My Grand Uncle, Robert John Jones, was one of 153 young men of the 24th Battalion, 5th Reinforcement to leave Australia aboard the RMS Osterley, on 29th September 1915, on their way to Egypt. Bob, as he preferred to be called, had just turned eighteen earlier in the month. Additionally, he was likely still grieving for his mother, who had died five months earlier.
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Bob, a miner like his father, lied about his age on his enlistment application. However, he was 18 by the time he embarked.
|Minya, Egypt 2008|
Bob was stationed at various parts of Egypt for his first six months. He had his first stint in hospital with "minor nose trouble" at Minya in March 1916. I didn't realise this when I visited Minya, 92 years later, in March 2008.
It seems that Bob was a rebel, with his war records showing that he was often "A.W.L." (Absent without Leave), he missed many parades and was absent from several Roll Calls. In total he was fined 52 days pay or £13 over a three year period for his indiscretions. However, he remained steadfast and loyal when it really mattered.
After two weeks of extreme battle at Pozieres France, Bob received a "Gun Shot Wound Severe" to his left arm on the 5th August 1916. This day was described by Major McSharry as "the heaviest barrage the battalion ever saw". Bob was lucky to survive as "Dead and wounded lay everywhere, some killed on their stretchers, with the stretcher-bearers lying dead beside them"1.
Within 20 days of receiving the Gun Shot wound, Bob was back in action. He was one of the lucky ones as by the end of 1916, twenty of the men in the 24th Battalion, who had arrived on the same boat as Bob, were dead and a further 13 had been sent home injured.
Bob was now in the 2nd Machine Gun company and I am not sure of which further battles that he fought in.
On the 30th October 1917 in France, Bob was "Blown Up" and received "Shell Wounds to Head and Right Ankle". The war record states;
"Oct. 1917, while working M. Gun, was blown up. Carried on for 5 hours till relieved. Became unconscious and remembered nothing for 6 days. Gradually lost power in L. arm.
17-12-17. Can make no movement of arm or hand except slight flexion of fingers. All muscles of arm and forearm except flexors, do not respond to faradism or galvanism, and A.C.C. greater than K.C.C. Gradually improving".
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|Hospital Ship - Borda|
He was discharged as medically unfit (TPI) on the 21st November 1918. Bob may have survived the war, receiving the 1914/1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, but I believe another battle was about to begin.
After my research, I can totally understand why, and I cannot begin to imagine the horrors that he saw on a daily basis. One of men in Bob's regiment reported a mates death "I was about 30 yards from him and saw him killed by a shell. There was nothing left to bury"
Our family know very little about Bob, besides what the records tell us. My grandmother, his sister, did not talk about him, except to say that he had been burnt with gas, had a metal plate in his head and the war had changed him. Family stories indicate that Bob was a bit of a nomad, who frequented the hotels. My Uncle would often drink with him and describe him as a "great old fellow" who would take him fishing and ferreting.
Bob was living at his daughters home prior to dying of Lung Cancer and Bronchopneumonia on the 11th September 1967, age 70.
|Robert John "Bob" Jones|
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