Jack Diamond Sumner POTTS

Poppy

POTTS, Jack Diamond Sumner

Service Number: 1203
Enlisted: 11 May 1915, Liverpool, New South Wales
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
Born: New Malden, Surrey, England, 2 April 1897
Home Town: Longueville, Lane Cove, New South Wales
Schooling: Bedford Modern School, England
Occupation: Jackaroo
Died: Killed in Action (flying battle), Jenin, Palestine, 4 January 1918, aged 20 years
Cemetery: Jerusalem War Cemetery
Grave X. 34. INSCRIPTION [sic] PROCUL NING ANTE DIEM PERIIT SED MILES SED PRO PATRIA “Qui procul hinc Ante diem periit Sed miles sed pro patria" Very roughly translates as: A man who died young far away but a soldier and for his country.
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

11 May 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1203, 7th Light Horse Regiment, Liverpool, New South Wales
28 Jul 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1203, 7th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Suffolk, Sydney
28 Jul 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1203, 7th Light Horse Regiment, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
4 Jan 1918: Involvement Australian Flying Corps, Lieutenant, Australian Flying Corps (AFC)

Crashed RE8 in German hands. The body of Lieutenant Potts lies in the foreground.

4 January 1918 – Jenin jaunt ends badly

In preparation for a general assault across the River Jordan by British forces in Palestine, the RFC Squadrons there have been carrying out daily reconnaissance flights (weather permitting ) both to track Turkish movements and to assist in the mapping of the territory. In an attempt to disrupt the enemy, they have also been bombing aerodromes. Yesterday, sixteen machines from 68 and 113 Squadrons dropped 1200lb of bombs on El Afule. One aircraft was destroyed, the ammunition store was destroyed and 40 Turks were killed. On the way home two Albatross scouts attacked the formation, but Lieutenants Ronald Albert Austin MC and Captain LW Sutherland MC DCM, in an escorting Bristol F2b shot one down which crashed near the railway between El Afule and Jenin. This was the first enemy destroyed in air combat by 67 Squadron. The other Albatross was driven off by Captain Allan Runcieman Brown and Lieutenant Oliver M Lee in their RE8 (according to the Official History, although the war diary suggests that Austin and Sutherland were responsible). The raiders brought back news of another aerodrome at Jenin, and early this this morning at around 0700 eight RE8s set off to bomb it, accompanied by 3 Bristol F2b’s from 113 Squadron. 76 20lb bombs were dropped on the aerodrome though with little impact. On this occasion the enemy had the advantage of broken clouds. One Albatross suddenly dived from a cloud upon an RE8 from No. 113 Squadron, and as this machine span away it collided with the RE8 (B5854) of Lieutenant Jack Diamond Sumner Potts and 2nd Lieutenant Vincent John Parkinson, and both machines fell and crashed. Potts was killed, and Parkinson was injured and taken prisoner. The crew of the other aircraft 2nd Lieutenant Alfred Butt and Captain Harald Hewett MC were also killed.Australian War Memorial is an excellent source of research as all available material has now been digitised including squadron diaries and in this case the photos of Lieutenant Potts

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Aircraft collision in Jenin, North Palestine

A copy of a German photograph of the wrecked aircraft of Lieutenant Jack Diamond Sumner Potts AFC, which fell in the German lines. The body of Sumner Potts (pilot) is on the ground and the men around the aircraft are German soldiers 2nd Lt Vincent John Parkinson, AFC, was the wireless operator and observer, he survived the crash with a fractured skull and was taken prisoner of war

Our Jack - Killed in Action in Palestine 04 Jan 1918

When photographing some grave headstones of servicemen at St Mathews Church Cemetery at The Oaks in 2010 we came across a memorial erected to commemorate a soldier who died in World War One.

The inscription on the memorial simply says OUR JACK KILLED IN ACTION IN PALESTINE 4TH JANUARY 1918.

Now for the Camden Remembers researchers Our Jack poses the questions, who is Our Jack and who is his family?

In the book 'The Little Slab Church, St Mathews Church of England The Oaks' published in 2004, Noel Collison the author says 'The identity of Our Jack is known only to those who knew and loved him'.

