SERVICE NO: 2734
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1892
PLACE OF BIRTH: Warracknabeal
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 8 July 1915
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Melbourne
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 22
UNIT: 8th Battalion 8th Reinforcements
EMBARKED: 15 September 1915
TROOP SHIP: SS Makarini
FATE: Killed in Action – Flers, France – 9 November 1916
Born at Warracknabeal in 1892, James Sack was a son of Frederick Sack and Martha Rogers. Frederick was a watchmaker, jeweller and optician and he purchased a business. Carter and Werner in Ballarat. He then moved his family to Hamilton, where he opened a store in Gray Street in 1908. The family lived at 46 Martin Street.
James Sack was a good footballer, playing with the Baptist football team and the Caledonian football team. He was described as a “clean, clever and consistent proponent of the game.” A sporting all-rounder, he was also good at tennis, rifle shooting and athletics and was a member of the YMCA. His friends said of James, his word was his bond.
In the years before he enlisted, James was managing his father’s businesses in Willaura and Warrnambool. He joined the South Warrnambool Football Club and St Johns Tennis Club.
In July 1915, James enlisted and was given a gold fountain pen by the Hamilton Baptist church on 1 August 1915. James started with the 22nd Battalion, 22nd Reinforcements, but left Australia with the 8th Battalion, 8th Reinforcements. He arrived at Gallipoli on 7 December 1915 but wasn’t there long because on 15 December the evacuation of Gallipoli began and by 19 December the 8th Battalion was at Mudros. They arrived back in Alexandra on 7 January 1916. On 31 March 1916 James, part of the 6th Section, 6th Platoon of B Company arrived at Marseilles and the following day the battalion caught a train to Bailleul in Northern France then marched to Steenwerck.
By 1 May 1916, the battalion was at Fleurbaix and into the trenches by 15 May. A month later they were at Messines and during August 1916, James was promoted to Lance Corporal. On 4 November 1916 in preparation for the Battle of Gueudecourt, James and his battalion moved into Switch Trench just north of Flers. There had been heavy rain and the trenches were awash.
On 8 November, the weather was fine, but the ground sodden. The men worked on digging Assembly Trench, but there was heavy shelling, killing two men and wounding another five. By 9 November, the weather was sunny and members of the 8th Battalion were digging Assembly Trench. Enemy activity was increasing and there were enemy planes flying overhead, making it necessary to abandon the trench digging.
James Sack was reported as killed on 9 November however no men were reported as killed or wounded on that day. It is possible he was killed on 8 November when two lives were reported lost. At the time of his death, James was buried near Bull’s Run Trench, his body never recovered.
At home, a memorial service was held at the Hamilton Baptist Church on 17 December 1916, led by Reverend P. Waters Cairns before a large congregation. Reverend Cairns said the following about James:
James’ parents continued to live at 46 Martin Street, Hamilton with father Frederick dying in 1941 and Martha in 1951
A tree was planted for James along Hamilton’s Anzac Avenue and his name is on the Hamilton War Memorial. A memorial window was also unveiled at the former Hamilton Baptist Church and was removed to the current Baptist Church in Gray Street, Hamilton.
Australian War Memorial – 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
Australian War Memorial – 8th Australian Infantry Battalion Unit Diary
Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour – James Sack
Australian War Memorial WW1 Embarkation Roll – James Sack
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Villers Bretonneux Memorial – James Sack
Discovering Anzacs – WW1 Service Record – James Sack
Newspaper Articles from Trove – James Sack