Jack Clements when playing in the Portarlington Cricket team in the 1936/7 season. Courtesy of the Portarlington Historical Society.
Sergeant John William Henry Clements
Pakenham State School Roll of Honour
Born: 1889 - Kensington, Victoria
Enlisted: 21 August 1915 aged 26
Unit: 6th Battalion, 19th Reinforcement (SERN 5995)
Served: Western Front
Died: 5 July 1944 - Caulfield, Victoria
Known as “Jack”, John was the older brother of Harold Clements. Like Harold, Jack attended the Pakenham State School, where he gained his merit certificate when he was twelve and a half years old (1). In 1903, Jack was appointed as a “temporary monitor” at Pakenham State School during the absence of the junior teacher. The Head Teacher, Miss “Freddie” Hagens had wanted him to be able to sit the examination for third class student teachers, but this was not permitted at that time. The following year, Jack obtained a position as student teacher at Garfield State School (2). Jack returned to Pakenham State School in 1907 as junior teacher (3), although Miss Hagens was not keen on the appointment for two reasons: firstly, she thought a “stranger” would be more effective since Jack had formerly been a school mate of the students. She was also concerned about the noise which would be created by having a third teacher giving classes in what was an already over-crowded classroom. Jack was appointed nonetheless (4).
Back in Pakenham, Jack, like his father Robert, became very active in community activities, including the local Progress Society and teaching Sunday school at St James’ Church (5). Jack also played district cricket and football for Pakenham. In May 1909, the Pakenham Cricket Club presented Jack with the T.H. Grant gold medal. In presenting this medal, the club’s chairman Hugh Kelly praised Jack’s “sterling and manly qualities - as a cricketer and his gentlemanly bearing both on and off the field”. The event was also an occasion to farewell Jack, who had been appointed as Head Teacher in charge of two state schools near Echuca (6). Jack was not away for too long though, being appointed as head teacher of the Officer State School in 1911 (7). A description of the school under Jack’s leadership has survived: “Mr Clements has been in charge since last Easter, and took up agriculture quite recently. Neat flowerbeds and agriculture plots have been provided and are kept in excellent order. The children are learning valuable lessons from all this work. Definite experiments are being carried out and the children are intensely interested. The parents are interested and actively cooperate in the work” (7a). There were 31 children on the roll in 1913, and 36 in 1915 (7b). After returning to the District, Jack made quite an impact again in the local football and cricket scenes. Part way through the 1914 football season though, Jack and his brother Bruce created a bit of a sensation by requesting permits to play for Berwick, which were granted (8). Jack was described as being in “striking form” that year (9), but Pakenham nonetheless won the premiership that year without him.
Jack was 26 years old when he enlisted for the AIF in August 1915. He received leave from the Education Department to enable him to do so (10). This guaranteed him a teaching position after the War. It was reported though, that because of his enlistment, the Officer State School might have to close, just as had happened at Five Mile School when its teacher joined up (11). When Jack was going into camp, his students presented him with a “handsome dressing case” (12). Shortly after enlisting, Jack was appointed as an acting Corporal with a Light Horse unit at Seymour, then acting Sergeant, before being transferred to the infantry reinforcements. He also attended the Officers’ Training School at Broadmeadows. He was eventually assigned to the 6th Battalion 19th Reinforcement, same unit as his brother Harold, and embarked for England in July 1916. In October 1916 he was taken on strength in France with the 14th Battalion, AIF, having reverted to the rank of private. During January 1917 though, Jack was hospitalised in Rouen with bronchitis and later sent to England, where he was diagnosed as also suffering tuberculosis. He spent about three months in hospital (13) during which time he gradually increased in strength to Class “A-3” (13a). He spent the rest of the War in England, being transferred to the permanent staff of the Overseas Training Brigade. He eventually attained the rank of temporary Sergeant again (14). While in England, Jack played cricket with a team which won the Army premiership, and was awarded a medal as a war souvenir (15). This was perhaps while he was at the No 3 Command Depot in Hurdcott on the Salisbury Plain, whose cricket team defeated those of other depots around Hurdcott in 1917 (16).
Jack returned to Australia in late 1919 and was discharged from the Army on 27 March 1920. In addition to the Pakenham State School Honour Board, Jack’s service was also remembered in the Education Department’s Record of War Service (17) and on the Officer Roll of Honour. He returned to teaching and lived in Clifton Hill in the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1934, he was appointed as Head Teacher at Portarlington, near Geelong (17). Jack died in 1944 aged just 55 (18).
The assistance of Paul Bruce of the Portarlington Historical Society is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 26/6/1901, p.2
(2) & (4) PROV VPS 640/P0 Unit 901 item 1359
(3) Argus 1/7/1907, p. 8
(5) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 13/2/1907, p.2
(6) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 12/5/1909, p.2
(7) Williams (1986) p. 24
(8) Berwick Shire News 1/7/1914, p. 3
(9) Berwick Shire News 15/7/1914, p. 2
(10) (13a) & (14) NAA B2455 CLEMENTS J W H
(11) Dandenong Advertiser 26/8/1915, p.2
(12) Berwick Shire News 8/9/1915, p.3
(13) & (17) Department of Education (1921) p. 120
(15) Pakenham Gazette 10/1/1919 p. 2
(16) Caption for AWM photograph CO1274
(18) The Age 17/7/1934, p. 9
(19) Argus 6/7/1944 p. 2