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25 September 2010

Corporal Ronald Percival Jones of Coromandel Valley

Perc Jones was born in 1889, a son of Edwin Elliot Jones and Annie Jones (nee Wait). His father died in 1892 when Perc was only three years old, and the family moved to the Coromandel Valley area where Annie's father had been the local butcher. Perc was schooled at Coromandel Valley Public School until an altercation with the headmaster meant he and his brother Stanley had to complete their schooling at Cherry Gardens Public School. He left school at 13 and worked as a builder's labourer in the Strathalbyn area. He was a keen horseman, and in 1910 or 1911 he served a year with 4 Squadron of the 17th Australian (South Australian Mounted Rifles) Light Horse militia unit that took in the Blackwood and Clarendon area. Before the war he was an active member of the Blackwood Rifle Club, attended the Coromandel Valley Methodist Church and Rechabite Lodge, and kept wicket for the Coromandel Valley 2nd XI.

In May 1915 the family received news that Perc's brother Fred had died of wounds received during the landing at ANZAC. Perc enlisted on 7 January 1916 and was allocated to the 16th reinforcements to the 9th Light Horse Regiment. A farewell reception was held at the Blackwood, Belair and Coromandel Boy's Club on 14 February 1916, and he and Lena Hall announced their engagement just before he embarked in late April 1916. Lena Hall's brother Albert had enlisted in the Light Horse a week before Perc. By this time it was estimated that 85% of all eligible young men in the district had enlisted.

On arrival in Egypt in June 1916, Perc was allocated to the 3rd Light Horse Training Regiment, and after a short stint in hospital was transferred to the 27th Depot Unit of Supply at Romani. He spent three weeks in hospital in April and May 1917 at Belah then Cairo with influenza, and then was transferred to the Australian Army Service Corps in early May 1917, where he became a member of the Australian and New Zealand Divisional Train. The Divisional Train contained all the logistic and supply requirements to support the Australian and New Zealand Division. Perc was transferred between the companies of the Divisional Train over the next two years, and was promoted to Corporal in June 1918. He spent more stints in hospital with malaria and dysentery, and was dangerously ill in the 24th Stationary Hospital at Kantara for some time in May and June 1919. He embarked on the 'Dunluce Castle' at Suez on 17 July 1919, and was discharged in Adelaide on 7 October 1919.

Perc and Lena were married in the Coromandel Valley Methodist Church two weeks after his discharge. Their first home was in Blackwood where Perc worked for his brother Arch, who ran the butcher shop located at the Blackwood crossroads. Lena and Perc had three daughters, Kathleen Ellen in 1920, Hilda Ruth in 1922 and Thelma Yvonne in 1929. The corner where the butcher shop stood has been known as 'Jones Corner' for nearly a century. Perc later took over the butcher shop in Coromandel Valley until 1938 when he and Lena moved back to Blackwood and he returned to work in Arch's butcher shop.

Perc and Lena were very active in many community organisations including school committees, sports clubs and the Blackwood RSL.

During the Second World War, Perc served as a private in the 3rd Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps between April 1942 and October 1945. Two years later, Lena passed away.

Perc married Jean Paebell in 1953, and in 1967 he was living at 31 Waite Street, Blackwood when applied for his brother Fred's Gallipoli Medallion. Perc died in December 1972 aged 83 and was buried at Centennial Park. His name is inscribed on the Coromandel Valley War Memorial, the Coromandel Valley and Cherry Gardens Public School Rolls of Honour, and the Coromandel Valley Methodist Church Roll of Honour in the Blackwood RSL.

Photograph: Courtesy of Judy Tscharke

07 September 2010

Private Frederick Wallace Jones of Coromandel Valley

Fred Jones was the fifth child of Edwin Elliott Jones and Annie Jones (nee Wait). He was born at Glen Osmond in 1888, and his father died four years later when Fred was just 4. He attended Coromandel Valley Public School and the family were active in the Coromandel Valley Methodist Church. Fred was honorary secretary of the Blackwood Rifle Club and a member of the Blackwood, Belair and Coromandel Valley Boy's Club. Like many young men at the time, Fred chased work wherever he could find it, including breaking rocks for council road-making in the district. He enlisted on 28 August 1914, and the September 1914 issue of the Blackwood Magazine noted that he was amongst the first men to enlist from the area.

He joined B or 'Beer' Company of the 10th Battalion at Morphettville, and shipped out with the rest of the battalion on the 'Ascanius' on 20 October 1914. By December 1914 the battalion was camped in tents at the foot of the Pyramids in Egypt. Training continued till early April 1915 when the battalion moved to Alexandria and then to the island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea.

About 2pm on the afternoon of 24 April 1915, Fred, loaded down with his pack and rifle, climbed on board the British battleship the 'Prince of Wales', along with the rest of 'Beer' and 'Cork' companies of the 10th Battalion. The 'Prince of Wales' then slipped out of Mudros Harbour, along with other ships carrying the rest of the first wave that was to land on Gallipoli.

