J W Pooley

J W Pooley

Joseph Walker Pooley (1898-1918)

My name is Joseph Walker Pooley, I am from Australia and my fatal wounds came from the battle of Mont Saint-Quentin. But before we get into that, let me tell you about my past. I was born on the 30th July 1898, and I had two brothers and four sisters. We lived in a small town called Hawthorn, which is about five kilometres from Melbourne. I was born in Australia but to English parents. My father, also called Joseph, was from Sydenham and my mother, Julia was from here, High Wycombe, where she had previously been a chair caner before emigrating to Australia. Once I left school I worked as a painter.

In 1916 I enlisted for the army. The war was in full flow and it was known that some did not come back. I didn’t care; I wanted to fight for the freedom of my country and to serve alongside my fellow Australians. I would have joined earlier but I had to wait until I was 18. So as soon as I could I signed up.

It wasn’t until February 1917 that I finally got onto a ship in Melbourne bound for Europe. We arrived in England in April and after some training we shipped to France in September. I was in the 23rd Australian battalion. There were around a thousand of us. They were all good men who were there for the same reasons as me, to protect our loved ones and to serve our country.

I was in and out of the trenches for the next few months but then in March 1918 I became sick. I’m not sure what it was but I was taken to hospital in England. I was suffering from the most dreadful pains in my head and neck, I couldn’t sleep and I was struggling to walk. After a few months I recovered enough to return to my battalion and by June I was back in France.

In late August we found ourselves pushing the Germans back; although we seemed to have the upper hand it was very dangerous being on the offensive. We were in a town called Peronne, which is in the Somme. On August 31st and September 1st we were trying to move the Germans from some high ground called Mont St Quentin – it was called a mountain but it was only 100m high but dominated the area around. On the night of August 31st, we had to be stealthy as a high-risk procedure took place. As we took our positions for the charge, my heart was racing. I could feel it pounding in my chest. Our General, John Monarsh, told us to ‘scream like bushrangers’ as we clambered over the trench wall and run up the hill. We did and the Germans quickly surrendered. They tried to take it back but in the end we held it.

Unfortunately during the battle I was hit by a couple of bullets; one in the face, which went through my cheek, and the other in my arm. I was evacuated first to a hospital in France, where I had 3 operations to try and stop the bleeding. I was then sent to the General Hospital in Liverpool but while on the train my bleeding became even worse so they stopped the train and I was sent to the nearest hospital, which was at Reading. I died on the 14th September 1918 – although they managed to stop the bleeding I was very weak and died from pneumonia. They decided to send my body to Wycombe for burial as my mother’s relatives still lived there and my father’s relative also came to the funeral. This is why I came to be buried thousands of miles away from my home.

Researched and performed by Jamie Plant

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