An on line search of the Australian War Memorial's Roll of Honour lists three Australian servicemen who died on 4th January 1918. One of those happened to die in Palestine and his name just happened to be Jack. Now it would be easy to presume and say wow that was easy we found Our Jack, but proving that Lieutenant Jack Diamond Sumner Potts of the Australian Flying Corps who died when his aircraft crash landed over enemy lines on 4th January 1918 lived in The Oaks or even had an association with the area isn't that easy.

After several weeks researching Jack Potts and his family, making enquiries at The Oaks, Picton and Camden Historical Societies, searching local newspapers and the Sydney Morning Heralds of the day we now know a great deal about Jack Potts but we are still no closer to knowing Our Jack's real identity.

We know Jack Potts was born in 1897 at Kingston New Maldon, Middlesex England and immigrated to New South Wales as a child with his family, father Arthur Ernest Potts, b.1859 d.1946 Molesey Surrey England and mother Lucretia Nanette Gilders, b.1858 d.1946 Molesey Surrey England.

Jack Diamond Sumner Potts along with his brother Leonard Malcolm Potts enlisted in the 8th reinforcements of the 7th Light Horse Regiment. They were taken on strength by this unit on 28/12/15 and later transferred to the RFC and after training served with 67 Squadron AFC.

Sydney Morning Herald 30/8/1917.
Two sons of Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Potts, of Arcadia, Longueville, Lane Cove-Leonard M. S. Potts, previously of the Pitt-street branch of the National Bank of Australia; and Jack D. S. Potts, who followed pastoral 'Pursuits in Queensland-have been granted commissions in the Royal Flying Corps. Both Joined the Light Horse about two years ago as troopers.

Jack's records show he was employed as a Jackaroo at the time of his enlistment, aged 18, on 11 May 1915. He initially enlisted as a Private (number 1203) in the 8th Reinforcements of the 7th Light Horse Regiment, with whom he embarked from Sydney aboard HMAT Suffolk (A23) on 28 July 1915. On 4 October 1916 he was promoted to Lance Corporal. He was detached to the Royal Flying Corps for air instruction on 10 January 1917 then to 67 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in May following the completion of his training. He was promoted to Lieutenant in October of that year, and graded as First Class Pilot.

Jack was killed in action while flying over enemy lines on 4 January 1918. The proceedings of a court on inquiry found that;
On January 4th 1918, Lieut. J.D.S Potts, Pilot and 2/Lieut. V.J. Parkinson, Observer, were flying an R.E.S, on a bomb raid on the enemy aerodrome at Jenin. They failed to return...On January 10th, a message was dropped by Hostile aircraft which stated that our machine had been forced to land and that Lieut. Potts had been buried and that 2/Lieut. V.J. Parkinson was slightly wounded and was the a Prisoner of War. It also stated that Lieut. Potts had been buried at Jenin, and enclosed a photograph of his grave.

JDS Potts Grave at JeninJDS Potts Grave
Joe Bull, an aircraft mechanic also refers to the incident in regard to Jack Potts death in his diary which has been published called 'One Airman's War'.
The entry for 26th June 1917 (added since publication) is interesting.
"67(Australian) Squadron launched a morning bombing raid on Jerusalem which ended in very costly loss of machines. The target was the Turkish 4th Army HQ at the Mount of Olives, and involved eight aircraft. Many bombs were dropped at the target, but on the return flight events began to go wrong. The BE2e of Lt Brown was forced to land with engine trouble near Beersheba and, though two others landed to assist, it could not be restarted or destroyed owing sniper fire. Brown arose in Lt RA Austin's BE2e, but then this machine began to fail and landed once more. Lt AT Cole in his Martinsyde, probably No. 7487, attempted to pick up both men but his engine failed and he smashed his undercarriage in the forced landing. The three stranded pilots began to walk through no-man's-land to their lines, having buried guns, cameras etc., and were eventually rescued by light horse patrols. Their aircraft were never salvaged as Turkish forces later burnt them (the lost BE2es were probably Nos. 6803 and A2771). Meanwhile, two more BE2es ran out of fuel, having been delayed by events unfolding below, and had been forced down. Their pilots, Lt JH Butler in A1314 and Lt LMS Potts in A2777, were picked up by Capt AL Jones and Lt R Drummond in their Martinsydes and they returned safely. The two BE2es could only be salvaged for spares. In all, four BE2es and one Martinsyde were lost."

