James Simpson DUCKSBURY


DUCKSBURY, James Simpson

Service Number: 523
Enlisted: 1 September 1914
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 5th Machine Gun Battalion
Born: Unanderra New South Wales, December 1893
Home Town: Unanderra, Wollongong, New South Wales
Schooling: Unanderra State School, New South Wales
Occupation: Fireman
Died: Wounds, 20th Casualty Clearing Station, Vignacourt, France, 30 April 1918
Cemetery: Vignacourt British Cemetery
Vignacourt British Cemetery (Plot I, Row E, Grave no. 9), France, Vignacourt British Cemetery, Vignacourt, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Unanderra Public School Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

1 Sep 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 523, 3rd Infantry Battalion
20 Oct 1914: Involvement Private, SN 523, 3rd Infantry Battalion
20 Oct 1914: Embarked Private, SN 523, 3rd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Euripides, Sydney
11 Mar 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 14th Machine Gun Company
3 Aug 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 523, 14th Machine Gun Company, Battle for Pozières , SW to head
26 Apr 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 523, 14th Machine Gun Company, German Spring Offensive 1918, DOW - gassed
30 Apr 1918: Involvement Private, SN 523, 5th Machine Gun Battalion

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout and Susan Ducksbury

Pte James Simpson DUCKSBURY
Under the blue sky of the Somme, stand thousands of white graves casting their shadows across the white cities, the peaceful cemeteries in which rest in peace, for eternity, among the poppies that grow, thousands of young men who , far from home, for their country and for France, fought and gave their lives, gave their all in the trenches and on the battlefields in the most beautiful spirit of mateship in which they gathered, with which they served and in which they rest today, still side by side as they were over a hundred years ago. Gone but not forgotten, they are still here, smiling and proud, standing behind the names of their graves to tell us who they were and what they did for us, to tell us the story of men, of a whole generation which did so much for us and for our country and which I want to tell today with the greatest respect so that they will never be forgotten, so that they will live forever.

Today, it is with the greatest gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men who fought and fell in France, 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 523 James Simpson Ducksbury who fought in the 14th Machine Gun Company, 5th Machine Gun Battalion of the Australian Machine Gun Corps and who died of his wounds 103 years ago, on Tuesday April 30, 1918 at the age of 25 on the Somme front.
James Simpson Ducksbury was born in 1893 in Unanderra, New South Wales, and was the son of Henry Ducksbury and Mary Ducksbury (née Scott), of Unanderra Post Office, via Wollongong, New South Wales. James was educated at Unanderra Public School and after his studies he worked as a train driver. He was a keen sportsman representing Unanderra and the district in several sports including cycling and rugby league.

James enlisted on September 1, 1914 in Sydney, New South Wales, as a Private in the 3rd Australian Infantry Battalion, C Company, and embarked with his unit from Sydney, on board HMAT A14 Euripides on October 20, 1914 and sailed for Gallipoli and was lightly wounded in Lone Pine then after Gallipoli, he was sent to Alexandria, Egypt, to join the MEF (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) and was disembarked on May 26, 1915 and admitted the same day to a hospital suffering from rheumatic fever.
Three months later, on August 2, 1915, he was taken on ration strength at Mustapha, Egypt. A few days later, on August 10, 1915, he embarked from Alexandria on board Simla to join the front line at Tel-El-Kebir where he arrived on December 29, 1915 and was transferred to the 55th Australian Infantry Battalion on February 13, 1916 taking part in the Battle of Tel-el-kebir. A month later, on March 4, 1916, he was sent to the School of Instruction at Zeitoun, Egypt, and on March 11, was transferred to the 14th Australian Machine Gun Company then promoted to the rank of Corporal on March 26, 1916.
Three months later, on June 19, 1916, James embarked with his unit from Alexandria, on board Canada and sailed for France where he was disembarked at Marseilles on June 25 and was sent to the Somme front and fought bravely at Pozieres which was the first major engagement of the Australian army on this front.

Intended in part to divert the German army’s attention from Verdun, the Somme offensive included the fighting around Pozières, which dominated the high ground in the British advance towards Thiepval. There the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Australian divisions wrested a small, devastated area from the enemy, but at a staggering cost. Over 42 days the Australians made as many as 19 attacks against the German positions. The final casualties totalled an appalling 23,000 men killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. The losses sustained throughout that exhausting period were almost unsustainable for a volunteer army.

The high ground at Pozières was an essential advantage, and a place from which further attacks could be launched. The 1st Division was the first to go into the battle, and did so on 23 July 1916. The Australians managed to capture the village of Pozières, whereupon they were subjected to relentless artillery bombardment that reduced the village to rubble and inflicted a heavy toll among the allied troops. The 2nd Division relieved the 1st, and suffered even more losses attacking towards the heights east of the village. The 4th Division then went in, pressing its attack north towards Mouquet Farm and holding off German attempts to retake Pozières. Each of the three Australian divisions, though severely reduced, served a second tour on this notorious battleground.
The massive artillery bombardment from the Germans at Pozières inflicted a huge number of casualties among the Australians. For several weeks Pozières became the focus of the Somme fighting and the worst place to be on earth.Of the 23,000 Australian casualties, 6,800 men were killed or died of wounds.
Unfortunately, it was in Pozieres, on August 8, 1916, that James was wounded in action for the first time by a shrapnel wound to the head and was evacuated to England on August 13 on board HS Brighton then admitted the next day,on August 14 to the 2nd West General Hospital in Manchester then at Perham Downs.After a long period of convalescence, James finally left the hospital on January 15, 1917 and sent to Number 1 Command Depot then a month later, on February 23, 1917, he followed a new period of training at the Machine Gun Depot in Grantham then to Belton Park.

