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
TROOPSHIP: 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 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.
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. A machine gun bullet was found through James’ heart, one witness said. Whatever the cause of his death, James was killed instantly. He was buried at the Strand Military Cemetery (below) near Ploegsteert.
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 Joseph’s belongings in the mail in 1918, she contacted Base Records to tell them she thought she sent him away with more possessions than was in the parcel. Her grief was evident as she wrote, “…but never mind the few things if I had my poor boy back with us…”
The extended Blackney family felt the effects of war. 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.