John James BRYCE


BRYCE, John James

Service Number: 2778
Enlisted: 3 October 1916, Emerald, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 41st Infantry Battalion
Born: Blair Athol, Queensland, 22 March 1898
Home Town: Blair Athol, Isaac, Queensland
Schooling: Blair Athol State School
Occupation: Horse Driver
Died: Killed in Action, Méricourt, France, 12 August 1918, aged 20 years
Cemetery: Heath Cemetery, Picardie
Row H,Grave No. 12, Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, Picardie, France
Memorials: 41st Battalion Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Blair Athol Roll of Honour, Clermont All Saint's Parish Roll of Honor
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World War 1 Service

3 Oct 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Emerald, Queensland
23 Dec 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2778, 41st Infantry Battalion
23 Dec 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2778, 41st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Demosthenes, Sydney

John James 'Doug' Bryce

John James (James John) Bryce, known as ‘Doug’ was born in Blair Athol, Queensland, the sixth of nine children of Thomas Bryce and Annie Cecelia Burke. His mother, Cecelia later married William George Window. John was educated in Blair Athol and prior to enlisting worked driving the horses in the Blair Athol mine. Blair Athol was just a small coal mining town with a population of 221 people in 1911 increasing to about 800 at the height of its prosperity in 1921. John was the first and only native of Blair Athol to enlist and was only 18 ½ years old at the time of his enlistment in Emerald on 3 October 1916. Despite having turned eyes he was passed as medically fit. He was assigned to the 41st Battalion and went into training at Bell’s Paddock Camp in Brisbane with recruits from Brisbane, northern Queensland and the northern rivers district of New South Wales.

Attached to the 6th Reinforcement, James’ Unit departed Sydney on the Demosthenes on 23 December 1916 disembarking at Plymouth, England on 3 March 1917 where they proceeded to No 13 Camp, Durrington on the Salisbury Plain for training. In the Contingent was another resident of Blair Athol, Charles William Arthur Johnston. Charles, a miner was 22 years old and was the second witness on James’ Will made on 19 July 1917 when they were stationed at No 13 Camp. Whilst in England, John and Charles were photographed together with a third soldier whose identity is unknown. John qualified as a Signaller and after being hospitalized for both influenza and mumps, arrived in France on 14 November 1917.

The 41st Battalion played an active role in the Allied offensive which was launched on 8 August 1918 and in the long advance that followed throughout August and into September. John was killed in action on 12 August 1918 near Mericourt, a small village in the Somme valley. According to the War Diaries, “Enemy activity was very active through the day and the Company sustained heavy casualties”. The following is one of several eyewitness reports of James’ death contained in the Red Cross files -
“I was with him at a stunt at Cerisy Gaily and I saw him after he was hit by a shell in the head. It was evening time. He belonged to “B” Coy. He was buried where hit. I was told by my mates that burial party went a few days later, and put a cross up with paper list of the fellows buried there tacked to it. Known as “Jimmy” very popular about 19 or 20 years old. Was crosseyed with freckled face. Came from Queensland.”

John was later reburied at Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, the final resting place of so many Australians.

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