Anzac: Jack Andrews, only 16

JOHN "Jack" Lancelot Andrews was born on January 26, 1901, at Charity Creek in the upper Manning Valley.

He was the fourth of seven children born to Amelia and John Andrews (known as "Charity Jack" to distinguish him from the many Jacks in the Manning Valley's large Andrews clan).

On December 29, 1916, while still aged 15, Jack enlisted at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, putting his age up by three years. Army mates described Jack as "well built". His medical examination (taken on the day he enlisted) records him as 5 ft 8 in (173 cm) tall, weighing 144 lbs (65 kg) and a having a chest expansion from 32½ in to 35½ in (83cm to 90cm).

Jack gave Amelia's name as his next of kin and his address as Wentworthville (they had moved there several years previously). Being under 21, Jack needed parental consent to enlist. The handwriting on the letter of consent, supposedly written by his mother, is different to the handwriting of his mother's later correspondence with the army. This suggests that Jack enlisted without his parents' knowledge or consent, but they accepted his enlistment as a fait accompli.

Two days before his sixteenth birthday, January 24, 1917, Jack boarded the transport ship "Anchises" in Sydney, and arrived at the training camp in Hurdcott, England, two months later.

On July 9, Jack's unit crossed the English Channel from Southampton to Le Havre, and then took three weeks to march to the front in Belgium where he joined the 54th Battalion.

Eleven weeks later, on September 26, Jack was killed in action at Polygon Wood, Flanders – he was just 16 years 8 months.

"He was in the Lewis Gun section," Pte Jack Temp wrote in his report as a witness of Jack's death. "I knew him for about three months. He was short, nuggetty, fair, and about 19 years of age. He was a dairyman in civil life."

"On Sept 26th, Ypres front, in the first line, holding it after advance," Temp continued, "a shell burst and blew up 13 men in the trench. I saw it occur. After the bombardment, which lasted three hours ... I took the paybook from Andrews' body and gave it to a sargt (sergeant). Afterwards I helped to bury the men in one grave, to put up temporary crosses. In all cases the faces were recognisable."

Pte Rowe said he helped bury Jack Andrews and two other men in a shell hole "to the left of Glen Cross Road, near Polygon Wood".

Jack's body was later exhumed and re-interred in the New Irish Farm Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. His identity tags were sent to his parents.

Today Jack's tombstone gives his incorrect age as 19. In 1929, Amelia Andrews wrote to the Army correcting her son's age.

Jack Andrews was among the youngest Australian soldiers of the more than 60,000 volunteers who never came home from World War I, and whose grave lies in some foreign field.

From the forthcoming book At the Going Down of the Sun edited by Maurie Garland and to be published by the Manning Valley Historical Society.

Anzac Day in Wingham - click here

Anzac Drive - click here


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