 2 service history:-

5 Jun 1940: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN NX20317, Paddington, New South Wales  
6 Jun 1940: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN NX20317  
15 Aug 1940: Transferred 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, 2 Recruit Depot, Posted to 2 Recruit Reinforcement Battalion  
4 Sep 1940: Transferred 2nd AIF WW 2, Private,2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion  
1 Nov 1941: Embarked 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Embarked Sydney (for Middle East)  
1 Jul 1942: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, El Alamein  
25 Jan 1943: Embarked 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Embarked Middle East (for Sydney)  
3 Aug 1943: Embarked 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Embarked Cairns (for Milne Bay)  
16 Aug 1943: Promoted 2nd AIF WW 2, Lance Corporal, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion  
23 Jun 1944: Promoted 2nd AIF WW 2, Corporal, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion  
22 Feb 1945: Embarked 2nd AIF WW 2, Corporal, SN NX20317, 2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion, Embarked Morotai (for Tarakan)  
12 May 1945: Honoured Victoria Cross, Borneo – Operation Oboe July-August 1945, for “Conspicuous bravery at The Helen, Tarakan, 12 May 1945”  
12 May 1945: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Corporal, SN NX20317,2nd/3rd Pioneer Battalion Borneo – Operation Oboe July-August 1945  

There were also links to a newspaper article about how his VC was won, at the National Library website TROVE: Lithgow Mercury, Thurs 6 December 1945,Page 6, Late Cpl J B Mackey–How His V C Was Won –Retrieved from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/219729677

And  a link to another article about his sisters donating his medal to the War Memorial.

Caption with photograph:

Damian Norris, 8, of Sydney, and his mother, Mrs Jo Norris, with the Victoria Cross awarded posthumously to Mrs Norris’s brother, Corporal John Bernard Mackey, during World War II. Mrs Norris presented the medal to the Australian War Memorial yesterday as a gift from the corporal’s three sisters.

Medal from the past (1980, July 18). The Canberra Times, p. 1. retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article125610819

This confirmed that the medal they had seen at the War Memorial was the actual medal presented. Their reaction to that piece of information was, “How Cool is that”!

Another biography in the publication Australian Dictionary of Biography at

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mackey-john-bernard-jack-10993 gave us further  information to help us find more on his family.

Although I couldn’t find any family links with our Mackey family, and cannot really claim him as our ‘family hero’, it was good to be able to find out so much about our brave namesake- John Bernard Mackey.

World War I Family Hero, James Joseph Stapleton – Postscript

At this time of year with Anzac Day upon us, my thoughts turn to the many family members and ancestors who have been involved in the Defence Services, particularly World War I.

It is now 100 years since all this took place, but those people are still remembered for their great service and sacrifice.

James Joseph Stapleton has always been a part of our family history. He was killed near St Quentin on 1 September 1918, a few weeks before the war ended. More about this soldier here.

In 2014 we took a tour of the World War I Australian Battlefields of the Western Front, and visited his grave in the Peronne Communal Extension a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.  Blogs about our experience can be found here.

DSC02753

J J Stapleton, Peronne,11 July 2014-Copyright

A few weeks ago a family member connected to one of James Joseph Stapleton’s mates who died with him, got in touch and told us about the co-incidence of her visiting the cemetery the same day as we had done, although we didn’t meet. She wrote:

Hi Nola, I’m so pleasantly surprised and grateful to have discovered your wonderful post about your visit to the Peronne Communal Extension Cemetery dated 13 Oct 2014 tonight. I’m a niece of Leiton Roy Johnston who died with Corporal James Joseph Stapleton, Sergeant Thomas James Stewart McDonald and Lieutenant John Gardiner on 1 September 2018. Thank you for your kind, respectful tribute to my uncle Leiton Johnston and Thomas McDonald and for including the wonderful photo of yourself holding the Australian Flag behind the three graves (Plot I, Row C, Grave Nos. 59, 60, 61). After receiving advice from the War Office that her son’s remains had been reinterred in the Peronne Communal Extension Cemetery, my late grandmother Ann Johnston wrote to Base Records on 16 January 1921 to ask if her son had been buried alongside Lieutenant Gardiner, Sergeant McDonald and Corporal Stapleton as she was aware they ‘fell with him’. Lieutenant Gardiner is buried just behind the three graves in Plot 1, Row C Grave No. 31. I’ve visited the Peronne Communal Extension Cemetery twice – on 23 July 2007 and 11 July 2014. During my visit in the afternoon of 11 July 2014 I noted entries in the visitors book/folder at the cemetery by relatives of James Stapleton who had visited the cemetery earlier in the day and entries by relatives of Thomas McDonald who visited the cemetery just a couple of days earlier – such a coincidence! I took a photo of the page with my iPad with the intention of contacting the relatives of both men on my return to Australia however unfortunately I lost my iPad on a train at the end of my trip and with it the photo of the cemetery visitor’s book page containing the relatives’ contact details. Like you, I too was very grateful to find that our family members ‘were resting in peace with their mates’. [Judy Zappacosta]

Then one of our tour companions recently made a comment about a photograph I mentioned as having seen at the 2nd Division Memorial. She reminded me that I should follow up and try to identify the photograph.

I have visited the Australian War Memorial website this morning, and have located the photograph in their Online Photographic Gallery.

I had taken a photograph of the photograph at the 2nd Division Memorial Site, and can now confirm it is the same photograph, which can be found at https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C55028

WWI Stretcher Bearers

It was taken on 1 September 1918, possibly near St Quentin by an unknown Australian Official War Photographer

Here is the description with the photograph:-

Stretcher bearers of the 6th Australian Infantry Brigade bringing in an injured soldier. This was at a time when the German forces still held the hill and the soldier on the right is holding up the Red Cross flag to minimise the risk of being fired on. While the Germans frequently used the Red Cross flag when collecting wounded, it was rather unusual for our bearers to use it as German snipers generally disregarded it. Note also the use of four stretcher bearers. Earlier in the campaign two stretcher bearers only were allowed for each stretcher and they used to wear slings round their necks to take some of the weight. In the last stages of the war the ‘carries’ were usually longer and consequently four men were allowed to carry each stretcher.

So although I believe I can now say, the photograph was not James Joseph Stapleton being transferred to the first-aid station by his mates, it certainly is a photograph of the kind of situation on the battlefield that day.