Courtesy of AWM (DACS0469)
Private James Christopher Devereaux
Pakenham & District War Memorial
Born: 1896 - Warragul, Victoria
Enlisted: 31 July 1915 aged 19
Unit: 24th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement (SERN:2621B)
Served: Egypt & Western Front
Died: 30 May 1989 Warragul, Victoria
Also known as “Dit” (1), James was a son of Edward and Catherine Devereaux. James grew up around Warragul and Nilma in Gippsland. James was a nineteen year old driver (presumably working in Pakenham) when he enlisted on 31 July 1915. Being under age, he needed his parents’ permission to enlist. This permission was given willingly, with James’ father writing: “I ... agree to give my consent to my son James to enlist for the War to fight for his King and Country” (2). James was one of several members of the Devereaux family to serve in WWI (3). After enlisting, James was assigned to the 24th Battalion 6th Reinforcement. He left for Egypt in late October 1915. There, James was re-assigned to the 7th Battalion and transferred to the Western Front. In October 1916, James was stricken with appendicitis and invalided to England.
After recovering, James was transferred to the 65th Training Battalion before returning to 7th Battalion in Belgium in October 1917. This was towards the end of the infamous Third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), which from July to November 1917 claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides. In November 1917, James was attached to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Headquarters (3). The 2nd Infantry Brigade consisted of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions. During early 1918, the 2nd Brigade fought desperately to halt the German “Spring Offensive”, and then participated in the subsequent Allied push towards the Germans’ Hindenburg Line. James took ill whilst on leave in England in August 1918 and was hospitalised in London. By the time James was discharged and returned to his unit in France, the War had just days to run and the AIF had fought its last battle on the Western Front. James remained in France until 19 January 1919 when he was “marched out” to England for return to Australia. He arrived back in Melbourne in May 1919 and was discharged on 6 July (4).
After the War, James returned to the Warragul district, where he again worked as a driver. Later, he became a linesman, then supervisor with the Postmaster General’s Department (5). James’s wife Mary pre-deceased him and the couple had no children. He died at Warragul on 30 May 1989 aged 95 years old. This meant that James was probably the last of the original Pakenham WWI Diggers to pass away.
The assistance of Malcolm Dixon of the Warragul & District Historical Society is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) & (5) Information provided by Warragul & District Historical Society
(2), & (4) NAA B2455 DEVEREAUX J C
(3) Blair (2000) p. 124