James Thomas (Jimmy) VARTY


VARTY, James Thomas

Service Number: 2434
Enlisted: 24 August 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 31st Infantry Battalion
Born: Warrumbungle, Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia, March 1896
Home Town: Coonabarabran, Warrumbungle Shire, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed in Action, France, 1 December 1916
Cemetery: Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval
Plot XXIX, Row E, Grave 1,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Baradine Honour Roll WW1, Baradine War Memorial, Bugaldie HB1, Coonabarabran War Memorial Clock Tower
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World War 1 Service

24 Aug 1915: Enlisted Australian Army (Post WW2), Narrabri, New South Wales
24 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2434, 31st Infantry Battalion
14 Mar 1916: Involvement Private, SN 2434, 31st Infantry Battalion
14 Mar 1916: Embarked Private, SN 2434, 31st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Anchises, Melbourne

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Pte 2343 James Thomas Varty,
31st Australian Infantry Battalion,
8th Brigade, 5th Australian Division
Through the rays of a timid autumn sun which puts in its light the poppy fields of the Somme, rest in peace and in the silence of the eternal rows of their white graves thousands of young men, a whole generation who fought on these fields of remembrance and which for their country and for France, for freedom and peace, gave their today and their youth in the hell of the trenches and which in the barbed wire, under the fires of machine guns, shells and shrapnels gave their lives alongside their best mates, their comrades and brothers in arms who for us and for their loved ones, for the future of the world and of humanity paid the supreme sacrifice in the sacred fields of the Somme where they always stand proud and where I will always watch over them with respect and love so that their young faces, their courage and their sacrifices are never forgotten and that their names, in the light and in our hearts live forever.

Today, it is with the utmost respect and the deepest gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who gave his today for our tomorrow. I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 2343 James Thomas Varty who fought in the 31st Australian Infantry Battalion, 8th Brigade, 5th Australian Division, and who was killed in action 105 years ago, on December 1, 1916 at the age of 21 on the Somme front.

James Thomas Varty, who was affectionately known as "Jimmy" was born in 1896 in Warrumbungle, Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia, and was the son of Thomas William Varty (1865-1939) and of Emma Mary Casey Varty Barnes (1877-1962), who lived first in Red Ridge, Coonabarabran, then in Bugaldi , New South Wales, and had four sisters, Annie Evelyn Varty Hunt (1889-1919), Doreen Frances Drysdale (1911-1972), Mildred Varty Burns, Dulcie Fedelia Varty Rogers (1920-1995) and four brothers, Robert Varty (1903- 1968), Thomas William Varty (1905-1991), Emmet John Varty (1908-1973) and Vivian James Leo Varty (1918-1972). James was educated at Public School then worked as a labourer.

In August 1915, James traveled to Narrabri, New South Wales where he enlisted on August 24 in the 31st Australian Infantry Battalion, 4th Reinforcement, and after a seven month training period in Liverpool, New South Wales, he embarked with his unit from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A68 Anchises on March 14, 1916 and sailed for Egypt.

On April 15, 1916, James arrived in Egypt and was disembarked in Suez and two months later, on June 20, 1916, with his battalion, he joined the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in Alexandria from where he embarked on board "Huntsend" and proceeded overseas for France.

After a ten day journey on the peaceful waters of the Mediterranean Sea, James arrived in France on June 30, 1916 and was disembarked in Marseilles and the following month, on July 20, he joined the 5th Australian Divisional Base Depot in Etaples. A day earlier, on July 19, 1916, the 31st Australian Infantry Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles and was a disastrous introduction for the battalion which lost 572 men in 24 hours. After the battle of Fromelles in which the 31st Australian Infantry Battalion was almost wiped out, James joined the battalion at Fleurbaix where they stayed until September 18 to reorganize then they marched for Armentieres on September 21 and Houplines on September 27.

