James Phillip (Jim) PETRI MM

PETRI, James Phillip

Service Number: 429
Enlisted: 18 February 1915, Address: High Street & 7 Maple Street, Bendigo Marital status: Single Age at Enlistment: 27
Last Rank: Driver
Last Unit: 24th Infantry Battalion
Born: Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Bendigo, Greater Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: 7 September 1965, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Springvale War Cemetery, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Memorials:
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World War 1 Service

18 Feb 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 429, 23rd Infantry Battalion, Address: High Street & 7 Maple Street, Bendigo Marital status: Single Age at Enlistment: 27
10 May 1915: Involvement Private, SN 429, 23rd Infantry Battalion
10 May 1915: Embarked Private, SN 429, 23rd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Euripides, Melbourne
1 Jun 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 23rd Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
1 Dec 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Driver, 24th Infantry Battalion
8 Jun 1918: Honoured Military Medal, "Peaceful Penetration - Low-Cost, High-Gain Tactics on the Western Front", ‘At Morlancourt, near Albert, France, on the night of 8th-9th June, 1918, this N.C.O. was in charge of 21 timbered wagons, conveying gas projectors to the forward dump. Prior to arriving at the dump a heavy enemy gas barrage was put down, necessitating the wearing of the gas masks. On arrival at the dump the enemy heavily shelled the area. Lance Corporal Petrie being blown off his horse and buried. The barrage had dispersed the unloading party, but Petrie with splendid initiative, took command and supervised the unloading of the whole of the timber. It was entirely due to this N.C.O.'s coolness and courage, cheerful bearing, and encouragement to the men under trying conditions that the projectiles were delivered for use the same night.’ Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 12 February 1919 on page 271 at position 201

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

James Phillip PETRI (Jim)

Military Medal

Recommendation for award:-  

‘At Morlancourt, near Albert, France, on the night of 8th-9th June, 1918, this N.C.O. was in charge of 21 timbered wagons, conveying gas projectors to the forward dump. Prior to arriving at the dump a heavy enemy gas barrage was put down, necessitating the wearing of the gas masks.

On arrival at the dump the enemy heavily shelled the area. Lance Corporal Petrie being blown off his horse and buried. The barrage had dispersed the unloading party, but Petrie with splendid initiative, took command and supervised the unloading of the whole of the timber. It was entirely due to this N.C.O.'s coolness and courage, cheerful bearing, and encouragement to the men under trying conditions that the projectiles were delivered for use the same night.’

Commonwealth of Australia Gazette                  12 February 1919 on page 271 at position 201

On his attestation form when enlisting, James (Jim) Petri stated he was a labourer, single and his next of kin, was his brother Fred of High Street, Bendigo. Following enlistment in the mid February 1915 he went straight into camp at Broadmeadows, managed to get married to a White Hill’s lass, Amelia Smith in Melbourne in early April before sailing for war a month later in the May. No doubt a whirlwind 4 months in the life of a country lad.

Jim was assigned into the 23rd Battalion on enlistment which embarked for Egypt on May 8, 1915. On arrival in Alexander he would not join his battalion clinging desperately to the cliffs of the Gallipoli Peninsula, rather he would be given a rather strange assignment in the December which is referenced in the following letter written home to a friend in Bendigo under the heading: - BENDIGONIAN WHO WAS AT THE FRONT.

Private Jim Petrie, who left with the First Expeditionary Forces, writing from Egypt to his relation, Mrs. E. Campbell, late of Wills-street, says: -

"I was pleased to receive letters from Australia; I got 3 letters and three papers in all on New Year's Eve, so I had quite a happy day reading them; but the fun comes in, when I have to answer same. No parcels or billies have been received by me so far. I have just arrived back from the front. You will have letters by now from me. Well, I had a rough time of it up in the snow, rain and fog. We only had the clothes we stood up in and it was terribly cold. No doubt you have read about, the Balkans. We only had one division up where we were, and we were outnumbered by 20 to 1. We were the only Australians up there, and we numbered only 40 so you see we had an exciting time of it. Just fancy having to tramp 100 miles night and day through snow and rain, but thank God, we got through without a scratch, and now we have got back to our own in Egypt. I was sorry to say we never got any tobacco or cigarettes from your funds. My Christmas dinner menu was two hard biscuits and half a tin of bully beef. We were on half rations when on that retreat. Better luck for next Christmas. On our last ship we slept on boards, let's hope the next ship we get on will be better, and it will be to dear old Bendigo. What would I give to have a good old Cornish pasty? I will have to ring off now as I have 10 more letters to write. So, au revoir for the present. We mean to stick to it till the very end.[1]

Jim Petri’s reference to his Balkan’s assignment is little known by most Australians however, the Australian War Memorial Website offers the following : -

‘While the bulk of the 24th battalion was at Gallipoli, a small party of 52, trained as packhorse handlers, served with the British force in Salonika.’ [2]

Salonika (also known as Salonica, Thessaloniki or Thessalonica) in Greece was a sideshow to the Western Front, but was nevertheless an important campaign to regain control of the Balkans and to prevent enemy forces from gaining control of areas leading to the Suez Canal and the Middle East.[3]

On returning from the Balkans assignment in March 1916, Jim would be made a ‘Driver’ and be appointed Lance Corporal. He would serve through 1916 - 1918 with his battalion being recognised for his brave actions in June 1918.  He would be given leave to the UK on November 9, 1918 and would probably have learnt the news of the Armistice in transit. He would be demobilised and repatriated home a year later arriving back in Melbourne at the end of April, 1919.

SERVICE DETAILS: 

Regimental No. 429

Place of birth: Bendigo Victoria

Religion: Church of England

Occupation: Labourer

Address: High Street, & & 7 Maple Street, Bendigo

Marital status: Single

Age at Enlistment: 27

Next of kin: Brother, Fred Petri, High Street, Bendigo,

Enlistment date: 18 February 1915

Unit name: 23rd Battalion, B Company & 24th Battalion in Balkans.

AWM Embarkation Roll number 23/40/1

Embarked: HMAT A14 Euripides on 10 May 1915

Final Rank: Lance Corporal

Fate: Returned to Australia April 30, 1919

Died: September 7, 1965 buried in the Springvale Cemetery,

At Morlancourt, near Albert, on the night of 8th-9th June, 1918.

Jim Petri’s brave deeds in getting 21 wagons of gas projectiles to the artillery, most likely took place in the lead up the ‘Third Battle of Morlancourt’ fought on 10 June 1918.                                           The Germans had launched artillery attacks and preliminary moves began on the night of 9 June, as the Australian assault companies were brought up to the assembly areas along the front. The assault would be carried out by three of the brigade’s four infantry battalions: the 25th, 27th and 28th.

The battle took place during the final stages of the German Spring Offensive, and saw troops from the Australian 2nd Division carry out a dusk assault on the Morlancourt spur, which provided observation of the village of Sailly-Laurette, to the south of Morlancourt. The main attack was carried out by the 7th Brigade, with flanking elements carrying out diversionary demonstrations. The assault proved successful for the Allies, with all objectives being secured, and a large number of prisoners being taken.[4]


[1] Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918)  Thu 16 Mar 1916  Page 8  LETTERS FROM SOLDIERS.
[2] Australian War Memorial Website – 24th Battalion   https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U51464
[3] Australian War Memorial Website https://www.awm.gov.au/index.php/articles/blog/mettle-and-steel-aans-salonika
[4] Third Battle of Morlancourt, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Battle_of_Morlancourt

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