Courtesy of F.J. Fennell
Driver James Patrick Fennell
Pakenham & District War Memorial & St Patrick’s Catholic School Roll of Honour
Born: 10 August 1891 - Pakenham, Victoria
Enlisted: 25 October 1916
Unit: Field Artillery Brigade, February 1917 Reinforcement (SERN: 33181)
Served: Western Front
Died: 13 December 1950 - Warragul, Victoria
James was the son of Michael and Elizabeth Fennell. His father Michael was a “day man” (labourer) / overseer for the Berwick Shire Council (1). The family lived in the Toomuc Valley. James attended St Patrick’s School and after leaving ,worked locally as a contractor and horse driver. At one stage, he had a contract to “metal” (surface) the Toomuc Valley Rd for the Berwick Shire Council (2). In October 1916, the Australian Government issued a proclamation requiring all unmarried, able-bodied men between the ages of 21 and 35 to undertake compulsory military training, “leading to the possibility of service” overseas. This was intended as a precursor to full conscription. James was assessed as being suitable for service, but sought an exemption on the grounds that his aged father and sister were totally dependent on him. This however, was refused by the Exemption Court at Dandenong (3). James then enlisted voluntarily on 25 October 1916 (4).
James embarked for Europe in May 1917. When he arrived, he was suffering from the mumps, spending some time on the “sick lists” before proceeding to the Western Front. James then served as a horse driver in several units, including the 13th Field Artillery Brigade (5). Men with horse handling skills were in much demand due to the sheer number of horses used by the Army, including for hauling artillery pieces, ambulances and wagons. In November 1918, James contracted the influenza, which was raging across Europe. After returning to Australia in September 1919, he was given a “hearty welcome” from his friends (6). James was one of the returned soldiers presented with gold medallions at the welcome home social held in October 1919 (7). He was also presented with a medal by the Pakenham branch of the Australian Natives’ Association (ANA), of which he was a member (8). Later, James worked around Dimboola for a time, before marrying Mary Agnes Poynter in 1923. James and Mary lived in Brunswick until the late 1920s, then moved to Trafalgar in Gippsland. James served in the Volunteer Defence Corps during WWII, and died at Warragul in late 1950 aged only 59 (9).
The assistance of James’s son F.J. Fennell is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 13/6/1900, p.3 (6) Pakenham Gazette 5/9/1919 p. 2
(2) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 16/1/1913, p.5 (7) Pakenham Gazette 17/10/1919 p. 2
(3) & (9) Narre Warren & District Family History Group (2016), p. 43 (8) Pakenham Gazette 30/1/1920 p. 3
(4) & (5) NAA B2455, FENNELL, J P