James Whitson Ainslie (Jim) AGNEW


AGNEW, James Whitson Ainslie

Service Number: 13252
Enlisted: 30 July 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 12th Field Ambulance
Born: Glasgow, Scotland, September 1893
Home Town: Richmond, Yarra, Victoria
Schooling: Scotch College & Melbourne University, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: University Student
Died: Shell burst, Just north of Reninghelst, Belgium, 29 September 1917
Cemetery: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
Plot XXV, Row AA, Grave 11
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, MCC Roll of Honour 1914 - 1918 - Melbourne Cricket Club
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World War 1 Service

30 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Melbourne, Victoria
7 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 13252, Army Medical Corps (AIF), Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
7 Mar 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 13252, Army Medical Corps (AIF), HMAT Karoola, Melbourne
29 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 13252, 12th Field Ambulance, Third Ypres

Help us honour James Whitson Ainslie Agnew's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.


James Whitson Ainslie AGNEW was born in 1893 in Glasgow, Scotland

His parents were James Francis AGNEW and Dunbar AINSLIE who married on 5th April, 1892 in Merchiston, Edinburgh, Scotland - His father was Scottish & his Mother was born in Victoria

He had previous service for 3 months in the A.M.C. at Melbourne University & was still serving when he enlisted on 30th July 1915 with the  Australian Army - he was with the Army Medical Corps, Special Reinforcements - Unit embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT Karoola on 7th March, 1916

James was a stretcher bearer with the 12th Field Ambulance and was Killed in Action on 29th September 1917 due to wounds on his head & leg - he is buried in Ligesenthock Cemetery in Beligum and also honoured on the Australian War Memorial, The Cairns Memorial Church in East Melbourne & the Melbourne Cricket Club Roll of Honour

He was awarded the British War Medal & the Victory Medal


The Argus Melbourne, 29th Sept, 1919

IN MEMORIAM - On Active Service

AGNEW.- In proud and loving memory of our beloved son and brother, Jim W.A. (stretcher bearer -12th Field Ambulance)  Killed in Action at Menin Road near Ypres, Sept 29, 1917

Dr. & Mrs. J.F. AGNEW and family

"Great love hath no man than this -to lay down his life for his friends"

Inserted by F.E. & W Carlyle Mackay - In loving memory of our dear friend



Biography contributed by Evan Evans

Adapted from Ballarat & District in the Great War

Pte James Whitson Ainslie AGNEW and Pte David Vallance Kerr ANDERSON MM SERN 13254

Their stories can only properly told together.

Jim Agnew came to know David Anderson when David enrolled at Melbourne’s Scotch College as a boarder in 1909 where they both completed their secondary education.

It was also during his time at Scotch that David became firm friends with fellow student, Glasgow-born Jim Agnew. The pair were to become inseparable.

His final year at Scotch College (1910) was one of considerable upheaval. On 13 May, his eldest brother, James died. David found comfort in the familiar confines of the school and continued to pursue his studies. By December, he had produced outstanding results in English and history.

At the Melbourne University David Anderson was joined by his mate, Jim Agnew in the Bachelor of Arts (Law) course.

In February 1915, having successfully completed the 2nd year of thier Arts degree, David, along with Jim Agnew decided to forgo their studies, choosing instead to offer themselves as recruits in the Australian Army Medical Corps.

Initially David and Jim received further training at the Castlemaine and Ascot Vale Camps. They also performed administrative duties at the No5 Australian General Hospital, in St Kilda Road, and the Clearing Hospital at Broadmeadows before embarkation. Certainly, this did not sit well with Jim, who had begun to chafe at the delay. "I didn't enlist to *be stuck here," he said. "I want to get away."

As part of the Special AMC Reinforcements, the two friends finally sailed from Melbourne onboard HMAT Karoola on 7 March 1916.

They reported for duty with the 12th Australian Field Ambulance at Serapeum on 20 April.

With the Gallipoli Campaign over, the urgency was then to move troops to the Western Front as quickly as possible. As a result, David and Jim spent less than two months in Egypt. They sailed from Alexandria on 4 June onboard the transport Scotian, which, given that both young men were intrinsically Scottish, was seemingly most appropriate.

The men of the 12th Field Ambulance toiled solidly throughout the Australian campaigns of 1916 and 1917. Their selfless work was responsible for saving many lives that may otherwise have been lost. 

It quickly became common knowledge throughout the 12th AFA that David and Jim ‘were great pals’ and had been ‘school chums.’ Therefore, what occurred on 29 September 1917 had a profound effect on the entire unit.

The 12th AFA was positioned at Van Shier Farm north of Reninghelst. It was approaching midnight when Jim led his squad, including David Anderson, of stretcher-bearers out from a central position to a relay post. They had just returned from bringing in a wounded soldier, when they got caught by an enemy barrage. A high explosive shell landed right in front of them and Jim was killed instantly. David was struck in the chest and abdomen. Although mortally wounded, he survived long enough to reach the 10th Casualty Clearing Station at Lijssenthoek where he died on 1 October.

Such was the respect for Jim Agnew, his body was carried back behind the line to be buried at the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. David Anderson was buried by Reverend J. A. Townson with full Military Honours just near his mate.

Both families, the Andersons and the Agnews, continued to mark the passing of the two young soldiers for many years, always linking their names in death as they had been in life.