BLACKNEY, James Alexander

NAME: James Alexander BLACKNEY                                                                                       098

SERVICE NO:  1236

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1895

PLACE OF BIRTH:  Hamilton

DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 20 March 1916

PLACE OF ENLISTMENT:  Hamilton

AGE AT ENLISTMENT:  21

UNIT: 39th Battalion, D Company

EMBARKED:  27 May 1916

TROOP SHIP:  HMAT A11 Ascanius

FATE:  Killed in Action – 25 May 1917 – Ploegsteert, Belgium

James Blackney was a son of  John Henry Blackney and Annie Lyfield.  The family lived in Cox Street Hamilton and later, Ballarat Road.  John Blackney, a labourer and long-time Hamilton resident, died in 1910 at Ararat.

At the age of twenty-one, James, a blacksmith, enlisted on 20 March 1916 and went to the 39th Battalion camp at the Ballarat Showgrounds.  He left Australia in May and arrived at Devonport, England on 18 July 1916 and proceeded to Lark Hill camp in Wiltshire.  James left for France on 25 November 1916 and by early December was at Houplines, a member of the 13th Platoon, D Company, 39th Battalion where they remained until February 1917.

SOLDIERS OF THE 39TH BATTALION AT HOUPLINES, DECEMBER 1916. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E00106/

SOLDIERS OF THE 39TH BATTALION AT HOUPLINES, DECEMBER 1916. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E00106/

By the end of April 1917, the 39th Battalion was at Ploegsteert. On 25 May 1917, James was in a working party in a frontline trench near Ploegsteert Wood fixing emplacements of trench mortars when a shell hit about 11:00 am, burying James. He was dug out but he was dead. One witness said a machine gun bullet was found through James’ heart.  Whatever the cause of his death, James was killed instantly.  He was buried at the Strand Military Cemetery (below) near Ploegsteert.

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/H12650/

STRAND MILITARY CEMETERY. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/H12650/

On 9 June 1917, the Hamilton Spectator published the news of James death.  The Archdeacon of the Hamilton Christ Church, Reverend Harris delivered the sad news to Annie Blackney.  When she received Josephs belongings in the mail in 1918, she contacted Base Records to tell them she thought she sent him away with more possessions than were in the parcel.  Her grief was evident when she wrote, “…but never mind the few things if I had my poor boy back with us…”

The effect of the war was felt by the extended Blackney family.  James’ older brother John married Mary Crawford McClintock in 1913.  Two of Mary’s brothers, James and John McClintock were killed in France, James on 24 August 1916 and John on 1 March 1917.  Annie Blackney died aged Hamilton in 1937 aged eighty-three.

James Blackney’s name is on the Hamilton War Memorial.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Australian War Memorial – 39th Australian Infantry Battalion

Australian War Memorial – Red Cross Missing and Wounded Files – James Alexander Blackney

Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour – James Alexander Blackney

Australian War Memorial – WW1 Embarkation Roll –  James Alexander Blackney

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Strand Military Cemetery – James Alexander Blackney

Discovering Anzacs – WW1 Service Record – James Alexander Blackney

Newspaper Articles from Trove – James Alexander Blackney

The AIF Project – James Alexander Blackney

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