Jack Mawle (Fanny) HUXLEY


HUXLEY, Jack Mawle

Service Number: 2652
Enlisted: 8 June 1916, Kiama, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 45th Infantry Battalion
Born: Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, 7 August 1898
Home Town: Kangaroo Valley, Shoalhaven Shire, New South Wales
Schooling: Kangaroo Valley Public School
Occupation: Poulterer
Died: Killed in Action, Messines, Belgium, 8 June 1917, aged 18 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Flanders, Belgium
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Kangaroo Valley War Memorial, Menin Gate Memorial (Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient)
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World War 1 Service

8 Jun 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2652, Kiama, New South Wales
7 Oct 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2652, 45th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '19' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Ceramic embarkation_ship_number: A40 public_note: ''
7 Oct 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2652, 45th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
8 Jun 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2652, 45th Infantry Battalion, Battle of Messines

Jack Mawle Huxley - underaged

Jack Mawle Huxley was under-age when he presented to the Recruitment Officer at Kangaroo Valley on 8 June 1916. To his family he was known as Jacky.
Likely due to pressure from Jack, his parents William and Maria Ann agreed to the subterfuge by signing their consent for him to enlist and serve overseas. Family say he had received an anonymous white feather in an envelope, an accusation of cowardice. In truth he was only 17 but at almost six feet in height he looked older than his years. This shameful act was to have profound consequences.
He had been working as a poulterer (chicken farming) at the time and joined James Gordon in camp at Kiama. He celebrated his 18th birthday there.
Assigned to the B Company 6th Platoon of the 45th Battalion Jack sailed from Sydney on the HMAT Ceramic on 7 October 1916. They reached England six weeks later and moved into training at Salisbury Plains where the new re-enforcements were trained in latest methods of war. Jack was now in a Lewis Gun crew.
He crossed the English Channel on 8 January 1917 and joined the battalion at Mametz in France. Away from the frontline the battalion was engaged in working parties repairing roads and maintaining supplies to the forward units. His battalion mates now called him Fanny.
Death stalked these soldiers at every moment and Jack was fortunate to survive on 29 May when working in a fatigue party of 40 men behind Messines Belgium. While unloading shells at a railway siding at Neuve Eglise the Germans dropped high explosive rounds into the middle of the position killing four. Half of the party were casualties.
His first action was 6 weeks later in the Battle of Messines Belgium. British planners
had long wanted to push the Germans off Messines Ridge and had been mining out to and under that position for 18 months. Twenty-one caches of explosives had been laid out in large galleries under the German lines. Detonated at 3.10am on 7 June 1917 the noise and vibration was reported to have been heard in London.
Jack went forward with B Company and took their objective but were heavily shelled by the Germans and British alike. Retiring to their starting position they moved out again at 8.30am on 8 June over the same ground. The trenches were smashed and movement was difficult. Machine gun fire swept the battlefield.
Later in the day the crew were re-positioning and making their way across the top of a trench when Huxley was struck in the small of the back by a sniper's bullet. He was quickly moved into the trench and made comfortable, remaining conscious and in good spirits despite his wound.
However the area was subject to heavy shelling all afternoon and Huxley could not be moved by stretcher bearers until after nightfall when taken to the Regimental Aid Post behind the New Zealand positions half a mile from Messines. He died of shock and blood loss on 8 June within ten minutes, in the company of a few 45th Battalion mates - Finigan and Ramsay. Walter Finigan told the Red Cross:
"He was brought into the dressing station badly wounded and was dying … I spoke to him but got no reply, just looked at me and never spoke."
Another mate, Cpl. Arthur Hill said: "He was extremely popular in the platoon."
LCpl. John Caughey was the only one of Jack's Lewis Gun crew that survived Messines. All others were casualties. Caughey was to be awarded the Military Medal (MM) for bravery in keeping the gun in action.
Jack Huxley died one year to the day of his enlistment, still only 18 years of age. 3017 Pte. James Gordon also died at Messines on 8 June 1917.
Jack's sister Clarice mourned the loss of her younger brother. She married William Mathers and they named their first boy child Jack Huxley Mathers in his honour. When he died on heart disease in 1940 Clarrie considered the name cursed and forbade her remaining nine children from naming any of her grandchildren Jack.
None of the 35 born were so named.
The Huxley family hung a large portrait of Jack in the family room for years after.
Despite his records indicating a burial site close to that Dressing Station Jack Huxley has no known grave. His name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.
The Unrecovered War Casualties (UWC) unit of the Australian Army conducted an investigative dig at the site in 2018 but failed to find the graves of the 59 45th Battalion men that share this map reference as their burial site.
One wonders if the person that sent the white feather to Jack bore any guilt or remorse for their action.

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Biography contributed by Geoffrey Todd

"...2652 Private Jack Mawle Huxley, 6th Reinforcements, 45th Battalion, of Kangaroo Valley, NSW. Pte Huxley enlisted 8 June 1916 and embarked from Sydney aboard HMAT A40 Ceramic on 7 October 1916. He was killed in action on 8 June 1917 in Messines, Belgium, aged 18 years." - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au)