Around 7pm that evening the battalion were told they could rest until 11pm. Those that were able to sleep were woken at midnight, and they were all given a welcome cup of hot cocoa by the ships' crew.

At 1am the ships stopped so the soldiers could start climbing down rope ladders into lines of rowing boats moored alongside the battleship. By 2.35am the rowing boats were full, and the battleship set off again with the lines of rowing boats attached to its sides. At 3 am the moon set and the sky grew very dark. At 3.30am the boats cast off from the battleship to be towed in threes towards the distant shore by small steamboats.

It was so dark that they would probably not have been able to see the lines of boats being towed alongside. Perhaps they could have just made out the boat behind or in front. The water was smooth as satin. It was a cool peaceful night. There was still no sign of any sort that the Turks had seen them. Close to the shore, the steamboats cast off the lines of boats, and they began to row.

About 4.29am a figure appeared silhouetted on a cliff overlooking the beach and a shot rang out, whizzed overhead and plunged into the sea. Moments later, as the boats reached the stony beach, Fred and his mates slipped over the side and waded ashore, weighed down by their equipment. Bullets struck sparks off the stones on the beach, and men were killed and wounded in the boats, in the water and on the beach. Those that hadn’t been hit ran across the stony beach to the cover of a sandy bank. They started to scale the steep hill in front of them, some driving their bayonet into the dirt to give them a handhold, as the Turks kept shooting at them with rifles then machine guns, the fire getting heavier and the casualties mounting every minute.

Sometime in the next few days of confused fighting, Fred Jones was seriously wounded. On 1 May 1915 at sea aboard the 'Derfflinger', he died. He was buried the following day at the Chatby War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt. He was the first man from Coromandel Valley to die as a result of enemy action in the First World War. He is commemorated on the family grave in the Coromandel Valley Cemetery, on the Coromandel Valley Public School Roll of Honour, at the Coromandel War Memorial, and in the South Australian National War Memorial.

His younger brother Perc enlisted in January 1916, served in the Middle East with the 9th Light Horse Regiment and survived the war.

01 September 2010

Private Gilbert Ernest Baker of Blackwood

Bert Baker was a son of James and Louisa Baker, and was born in Blackwood in September 1891. He attended Coromandel Valley Public School and worked as a labourer before the war. The September 1914 issue of the Blackwood Magazine mentions that Bert was one of twelve local men who had enlisted soon after war was declared.

He enlisted on 8 September 1914 at the age of 22, and was an original member of A or 'Ack' Squadron, 3rd Light Horse Regiment when it formed at Morphettville. The 3rd Light Horse Regiment consisted of a headquarters and two squadrons raised in South Australia and a third squadron raised in Tasmania. The South Australian part of the regiment embarked on the 'Port Lincoln' on 20 October and disembarked in Alexandria, Egypt on 9 December 1914. After a period in camp at Maadi then Heliopolis, the regiment was volunteered to serve on Gallipoli as dismounted infantry, and landed at ANZAC Cove on 12 May 1915.

After digging in along Shrapnel Valley, the regiment was committed to defend Pope's Hill during the Turkish counterattack of 18/19 May 1915. It rotated on and off Pope's Hill until the end of July when it received a large number of reinforcements. During the period from their arrival until the end of July, the regiment had lost 29 killed and many wounded. From his first day on Gallipoli, Bert did valuable work as a sniper.

In early August, the regiment was redeployed to new positions to support the offensive which included the charge at the Nek on 7 August 1915, during which over 300 lighthorsemen from the 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments were slaughtered. Between 9 and 22 August 1915, Ack Squadron of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment defended Quinn's Post. Throughout that period, Bert Baker did consistently good work in sniping and bomb (grenade) throwing, but on 22 August a new kind of bomb blew up in his hand as he was experimenting with it, and it blew his right hand off. He was evacuated to Mudros, on the island of Lemnos, then on to England, arriving in hospital in London on 9 September 1915, a year and a day after he enlisted. On 7 December 1915, the commanding officer of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment recommended Bert for the award of the French Medaille Militaire for his consistently good work as both a sniper and bomb thrower at Quinn's Post, but the recommendation did not result in an award. After treatment in London, Bert embarked for Australia in May 1916, and was discharged in Adelaide on 24 August 1916.

After the war Bert married Elizabeth and had a family. His grandson Jon remembers being picked up by his braces by Bert, using the prosthetic hook he wore in place of his right hand. He also remembers marvelling at how Bert rolled a cigarette one-handed.

Bert Baker died on 11 October 1957 at the age of 65 and was buried in Derrick Gardens, Centennial Park. His name is inscribed on the Blackwood Memorial.

Photograph: Courtesy of Jon Chittleborough