Courtesy of AWM (DA 17499)
Private John Hehir +
Pakenham & District War Memorial
Born: 1873 - Beaufort, Victoria
Enlisted: 18 January 1917 aged 44
Unit: 23rd Battalion, 19th Reinforcement (SERN: 6829)
Served: Western Front
Died of wounds: 20 May 1918 - Ville-sur-Ancre, France.
Listed on the Pakenham & District War Memorial as “J.T. Hehir”, John was the son of Patrick Joseph Hehir and Margaret Ann Tracey (also sometimes spelt “Treacy”). He grew up around Beaufort, near Ballarat. The death of his father in 1897 left John’s mother with several younger children to raise alone. Her financial position was precarious and the destruction of the family home by fire in 1902 pushed the family into destitution (1).
By the time he enlisted for WWI in January 1917, John was a 44 year old labourer of no fixed address. It is likely he was working in the Pakenham district at the time, as he had two brothers living locally: Michael, who was a farmer and William who was an engine driver (2). Once enlisted, John was assigned to the 23rd Battalion 19th Reinforcement. He left Australia for England in May 1917 and arrived there in July. Jack was then marched into training camp. He attended a course at the School of Farriery and qualified as a “cold shoer”. In April 1918, Jack proceeded to France, where he was taken on strength with the 23rd Battalion. Just one month later, on 20 May 1915, Jack was severely wounded in action, and died at the 5th Australian Field Ambulance. He was buried in the Querrieu British Cemetery, 3.5 miles north west of Corbie (3).
Jack’s service and sacrifice was honoured by the Pakenham community with a gold medallion which was presented to his family at a special welcome home social organised in November 1918 for soldiers who had already returned from the War (4). His name was also later inscribed on the Soldiers’ Memorial dedicated in 1921.
(1) Ballarat Star 29/1/1902 p. 6
(2) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Flinders - Pakenham 1918 p.11.
(3) NAA B2455 HEHIR J
(4) Pakenham Gazette 6/12/1918 p.3