Wed 11th Jul 1917
"The Hun was over this morning with a scout flying high above escorting him. He dropped a message stating that Captain Brooks was buried with full military honours and that Vautin was forced to land with his prop and controls shot away. One of them went out and picked him up and gave him a stunt over Jerusalem. There was a note also from Vautin asking for his kit to be dropped. So this evening Captain Jones and Lieutenant Paget took the kit over along with various notes and planed down to 50ft over the Ramleh aerodrome and dropped the lot. They waved to the HQ staff and recognised some of the German pilots who waved back to them. No 'Archies' were fired at them and only an odd rifle bullet."

Thur 17 Jan 1918
"Our B.F. No.A7194 went out on recco this morning at 8.20 and knocked a Hun over Nablus. They met eight Huns, five above and three below them and they turned sharply and dived on a scout which fell to earth out of control. The pilot was Lieutenant L.M. Potts who says he is evens with them now, meaning that he has made them pay for the loss of his brother, Lieutenant J. Potts. The observer, Lieutenant Hancock, also got a few rounds in with his back gun but he gives credit to Potts' gun for knocking the Hun."

[Potts' combat report read - "...I turned and dived on (the) last machine of (the) formation, leaving (the) escort machine above me to look after (the) 3 scouts above, who did not show any inclination to attack. I fired a burst of about 30 (rounds) into the Hostile Aircraft who was seen to lose control of (the) machine which turned over on its back and went down completely out of control."]

A couple of months later Leonard travelled to Port Said to front a medical board and on 5/4/18 he was admitted to 14 AGH hospital with a "Debility" and was taken off the "effective strength of No.1 Squadron AFC". He was sent home on 29/4/18 on the ship "Tofua" effectively discharged.

We're not giving up the search just yet, there's still a glimmer hope. We hope this article might reach someone who knows something about Our Jack. Maybe it's the person who placed the flower at the base of his memorial recently, it wasn't there the first time we photographed it.

It might be that we'll never find out who Our Jack is, in that case he will remain forever 'known only to those who knew and loved him'.

Whoever commemorated Our Jack at St Mathews Church Cemetery created a fine memorial befitting one of our war dead. Lest we forget.

Now, fast forward to 2013. Vera Bertola a journalist with the Macarthur Chronicle Newspaper had read Our Jack's story on Camden Remembers and saw our frustration in not being able to identify him. Vera decided to run the story on 30 April in conjuction with the Anzac Day coverage to create some community interest to solve the puzzle of 'Who is Our Jack?'.

It wasn't long before we had a phone call from Vera with the great news the mystery of the identity of Our Jack had been solved after some 'dogged' investigation by researcher friends Colin Renshaw from Hill Top and Guy Oulden in Melbourne.

Guy reported it was with 'a strike of luck' he found an entry in the NSW Police Gazette dated 6 March 1929, page 193:
CLARENCE STEVENS (19), charged with breaking and entering the dwelling-house of Lucretia Nanette Potts and stealing goods, the value 20 pounds, the property of Bertrand Gilders, has been arrested by Constables McCarthy and Hamilton, Detective-constable Geldart, Detective-Sergeant Sedgwick and Constable Skehan, Parramatta, The Oaks and Sydney Police. Committed for trial at Parramatta sessions.

Lucretia Potts was Jack's mother and Bertrand Gilders was Lucretia's brother (Jack's uncle).

We trust that this might assist in finally solving the question of the identity of "Our Jack". Pleased to be able to assist.

The story also prompted an email from Jack Potts great nephew Oliver Sumner Potts from North Queensland after being told of the story by a Sydney friend. The family always knew the Memorial was Uncle Jack's, but we never knew the connection, he said.

