Silent Heroes - 199 Sgt John Reilly

A couple of years ago I was shown a photocopy of a handwritten diary detailing some of the 1st World War experiences of a young man from Bega, NSW, John (Jack) Bernard Reilly. This diary is not in the collection of the Australian War Memorial at the time of writing. This is Jack's story.

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Location: Canberra, ACT, Australia

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jack's War From 20 May 1915

The following details are an interpretation of the details on Jack's service file. These were hand written and sometimes difficult to follow. Certain abbreviations used by military personnel at the time are sometimes difficult to decipher, although valiant attempts have been made to provide an accurate description.
  • 20.5.15 Wounded Gallipoli – bullet wound to face & scalp
  • 28.5.15 Admitted to No.1 General Hospital after evacuation on Hospital Ship Saleka
  • 12.6.15 Admitted to convalescent hospital at Helouan recovering from wounds
  • 22.6.15 Discharged to Base Detail in Cairo fit for duty
  • 8.7.15 Admitted to No.1 General Hospital – asthma & wound to eyelid
  • 14.7.15 Discharged for duty
  • 19.2.16 Attached for duty No.1 General Hospital Heliopolis
  • 29.3.16 Temporarily attached to 1 Australian Pay Corp Cairo
  • 1.5.16 Embarked for overseas on Euripides
  • 10.8.16 Temp. attached Australian Army Pay Corp London
  • 18.9.16 Promoted to temporary Lance Corporal
  • 26.10.16 Admitted to Western Fever Hospital (Throat) Found to be meningoccic carrier
  • 12.2.17 Australian Army Pay Corp London
  • 13.2.17 Australian Army Pay Corp London
  • 27.4.17 Attached to AMLO at Havre
  • 22.11.17 Appointed acting Corporal whilst employed on embarkation duty.
  • 1.12.17 Appointed acting Sergeant Admin HQ
  • 17.4.18 To retain rank of acting Sergeant
  • 18.4.18 Admitted 2nd Auxiliary Hospital, Southall, bronchitis
  • 23.5.18 Discharged to duty
  • 24.5.18 Rejoined HQ London ex hospital; still acting Sergeant
  • 2.6.18 Proceeded overseas to France for embarkation duty at Calais
  • 4.10.18 Continues embarkation duty at Calais
  • 6.10.18 Admitted to hospital sick – bronchitis. Reverts to Lance Corporal
  • 24.10.18 Transferred to England – bronchitis
  • 20.11.18 Transferred 3rd Auxiliary Hospital Dartford
  • 2.12.18 Discharged hospital and granted furlough – Paris leave.
  • 11.12.18 Admitted Stationary Hospital in Paris, bronchitis. (Emb. Staff)
  • 18.12.18 Discharged from hospital
  • 27.12.18 HQ London – Lance Corporal – detached from attached duty for return to Australia (Emb.Staff) per Nevasa
  • 5.3.19 Boarded Nevasa
  • 15.3.19 To ships hospital sick bronchitis
  • 22.3.19 Discharged to duty ex ships hospital.
There are also notes on file relating to a small amount of correspondence, although copies of this correspondence do not appear to be available.

Next of kin were advised on 28 July 1915 that Jack had been wounded. A letter was received dated 4 October 1915 from family seeking further information regarding his injuries and a reply was forwarded dated the 11th of October.

Next of kin were also advised on 24th October 1918 when Jack entered Hospital on Oct 6th.
Following his return to Australia, Jack was discharged on the 27th of June 1919, having been away for nearly five years.

What sort of man was Jack when he returned we will never know. What we do know is that he was ill, suffering repeatedly from respiratory ailments. He was about 29 years of age when discharged, but it would be another 12 years before he married Rose Kirk in 1931, suggesting that it may have taken some time to recover, both mentally and physically.

While some WW1 commentators have referred to the post war suffering of veterans, it is not a subject that is generally discussed. Yet it is discussed, though not widely, that perhaps as many who died during the war (over 60,000) were to pass away in the next 20 years or so following their return. So it is no surprise to learn that 199 Sergeant John Bernard Reilly rejoined his mates from the 1st Battalion on the 18th of February 1942, at the age of just 52.

A hero now silent, but not forgotten.

A Soldier's Pain
by Laurie Favelle, April 2008

An image charging through the dark
Exploding in a cloud of red;
More appearing, bayonets seeking,
Leaping, screaming, falling dead.
Firing, loading never stop,
Rifle barking, barrel hot,
Score a hit with every shot,
Bursting flesh, set to rot.

And I weep!

Then the faces start their dance
Of men I used to know.
I count and name them passing by,
Drifting slowly row by row.
Empty eyes that cannot see....
Oh,Christ, is that me?
God please take me, set me free,
Am I your son upon his tree?

A silent scream explodes within,
I wake – another night in paradise.

And I weep.


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