On March 21, 1917, James was attached to the 25th Australian Machine Gun Company at Perham Downs and seven months later, on October 18, 1917, he embarked from Folkestone and proceeded overseas for France where he was disembarked the same day and sent to the Machine Gun Corps Base Depot at Camiers, Pas-De-Calais, where he was again transferred to the 14th Australian Machine Gun Company, 5th Australian Machine Gun Battalion and then sent to the Somme front which he reached on October 22.

Six months later, on April 14, 1918, for unknown reasons, James himself requested to be demoted from his Corporal rank and his request was approved and he fought again as a Private but unfortunately, it was in the Somme, just over two weeks later, on April 30, 1918, during the German spring offensive of 1918 that James met his fate.

On April 26, 1918, while with his unit to the left of Villers-Bretonneux,in the Bois De Vaire sector, a gas shell knocked him and buried him but he was rescued by a sergeant. Still conscious but seriously wounded and gassed, he was immediately evacuated in Vignacourt and admitted to the 20th Casualty Clearing Station where despite the greatest care he received, he died four days later, on April 30, 1918, he was 25 years old.

Today, James Simpson Ducksbury rests in peace with his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Vignacourt British Cemetery, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription "Though lost to sight thy memory is dear".

Red Cross reports say James Simpson Ducksbury had a wife in England and was married but this information is uncertain.

Another information shows that he was a Sergeant before he asked to be demoted but this promotion is not indicated in his file.

James, you who were young, your life was taken too soon in the fields of poppies in which your grave and that of your comrades, of your brothers in arms stand under the sun of the Somme, in a peaceful silence in which you rest now in peace, a peace for which you fought and gave your life and for all that you have done for us, for your country and for France, I would like, from the bottom of my heart, with respect and gratitude to say to you thank you.in the trenches of Gallipoli, France, on the battlefields of the Somme, you served and fought with honor, with pride alongside your friends in the most beautiful spirit of unity and mateship, bravery and gallantry , you have, through your actions, your courage, your loyalty and your devotion made your country proud and without hesitation, without fear but with all your heart, you answered the call of duty to come to the aid of France, a country that you did not know but for which, together alongside thousands of men as brave as you did so much.they fought and made this fight theirs, with all their heart as if they were born here, as if this country were theirs, they were deeply loved, admired, respected and loved by the French people, by their brothers in arms French who saw in these young men who came from so far, the hope, the bravery, the courage of a whole nation,of a whole generation who walked fearlessly, who, despite the difficulties and the trials of war, never backed down.In the mud of the trenches, in the blood of the battlefields, under the barbed wire, under the fire, under the rains of bullets, under the infernal roar of the cannons, they never took a step back, they moved forward with pride to do their duty, for their country but also for their loved ones and for their comrades who gave them the courage and the strength to fight and to continue to move forward despite very high losses, they charged with determination, with the conviction to do what was right, they fought for causes which united them, for justice, for freedom and for peace. Together they lived and fought, they shared the joy and the sorrows, the pains and the sufferings, they mourned their comrades but always kept their heads high and in the face of the adversity of war, they showed unity, solidarity, brotherhood that united these men in the trenches, they remained strong and determined, they overcame their fears and under the hell that was raining down on them, they kept their smiles on their young faces, they kept their good humor, nothing stopped them, nothing did not break them and it is together, not as soldiers and officers that they went over the top, it is as friends, brothers in arms that they faced the fire of the machine guns, all equal, all united, they were exceptional men, all were heroes and together they shed their blood, they gave their youth, they paid the supreme sacrifice by giving their lives,nothing has separated them and it is always side by side that they rest in peace next to each other.The war has stopped their lives but history has made them eternal,because in our hearts, in our thoughts, they never cease to live and on the stone of their white graves, they are not only names, behind each of them proudly stands a man with a story, a face, a life before the war, a family, not just soldiers, they were men above all, men over whom I would always watch with all my heart and with the highest respect and whose stories I would always share with love so that they will never be forgotten and so that they will live forever together under the flame of Remembrance that I would carry always high and proud for each of them.Thank you James,for everything.At the going down of the sun and in the morning,we will remember him,we will remember them.

I would also like, with all my heart, to thank your great niece, Susan Ducksbury who allowed me to go to your grave and pay you my respects and who allowed me to write this tribute for you.Your great niece never forgets you and feels the greatest pride for you and today I am honored to be in contact with her and I wish to join her to honor and remember you.You will never be forgotten.