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Gunner John Patrick Kelly +

St Patrick’s Catholic School Roll of Honour

Born: 1880 - Nar Nar Goon, Victoria                                                                   Enlisted: 10 March 1916 aged 36

Unit: 23rd Battalion, 14th Reinforcement (SERN: 5388)                                  Served: Western Front                

Died on active service: 26 October 1918 - Harefield, Middlesex England


John Kelly was born at Nar Nar Goon in 1880. He was the son of James Kelly and Maria Fahey. The Kellys were one of the district’s pioneering families. John’s father was well known for his charitable acts and St James’ Catholic Church in Nar Nar Goon bears his name (1). On his mother’s side, John was a cousin of the Fahey brothers who also served in WWI (2). As a boy, John attended St Patrick’s Catholic School in Pakenham. When he enlisted in March 1916, John was living with his wife Mary in Carlton and worked in a rubber factory. John had previously served with the British Army in India (2a). 


Initially, John was attached to the 14th Reinforcement of the 23rd Battalion and later served as a gunner with the 14th Field Artillery Brigade on the Western Front. In September 1918, John was admitted to hospital with renal colic. He was sent back to England for hospitalisation, but his condition worsened and he died in the First Australian Auxiliary Field Hospital at Harefield, Middlesex on October 26 1918. This was little more than three weeks before the end of the War. John’s cause of death was listed as a duodenal ulcer and secondary abscess (liver and perinephritic) toxaemia (3). John was buried in the Australian section of St Mary’s Churchyard Harefield with full military honours. These included an army bugler and firing party, which would have fired off a rifle salute for their comrade. The funeral was attended by a number of hospital staff and patients. Amongst the personal effects returned to John’s wife in Melbourne were a religious “charm”, a rosary and two prayer books (4). These suggest he had continued to be a man of faith after leaving St Patrick’s School. Tragically, John’s father James died only days before John did, only knowing that his son had been reported as ill in hospital (5). 


(1) & (5) Dandenong Advertiser 31/10/1918, p. 2

(2) Narre Warren & District Family History (2016), p 51

(2a) (3) & (4) NAA B2455, KELLY J P