Tom and Jack Markey - Soldier Brothers from Yeerongpilly
The John Oxley Library has received a donation of a lovely collection of photocopied material concerning two brothers from the Brisbane suburb of Yeerongpilly, Thomas and John (Jack) Markey who enlisted in World War I and sadly never returned home.
Tom Markey was a 34 year old carpenter when he enlisted in World War I on the 1st June 1915. He was posted to the 25th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcements, and embarked in Sydney on the 20th August 1915 on the troopship, HMAT Shropshire.
The 25th Battalion was raised at Enoggera, Brisbane, in March 1915 and was predominantly composed of Queenslanders. The battalion left Australia in early July and trained in Egypt before manning the trenches at Gallipoli by early September. The 2nd Reinforcements, including Tom Markey, arrived at Gallipoli on the 12th of October 1915 to provide support to the troops already there. The 25th Battalion was one of the last to leave the Gallipoli Peninsula, on the 18th December, following the decision to evacuate.
After four months at Gallipoli the men were malnourished and weak. They recuperated on the Greek Island of Lemnos, building up their strength, before proceeding to Alexandria, Egypt, on the 9th January 1916. After further training they were the first AIF battalion to arrive in France on the 19th March 1916. The battalion participated in the first major battle at Pozieres which took place between July 25th and August 7th. Thomas Markey was wounded in the side from a bomb during this battle, on the 27th July, and was evacuated to a military hospital in Northampton, England. The material donated to the library includes a photocopy and transcript of a letter which Tom wrote while in hospital to his sister, Dympna Markey, who was also in England at the Convent Mary Immaculate in Highfield, Cheshire.
Tom recovered from his wounds and re-joined his battalion in France on the 17th October 1916 as part of the Somme offensive. France was suffering its worst winter in twenty years and the men were dealing with horrendous conditions. As the weather deteriorated, the 25th battalion received orders to attack the German lines at 6.45 am on the 14th November. To compound matters the battalion was greatly under-strength due to a new policy introduced by the British army to leave 33 percent of a battalion's strength out of a coming conflict to serve as a nucleus to rebuild upon after heavy losses. The attack was unsuccessful and led to many casualties. It was during this battle that Thomas Markey was killed in action on the 14th November 1916. He is buried in Warlencourt British Cemetery near Bapaume, France.
His younger brother, John (Jack) Markey, enlisted on the 28th July at the age of 33. Information provided to the A.I.F. at the time of his death gives his occupation as blacksmith. He was posted to the 3rd Brigade Trench Mortar Battery and embarked from Brisbane on the HMAT Armidale on the 20th September 1915. They reached Suez on the 30th October and Jack joined his unit on the 28th February 1916 before moving to the British Expeditionary force in Alexandria, Egypt, in late March. By early May 1916 he was in the trenches in France.
Jack developed pleurisy at Fleurbaix and was taken to the 3rd Field Ambulance on the 28th May, 1916. He was subsequently transferred to the 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station, situated between Sailly and Estaires, France, where he died on the 6th June from trench nephritis. This was an illness caused by the cold and damp conditions in the trenches and was a serious and common cause of death during World War I. Jack Markey is buried in Estaires Communal Cemetery in France.
The death of both sons must have been a devastating blow for their parents, Thomas and Kate Markey. Additionally neither men were included on the Honour Avenue Cenotaph in Yeronga Memorial Park. Thomas Markey's address at the time of his enlistment was in Carl Street, Thompson Estate, South Brisbane, which should have ensured his inclusion on the Honour Avenue memorial. However, Carl Street, is often considered to be part of Woolloongabba and outside of the Stephens Shire, thus disqualifying him for inclusion on the memorial. According to the family, his father, Thomas Markey senior, erected a separate plaque in front of the Country Women's Association Hall on School Road, Yeronga, to commemorate the death of his son. Underneath a weeping fig tree, planted by his father, a white post bears a plaque with the inscription:
A Glorious death Is His Who Dies For His Country. In Memory of Pte. T. Markey, ANZAC, killed in action, 14th November 1916. Planted by T. Markey, Sen.
Jack Markey was also not eligible for inclusion in the Honour Avenue Memorial as he did not enlist in the Stephens Shire. The family do not know why he was not commemorated with his brother Thomas and included on the plaque outside the C.W.A. hall. In a moving gesture this Anzac Day descendants of these two brave brothers erected a new plaque in memory of Jack Markey in Yeronga Memorial Park to ensure that his sacrifice is not forgotten by future generations.
The material regarding the brothers is available at the John Oxley Library in our biographical clippings file for the surname "Markey".
Lynn Meyers, Q ANZAC 100 Content Curator