04 March 2012

James Ford - WWI British War Medal

This is another example of a family who sacrificed much during WWI. Tim has put together the whole story based on Bill's initial research. This is how Tim has told me the story:

'James Ford was born in 1888 in Brisbane to parents James and Mary Ford. He had five brothers William, Robert, John (Jack), Michael and Richard and they hailed from the West End/South Brisbane area.
Robert (24 years of age) and William (22 years of age) enlisted in the AIF together on 29 July 1915, joining the 11th Reinforcements of the 15th Battalion and being assigned the numbers 3296 and 3298 respectively. James (27 years of age) enlisted on 15 September 1915, also being assigned to the 15th Battalion and was issued with the number 4789. Robert and William sailed for Egypt on 24 September 1915 with Robert joining the 15th Battalion after further training on 6 March 1916. Instead of joining the 15th, William joined the 47thBattalion, known as the 15th's 'pup' battalion, formed when the AIF's 1st and 2nd Division battalions were split to form two extra Divisions in March 1916.
James sailed to Egypt with the 15th Reinforcements to the 15th Battalion on 5 May 1916. After training he finally joined the battalion and his brother Robert on the Western Front on 4 October 1916.
On 1 February 1917 during at attack on Stormy Trench (where Mad Harry Murray won his VC) at Gueudecourt, Robert was listed as Missing in Action. It was subsequently discovered he had been captured by the Germans. He spent the remainder of the war in a Prisoner of War camp in Germany. William was Killed in Action serving with the 47th Battalion during the Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917, after receiving a gun shot wound.
James remained with the 15th Battalion, surviving its major actions throughout 1917. After being twice wounded during 1917 he was Killed in Action by a shell whilst the battalion were in a support trench near Hebuterne on 27 March 1918, where they had been rushed to stem the German spring offensive. James was buried nearby and a cross erected by his comrades. Unfortunately, his grave was lost during further fighting. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial
Robert was repatriated from Germany after the Armistice and returned to his father and mother in Brisbane in mid 1919, passing away in 1926. Of the three Ford sons who sailed for war one survived the atrocious conditions of a POW camp, but died young, and two paid the supreme sacrifice. 
Richard, who had been born in 1900 was thankfully too young to go to war and married Mary Agnes McDonald in 1930. They had children including a son named Gary. On 4 March 2012 after Bill had done the hard lead up work I was able to track down James Ford's nephew Gary and his wife Gloria in Brisbane.
Interestingly, I see that there is a number missing in the 15th Battalion series between William and Robert (3297). I think it likely that either James or another brother also attempted to enlist with them, but was turned away for some reason. A witness in William's Red Cross file mentions there was another Ford brother also in A Coy of the 47th. None of the other Fords in the 15th or 47th Battalion match the family and the witness was a 47th Battalion reinforcement having no links to the 15th, so is unlikely to have got the other brothers confused. Perhaps this means another brother enlisted under a false name, perhaps Gary's father Richard who was born in 1900 enlisted under age?'

James' medal has had a hard life and appears to be fire damaged. The rim has taken several knocks and it was quite difficult to get a clear photo of the naming. The returned medal tally is now 1082.

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