In the 14 May 2013 edition of the Macarthur Chronicle Vera reported, "Our Jack Puzzle Solved". So after more than three years wondering and wishing to know Our Jacks identity, with the help of the Macarthur Chronicle and the community touched by Vera Bertola's article we all agree that:

Our Jack is indeed Lieutenant Jack Diamond Sumner Potts who was killed in action while flying over enemy lines on 4 January 1918.......Lest we forget.

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Biography contributed by Geoffrey Gillon

Births Jun 1897   Potts Jack Diamond S Kingston 2a 350

 
New Malden, Surrey Created 1894 from the part of the parish of Kingston upon Thames in New Malden Urban District.

He was 21 and the son of Arthur Ernest and Lucretia Nannette Potts, nee Gilders, of "Arcadia," Longueville, Sydney, New South Wales. 

 

Marriages Mar 1882   
Gilders Lucretia Mannette W. Ham 4a 145
  
POTTS Arthur Ernest        W. Ham 4a 145
  

INSCRIPTION
PROCUL NING ANTE DIEM PERIIT SED MILES SED PRO PATRIA

'Qui procul hinc,' the legend's writ, -
The frontier-grave is far away - 
'Qui ante diem periit:
Sed miles, sed pro patria.'
Very roughly:

A man who died young far away but a soldier and for his country. Latin inscription was composed by Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938) for his poem Clifton Chapel, a rather alarmingly militaristic poem that was very popular in its day. A father introduces his son to his old school chapel and tells him that of all the glittering prizes the future might bring there is none more pure than the one represented by the words on one of the brass plaques. Translated the words mean - who died in a far off land before his time but as a soldier and for his country. In other words, there is no nobler ambition for a young man than to be prepared to die for your country.

Rudyard Kipling, whose own son John was killed in the Great  War but had no grave, chose these same words for John's memorial in Burwash Church in Sussex. Kipling, who expressed so eloquently the pride and grief of a nation in the work he did for the War Graves Commission, used the words of another man for his son.

 

Jack & his brother, Squadron Leader Leonard Malcolm Sumner Potts –[Born: Wellington, New Zealand, 11 March 1895 ] both enlisted in the 7th Light Horse Regiment in May 1915. They embarked from Sydney with the 8th Reinforcements, on HMAT Suffolk on 28 July 1915. Both brothers transferred to the Australian Flying Corps & became pilots

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Biography

"...Lieutenant Jack Diamond Sumner Potts. Born in New Maldon, Middlesex, England, Jack Potts immigrated to New South Wales as a child with his family and was employed as a Jackaroo at the time of his enlistment, aged 18, on 11 May 1915. He initially enlisted as a Private (number 1203) in the 8th Reinforcements of the 7th Light Horse Regiment, with whom he embarked from Sydney aboard HMAT Suffolk (A23) on 28 July 1915. On 4 October 1916 he was promoted to Lance Corporal. He was detached to the Royal Flying Corps for air instruction on 10 January 1917 then to 67 Squadon, Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in May following the completion of his training. He was promoted to Lieutenant in October of that year, and graded as First Class Pilot. He was killed in action while flying over enemy lines on 4 January 1918. The proceedings of a court on inquiry found that; 'On January 4th 1918, Lieut. J.D.S Potts, Pilot and 2/Lieut. V.J. Parkinson, Observer, were flying an R.E.S, on a bomb raid on the enemy aerodrome at Jenin. They failed to return...On January 10th, a message was dropped by Hostile aircraft which stated that our machine had been forced to land and that Lieut. Potts had been buried and that 2/Lieut. V.J. Parkinson was slightly wounded and was the a Prisoner of War. It also stated that Lieut. Potts had been buried at Jenin, and enclosed a photograph of his grave." - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au) (www.awm.gov.au)

Court of Inquiry: 12th March 1918

"On January 4th 1918, Lieut J D S Potts, Pilot and 2/Lieut V J Parkinson, Observer, were flying an R E S, on a bomb raid on the enemy aerodrome at Jenin. They failed to return. The morning was cloudy and the machine was not seen to go down by other members of the raiding party. On January 10th, a message was dropped by Hostile aircraft which stated that our machine had been forced to land and that Lieut Potts had been buried and that 2/Lieut V J Parkinson was slightly wounded and was a POW..." - Shared by Selena Hardie

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