Rare WW1 soldier’s documents discovered

Cecilia Hannon, with a photograph of her great-uncle, John Tucker, at the Australian War Memorial where his Last Post Ceremony took place in January.
Nanjing Night Net

An article in the Mudgee Guardian on the history of a local World War 1 soldier has led to the discovery of previously unknown documents on his life and death in the trenches France.

The historic documents relate to the service and death in 1918 of former Coolah resident John Edward Tucker, 45th Battalion AIF. He was killed just before his 20th birthday.

Jack Tucker’s great-niece, Cecilia Hannon, of Sydney, was unaware of their existence at the time of his Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in early January.

Following the Mudgee Guardian’s January 2 article publicising his upcoming Last Post Ceremony, Cecilia was contacted by her mother’s cousin, long-time Coolah resident Maria Rindfleish.

Maria told Cecilia that she was very much alive and wanting to pass to her letters and some official documents.

Maria inherited these documents from her uncle, Jack’s brother Vincent Tucker, upon his death in 1972.

These preserved papers give some insight into what Jack Tucker was involved in during his time as a member of the gun team with D Company, 45th Battalion AIF.

Apart from the telegram advising of his death, there is a poignant and beautifully penned letter to Jack’s mother from his platoon Sergeant James Golden DCM:

Excerpts include:-

“I know that he had never been away from home before, he had often told me of his home and people.”

“He was one of the bravest boys in the Company.”

“He had a decent cross erected on his grave, poor child.”

“It was a Sunday when poor Jonnie was killed.”

“Thank God this cruel war is over.” ”

The papers include an original telegram advising his death, addressed to Rev. O’Donnell from the Gulgong Parish; a letter from 2nd Military District dated September 28, 1918, confirming the delivery of the telegram; a letter from his Company OC in D Company, Captain William Herbert Schadel MC, dated August 28, 1918; a letter from his Platoon Sergeant in D Company, Sergeant James Edward Joseph Golden DCM, dated January 19, 1919; a letter from a Miss J. Edwards of Hounslow in England, dated October 28, 1918, sent to Jack’s mother, Minnie Tucker; and a Red Cross document containing a statement given by a Private A. A. Mc Millan – D Company 45th Battalion, dated July 23, 1919, about the location of Jack’s first burial place in Harbonniers.

Cecilia said she was shocked and surprised at hearing from Maria as she had long wanted to find out more details of her great uncle.

“I was stunned; it was wonderful to hear from Maria on January 13 and to receive this new information about Jack,” she said.

“I was still coming down from the high of Jack’s Last Post Ceremony, which was officiated by the RSM of the Australian Army Warrant Officer Class One, Dave Ashley. It was such an honour for Jack’s memory to have someone as senior as the RSM of the Australian Army there. It was a beautiful service.”

“These papers make Jack come to life. I feel like I know him just that bit better now and can gain a real appreciation of his time away from Coolah, a place, according to Sergeant Golden’s letter, Jack was greatly missing,” she said.

“It was shocking to read that the bullet which killed Jack instantly went straight through his steel helmet. He’d put his head up to watch some grenades explode a distance away.

“These letters would have made his parents, John and Minnie Tucker, so very sad but I am sure they were quietly proud of their eldest boy.

“My research is a way of paying my respects to that generation of both men and women who endured so much heartache during the Great War and the broken years for Australia that followed.”

Cecilia believes Jack would be sad to know that we now have a new generation of many broken young men and women following Australia’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and other post-Vietnam conflicts around the globe.

“With this Centenary of the ANZAC Landings at Gallipoli and the observance of the Centenary of the First World War, I’d like to see more analysis on the effect the Great War had on the women who were left behind and of the real suffering that some of the current generation of veterans and serving personnel are experiencing,” she said.

“The world has changed dramatically since August 1918 when Jack was killed, but we can pay real homage to the men and women of that era by ensuring that we take better care of this current generation of veterans, service personnel and their families.”

InSeptember, Cecilia will visit Jack’s grave at Fouquescourt British Military Cemetery in northern France and with his niece Maria’s support, she will shortly be handing these documents to the Australian War Memorial.

Share your family’s WWI storyIn the lead up to the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli on Anzac Day, the Mudgee Guardian will be publishing a series of articles drawing on letters from World War I servicemen which were published in the Mudgee Guardian from 1914-1915. If you would like to share the stories of your World War I connections, or contact Robyn Murray at the Mudgee Guardian on 6372 1455 or email [email protected]南京夜网.au

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