Private James Andrews: 25th Battalion

Guest blogger: Lockyer Valley Regional Council.

Displayed in the ‘Walk of Fame’ inside the Lockyer Valley Cultural Centre, Gatton, are ten photographic portraits of Lockyer Valley locals who fought in the First World War. The portraits formed a component of the recent Queensland Government-sponsored exhibition ‘Queensland Transport Museum Salutes 100 Years of ANZAC’, which was on display in the adjacent Queensland Transport Museum from 11 April to 30 June 2015, and featured First World War motorised and horse drawn machinery.

This post is the fourth in a series which will feature the ten Lockyer locals whose portraits and biographies are in the ‘Walk of Fame’. Where possible, we will supplement their stories with some images from the State Library of Queensland or Australian War Memorial collections. We acknowledge the Lockyer Valley Regional Council, Derek Barry and Russell Tattam for allowing us to share their content, which can also be found on the Lockyer Valley Libraries catalogue and Flickr.

Private James Andrews: Saluting 100 years of ANZAC history. Lockyer Valley Regional Council BRN 106057

Private James Andrews: Saluting 100 years of ANZAC history. Lockyer Valley Regional Council BRN 106057

The widow Fleurine Andrews is an iconic Lockyer Valley name and her family made a particularly heavy sacrifice for their country in the First World War.

Born in 1890 at Grantham in Queensland, James Martin Andrews was one of eight boys and three girls that Fleurine brought up alone at Ma Ma Creek, after her husband David died in 1907. He was one of three brothers who gave their life for their country in the Great War. Before the war, James managed the farm with one of his younger brothers and was also a member of the Ma Ma Creek rifle club.

Doing the family washing Ma Ma Creek, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg. 203180

Doing the family washing Ma Ma Creek, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg. 203180

At age 25 he enlisted on October 29, 1915 with his youngest brother Bertie. Bertie probably put his age up, as he was 18 years and 3 months old. Minimum enlistment age at the time was 21. With the rank of private, James (service number 4357), and Bertie (4358) embarked from Brisbane on the HMAT Star of Victoria on March 30, 1916, as part of 11th Reinforcement to the 25th Battalion. Arriving in Alexandra on May 10, they boarded the HT Sootian as part of the British Expeditionary Force. They proceeded to France and disembarked at Marseilles on May 18, 1916.

J.M Andrews, one of the soldiers photographed in The Queenslander Pictorial supplement 1916

J.M Andrews, one of the soldiers photographed in The Queenslander Pictorial supplement 1916

They arrived in the middle of the enormous Battle of the Somme, which lasted five months and claimed one million lives. One of those to die was James Andrews, who was killed on August 5, likely in defence of Poziéres Ridge. Bertie was also seriously wounded and shipped out to Bristol, England to recuperate.

Meanwhile, Fleurine's eldest son George was 27 years old when he enlisted as a private in Townsville on March 27, 1916. He arrived at Bristol on October 13, 1916 and joined the 47th Battalion in France on January 24, 1917. George was killed in battle on June 9, 1917 in the Battle of Messines.

Battle of Messines. Anzac Field Dressing Station scene 7 June 1917

When Bertie recovered, he was transferred to the 69th Battalion and then to the 25th Battalion in France. Tragically he was killed in action during the German spring offensive. The date was June 10, 1918 - one year and one day after George fell.

Bertie was buried at Beacon British Cemetery, near Corbie. James is commemorated on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux and George is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Belgium. All three were awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

War memorial in the grounds of St Stephens Anglican Church cemetery at Ma Ma Creek in the Lockyer Valley, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image APE-055-0001-0008

War memorial in the grounds of St Stephens Anglican Church cemetery at Ma Ma Creek in the Lockyer Valley, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image APE-055-0001-0008

In 1919, Mrs Andrews had a large monument to her three sons built in the cemetery at Ma Ma Creek. The monument, partly paid for by public subscription, is now listed by the National Trust. Eldest son John took over running the farm in 1919 and Fleurine retired to Ipswich where she lived with one of her sons until she died in 1938, aged 80. She is buried beside her husband at the Ma Ma Creek Cemetery, close to the monument.

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These three men were my great uncles and while I have known of them for many years and visited their memorial on numerous occasions, it was humbling to read of their service history and thankyou for letting me know where they are buried in France.