HUTCHINSON, James Wesley

Service Number: 962
Enlisted: 15 July 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: North Fremantle, Western Australia, Australian, 1895
Home Town: West Leederville, Western Australia
Schooling: James Street Public School, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Killed in Action, France, 19 July 1916
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Fremantle Fallen Sailors & Soldiers Memorial, Subiaco Methodist Church HR, V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery Memorial, Wagin & District Honour Roll, Wagin War Memorial, West Leederville State School Honour Board, West Leederville War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

15 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 962, Depot Battalion
18 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, 962, 32nd Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '17' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Geelong embarkation_ship_number: A2 public_note: ''
18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Sergeant, 962, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 962, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix), --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 962 awm_unit: 32nd Australian Infantry Battalion awm_rank: Private awm_died_date: 1916-07-19

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Biography contributed by Geoff Tilley

James Wesley Hutchinson was born at North Fremantle, Western Australia in 1895 to parents James Black and Elizabeth Hutchinson (nee McGinley) who were married in West Melbourne, Victoria in 1886. They had four siblings where James was the fourth and only son. James had an elder brother who died at childbirth.
Exact date of when James’s parents moved to Western Australia are unknown, but records show that his father was employed with The Western Australian Railways in 1891 at North Fremantle as a machinist, working for the railways for ten years.
In 1898 James’s father was nominated for a councillor for the Town of North Fremantle
due to a vacancy left by a resignation. The family resided in North Fremantle until about 1906 where they moved to West Leederville. James attended the public school in James Street Perth where he served as a Sergeant in the school cadets. After James schooling it is understood he went to Wagin, Western Australia where he worked farming. It was in Wagin on the 8th July 1915 that he undertook a medical examination and was declared fit to enlist into the A.I.F.
It was on the 15th July 1915 that James enlisted into the A.I.F. at Blackboy Hill Perth, Western Australia conducting his basic training attached to 32nd Battalion. Two companies C and D of 32nd Battalion were formed at Blackboy Hill. It was in September 1915 that these two companies sailed from Fremantle for Adelaide South Australia to join A and B companies to form the remainder of the battalion which had been raised at Adelaide, forming part of the 8th Brigade.
James embarked from Adelaide, South Australia in November 1915 aboard HMAT Geelong A2, attached to C Company. Arriving in Egypt in December 1915 the battalion conducted further training at Tel-el-Kebir, before embarking to France in June 1916. On arrival in France James was sent Morbecque near Hazebrouck in northern France.

It was in July 1916 that James with the battalion moved to their billets at Fleurbaix in preparation for an assault on the German trenches at Fromelles. The plan was to use Brigades from the Australian Fifth Division to conduct a diversionary assault of the German trenches at Fromelles.

The Australian 8th Brigade which 32nd Battalion was a part of along with 31st Battalion were to assault the German trenches on the left flank crossing only 100 metres of no man’s land to get the trenches. The 32ndBattalion was on the extreme left flank their job made more difficult, not only did they have to protect themselves, but advancing on the German lines they had to block off the Germans on their left, to stop them from coming around behind them whilst advancing. The assault was due to commence at 6pm on 19th July 1916.

James’s battalion formed the first and second waves of the attack. Even before the attack commenced the Australians not only suffered casualties from the German artillery but also from their own inexperienced Australian artillery who lacked the skills to provide artillery cover for the assault.

With the 32nd and 31st Battalions commencing their assault and suffering heavy casualties, against all odds the men were able to capture a small section of the German trenches. With no follow up support in getting to their objective and continued German counter attacks the Australians were forced to withdraw from the German trenches.
In January 1917 inquiries with Savoy House Strand, in London were made by Miss Vera Deakin of the Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society in London to establish if James was record as a casualty of the assault. James’s father had been advised by a fellow soldier that his son was killed on the night of the 19th July 1916.

The only information given by Savoy House was that No 962 Private James Wesley Hutchinson, 32nd Battalion A.I.F. was killed in action on July 19th as certified by A.I.F. headquarters on January 22nd 1917. His name was added to the list for details of death and burial.

There were no witnesses to James’s fate on the night of the assault, even if he made it across no man’s land to the German trenches. He has no known grave and is commemorated on VC Corner Australian Military Cemetery, Fromelles France. He was 21 years of age.

Details recorded on the Roll of Honour Circular his father states “He desired to enlist as soon as war was declared but I thought he was too young but allowed him to go when he was 19 years. He was our only son”

In December 1916 a Gertrude Lowe from Wagin placed a notice in the Western Mail Newspaper which reads,

“A token of love to the memory of my beloved friend. Private J W Hutchinson killed in France July 19, 1916. There is one link death cannot sever. Loving remembrance last for ever. Inserted by his sincere friend Miss Gertrude Lowe Wagin”

In November 1920 his father dedicated a memorial plaque to his son on the Honour Avenue of Marri Drive of Kings Park Perth.