Courtesy of Wally Nye
Private John William Doyle
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour
Born: 1884 - Corindhap, Victoria
Enlisted: 28 March 1916 aged 32
Unit: 57th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement (SERN: 1910)
Served: Western Front
Died: 16 June 1954 - Pakenham, Victoria
Also known as “Jack”, John was the third son of John and Georgina Doyle to enlist in the AIF during WWI. He was born at Corindhap near Ballarat. Jack worked with the railways and came to Pakenham in 1907. It is said that he rode his bicycle to Gembrook South (now Pakenham Upper) to purchase a 20 acre property with a pocket full of sovereigns he had saved up (1). Called “Hillview”, Jack’s property was located off the Old Gembrook Rd near the Ramage’s property (2) and opposite the Pakenham Upper Church. Doyle Road is named in honour of Jack. In the early days, while his orchard was maturing, Jack also did contracting work to make ends meet, for example, winning a tender from the Berwick Shire Council worth £49 to gravel the main road near Were’s property in Officer (3). Jack was also an active member of the Pakenham Upper community. He played an important role in the building of the Pakenham Upper Mechanics‘ Institute Hall (3a). Jack also played for the local football team along with Albert Nye, Robert Black, Ted Appleton and Charles Warner (4). Later, Jack’s mother and siblings moved to Pakenham Upper, with his sisters obtaining work as “domestics” with the Raleigh family of “Goronga”.
When he enlisted on 28 March 1916, Jack was 32 years old. He was initially assigned to the 20th Depot Battalion at Castlemaine Army Camp, then as a private to the 57th Battalion 3rd Reinforcement at Broadmeadows (5). Prior to leaving for the War, Jack was given a farewell at the Pakenham Upper Mechanics’ Institute Hall, together with Robert Black and Albert Nye. At the event, Frank Wisewould spoke of the need for more recruits, and “shaking hands with the three young men wished them God’s speed and a safe return”. They were given “handsome, illuminated” wrist watches as mementoes (6). Jack left Australia in July 1916 and after further training in England was taken on strength with the 59th Battalion in France in April 1917 (7). Jack’s brother-in-law Frank Wilson served in the same Battalion. While Jack was overseas, the Pakenham Upper Fruit Growers‘ Association formed a committee to look after his orchard, and special “ploughing bees” were periodically held “to get it into order whilst he is at the front” (8). He seems to have written home regularly. In one postcard to his sister Daisy sent from England, Jack mentioned seeing “flying machines” (aeroplanes), while in a letter from France, he mentioned the cold weather and heavy snow fall (9).
During Jack’s time with the 59th Battalion, it was involved in defending Allied gains at Bullecourt and later deployed in the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), fighting a major battle against the Germans at Polygon Wood on 26 September 1917. In early 1918 the 59th Battalion was moved to the Corbie sector of the Western Front (10). In late April 1918 as part of their major “Spring Offensive”, the German Army twice attacked the Allied lines near Villers-Bretonneux, with the objective of then pushing on to capture the strategic city of Amiens. The Germans’ second attack was preceded by heavy shelling using poison gas and they also deployed tanks during the battle. The Germans captured Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April 1918, but did not hold it for long as Australian Forces, (including the 59th Battalion) launched a night-time counter attack which successfully recaptured the town on Anzac Day. According to the 59th Battalion’s official war diary, the soldiers of the 59th had fought with a “dash and courage worthy of the Battalion” (11). Jack was reported wounded the next day (26 April 1918) having sustained a serious wound to the face. He was invalided back to the UK and hospitalised in Oxford (12). When news of Jack’s wounding reached Pakenham, there was great sympathy for his mother Georgina, especially since his brother Frank had died of wounds only months earlier (13). There was relief when it was known Jack was OK: “The friends of Mr Jack Doyle, who was wounded in France a short time ago, will be glad to learn that his relatives have received an intimation that he is convalescent”. There were still other local lads to worry about though: “No further word has come through respecting Mr Don Black and his brother Rob, both of whom were reported to be wounded recently” (14).
By the time Jack rejoined his Battalion on 12 October 1918, the War was almost over. Indeed, with the German Army’s morale was crumbling in the face of the sustained Allied advance on the Western Front, Berlin had already requested terms for an armistice. Germany’s Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian and Ottoman allies were also in the process of suing for peace. Following the Armistice on November 11 1918, John remained with his Battalion in France and it was not until April 1919 that he was “marched out” to England for return to Australia (15). In England, Jack married Edith Minnie Wood at St James’ Church West Hampstead London on 3 May 1919. Jack and Edith had met while he was recovering in England the previous year (16). Jack and Edith departed England on the HMAT Demosthenes in July 1919. Edith had a somewhat rough time of it: being pregnant with their first child, she suffered badly from sea sickness (17). They arrived in Melbourne in September. Jack and Edith were picked up at Pakenham Railway Station by the Appletons and driven up to Pakenham Upper in a horse drawn wagon. There, they were accorded a “hearty welcome” at the Pakenham Upper Sunday School at an event to farewell Jack’s sister Daisy from the District. Also welcomed home was Bob Ramage, who had also only just returned to Australia with his English bride Amy (18). In October 1919, Jack was discharged from the Army (19). The Pakenham Upper community later presented Jack with a special certificate honouring his service (20).
After the War, Jack returned to orcharding. Although his friends and neighbours had looked after the orchard, there had been a fairly significant change while he was away: the Country Roads Board (CRB) had run the new Gembrook Rd through his property! (21). In the early 1920s, Jack sold four acres of the property to the Education Department so that they could build a new school and teachers‘ residence (21a). Jack and Edith eventually raised six children. To help make ends meet, Edith operated the Pakenham Upper post office and telephone exchange for many years. Jack became very active again in local affairs again, including serving on the Pakenham Upper Hall and School boards (22). He was also a member of the Pakenham Bush Nursing Hospital committee for a number of years (23). When Jack died at Pakenham in June 1954, he was described as “a very respected local resident” of Pakenham Upper (24). At the funeral, the RSL service was conducted by Councillor Syd Thewlis.
The assistance of Jack’s son Bill Doyle and grandson Wally Nye is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) S. Wilson (ND) p. 3 & PG 25/6/1954 p. 1
(2) Bunyip Free Press 21/1/1915 p. 3
(3) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 18/3/1908 p. 3
(3a) (12) & (22) PG 25/6/1954 p. 1
(4) Pakenham Gazette 31/7/1959 p. 1
(5) (7) (12) (15) & (19) NAA B2455 DOYLE J W
(6) Dandenong Advertiser 13/4/1916, p. 2
(8) Pakenham Gazette 8/6/1917 p.2; Dandenong Advertiser 8/3/1917, p. 2 & 15/8/1918 p.2
(9) Dandenong Advertiser 17/5/1917, p. 2 & 18/10/1917 p. 2
(11) AWM 4 23/76/27 Unit War Diary 59th Infantry Battalion April 1918 p. 13
(13) Dandenong Advertiser 9/5/1918, p. 2
(14) Dandenong Advertiser 27/6/1918 p. 2
(16) & (17) Information provided by Wally Nye
(18) Pakenham Gazette 26/9/1919 p. 3
(20) Pakenham Gazette 10/10/1919 p. 3
(21) Pakenham Gazette 24/8/1917 p. 4
(21a) PROV VPRS 795/P0 Unit 2453 Item 2155
(23) The Age 24/7/1928 p 2 & 14/7/1937 p. 19
(24) Dandenong Journal 23/6/1954, p. 8