Courtesy of Gail Blackwood

Gunner James Allan Blackwood

Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham South War Memorial 

Born: 30 December 1886 - Berwick, Victoria

Enlisted: 25 October 1916 aged 29

Unit: Field Artillery Brigade February 1917 Reinforcement (SERN: 33176)

Served: Western Front.

Died: 27 October 1959 - Pakenham, Victoria

Jim Blackwood was a 29 year old farmer when he enlisted in October 1916, becoming the third Blackwood brother to do so. This may have been a difficult decision, since he was helping to support his widowed mother and younger sister. Indeed, Jim had previously sought an exemption from compulsory military service on these grounds, but withdrew his application when his brother David was granted an exemption (1). That three Blackwood brothers had enlisted was publicly cited as “an example to others with large families, where none have volunteered for service” (2). However Harry Worship told Arch Blackwood in France that having two brothers already serving was “quite enough to be here” (3). Jim was initially allocated to the 4th Field Artillery Brigade. Before leaving, Jim was presented with a wallet and combination cork screw / tin opener (4), which must have come in handy at the Front given the amount of tinned food the soldiers ate. Jim arrived in England on 19 July 1917, exactly a year after the disaster the AIF had experienced at Fromelles. By August, Jim was in hospital with the mumps. He was anxious to get to the Front, but with summer coming to an end, his brother Andy told him to try to stay in England until the winter was over (5). This brotherly advice would have been based on Andy’s own experiences of the harsh reality of life on the Western Front during the previous winter. Jim made it to France in late September 1917 though, and in October 1917 was assigned as a gunner with the 54th Battery, 14th Field Artillery Brigade (6). This was the same unit as Fred Baldry, another Pakenham South Digger. Jim was actually on leave in England when the war ended on 11 November 1918. Jim arrived back in Australia in September 1919, a couple of months after Arch and Andy. Mrs Blackwood must have been overjoyed! 

Jim quickly got back into the swing of things on “The Island”, writing to Berwick Shire Council in December 1919 offering to clear the scrub alongside the road from the corner of his property to Wadsley’s Road for £4 (8). In 1921, James married Gladys Lewellin and eventually had two sons. James was active in local community activities, including serving as chairman of the Pakenham South School Committee in the 1930s (9). He retired from farming around 1949 and moved into Pakenham East township. James died in October 1959 aged 71. The Pakenham Gazette paid him tribute, stating that “all who knew this quiet, kindly man held him in the very highest esteem, and his death has brought sadness to a very wide circle of friends”. The Gazette also referred to the transformation of Pakenham South that James witnessed in his lifetime, having seen “the Kooweerup swamp develop from little more than an unproductive marshland to one of the most highly developed rural areas of the State.” (10)

 

The assistance of Jim’s granddaughter Gail Blackwood and relatives Graeme Blackman & Ron Blackwood is gratefully acknowledged.

 

Sources: 

(1) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 26/10/1916, p. 2

(2) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 16/11/1916, p.2

(3) Letter from Arch Blackwood dated 24 Dec [1916] 

(4) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 22/2/1917 p. 2  

(5) Postcard from Andy Blackwood dated 24/8/1917

(6) & (7) NAA B2455 BLACKWOOD A J

(8) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 25/12/1919, p. 3  

(9)The Age 11/3/1937, p. 12

(10) Pakenham Gazette 30/10/1959, p.1

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