On October 13, 1916, James and the 31st Australian Infantry Battalion were sent to Strazeele (Hauts-De-France) that they left on October 17 to join the Somme front which they reached in the night of October 17 to 18 at 2:15 am and marched for Yaucourt-Bussus on October 20, Buire-Sur-l'Ancre on October 21, Mametz and Montauban on October 22 where they relieved the Liverpool Regiment on the front line called "Crest Trench" then raised the 29th Australian Infantry Battalion at "Factory Corner". On October 29, James and the 31st Battalion were sent for a short period of rest at "Montauban Camp" and on October 31, they returned to the front line and relieved the 32nd Australian Infantry Battalion.

On November 1, 1916, James and the 31st Battalion were in support in the Factory House sector in Montauban and were relieved on November 4 then moved back to Montauban Camp and marched trough Mametz, Buire-Sur-l'Ancre, Albert, Saint-Vaast -en-Chaussée, Ribemont and on November 19, joined the sector of Trones Wood which was held by the Guards Brigade which they relieved on November 21 then were relieved by the 29th Australian Infantry Battalion on November 23 and moved back to Montauban and the Bernafay Wood on November 25.

Sadly, it was six days later, on December 1, 1916, that James met his fate and his war came to an end. On December 1, 1916 James was among a number of men selected to carry food and supplies from a dump near the village of Montauban up to the front line. It was a dangerous task which involved the carriers working their way through the maze of trenches, often under the observation of German artillery spotters. On this occasion, the Germans opened fire on the carriers with shrapnel, and both James and another carrier were killed instantly. He was 21 years old.

At the time, James Varty was given a battlefield burial, but his remains were reinterred after the war. As was often the custom, a close friend of James wrote to his family informing them of his death, but he never received a reply. An aunt who had also lost a son in the war wrote the following epithet in James’ memory:
"Grieve not for us we rest,
And comrades brave our heads above,
Press on to victory."

Today, James Thomas Varty rests in peace with his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme.
James, it is with the greatest determination that in the prime of your life, you answered the call of Australia, the call of duty and joined the enlistment offices, the ranks of your friends and of your comrades who embarked on the oceans to reach the north of France and the battlefields of the great war which were pounded and hammered endlessly by tons of shells, tearing steel which transformed landscapes and villages that were once peaceful and silent in fields of death and desolation where a whole generation of young boys were mowed down by bullets and buried alive in the mud, in the trenches full of blood and lifeless bodies in which millions of men fought side by side with determination for their ideals and their convictions. For peace and freedom they stood tall and determined in the mateship which bound them to one another and which gave them the courage to go through the horrors and misfortunes of the war in which they gave their youth and moved forward with determination through the darkness and the flames of a world consumed in madness and despair but in this endless hell they remained strong in spite of the death which surrounded them, sly and silent in the poisoned gases and the clay, in the seas of mud that were the battlefields which saw thousands of young men who killed each other in bloodbaths, in frightful melees during which the steel of the bayonets tore the flesh of men who wanted to live but who followed their friends, their officers in attacks as courageous as they were murderous for these poor souls and for their families, their loved ones who received the sad telegrams informing them that their sons, their husbands, their boys died doing their duty with honor and loyalty for their country, men whose lives were taken too early in the sharp barbed wire and who now rested in peace under their wooden crosses on the soils of France where they found the silence of their last resting places.Their eyes today turned towards the horizon, these men, these young heroes who gave their lives for us, watch over these sacred lands of the Somme where so much blood was shed, they watch over the peace for which they gave their all and for which they paid the supreme sacrifice far from home, they watch over each other who did not have the chance to return home but they will never be alone and they will never be forgotten because as long as I live, as long as I breathe I will always watch over them with dedication and love, with respect to express to them my admiration and my eternal gratitude for all that they have done for my country of which they will always be the sons, I will always be honored and proud to watch over them to tell who they were and what their life was until their last breath so that they are never forgotten and so that in the Somme, in our hearts and in remembrance they never cease to live. Thank you so much James,for everything, from the bottom of my heart. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him,we will remember them and their memory, just like the poppies, will never fade.