John (Jack) Marsland's story
At the beginning of August 2013, just 4 weeks before my wife & I left for an 8 week holiday in Europe, I was telling my elderly mother about our trip & mentioned that towards the end of our travels we would be in Northern France. When told this, my mother commented that she had an uncle who was buried somewhere in Northern France.
This was the first time Mum had ever mentioned her uncle to me, or any of my siblings.
She went on to tell me all she knew was that his name was John (Jack) Marsland and that he was in the Australian army. She believed he was killed while serving with the Australian Imperial Force during WWI & buried somewhere in Northern France.
I was totally surprised by this information and decided I would find out as much information about Jack as I could before we left on our trip, and attempt to locate his grave site while we were in France. With the use of the internet I very quickly located his war service records, including his medical records. I was also able to establish the location of his final resting place.
John Charles Marsland, regimental number 120, rank - driver, 7th Infantry Brigade, "A" Company, 28th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. Enlisted at Collie, WA on 25th February 1915. Trained at Blackboy Hill. Embarked on the transport ship Ascanius on 9 June 1915 with the 28th Battalion, ex Fremantle to Egypt and then to Gallipoli. Took ill with jaundice at Gallipoli and was sent by hospital ship to Alexandria, Egypt. Arrived in Etaples, France, 17 August 1916. Killed in action between 3 and 6 November 1916, near Flers, Northern France, aged 27. Buried in the Warlencourt British Cemetery, near the village of Warlencourt, Northern France.
In the military records I discovered that Jack's mother, Charlotte (my Great Grandmother), was still hopeful of him being alive until June 1920. The family had heard a rumour that Jack was alive and well in England. The War Office confirmed his death. Charlotte also requested that his headstone simply have "My Jack" engraved on it.
My wife and I did visit Jack's grave during late October 2013, almost 97 years after his death. I have since discovered that I am the only family member to have visited his grave since his death. The visit was a very solemn and emotional time. I was able to phone my mother while I was at his grave and describe the cemetery and the surrounding countryside to her. I was able to stick a laminated photo of Jack's mother & 3 sisters to the back of his headstone. I am hopeful of returning to Jack's grave between 3 and 6 November 2016, 100 years after his death.
I have now had the opportunity to read the book "The Blue & White Diamond - The History of the 28th Battalion 1915 – 1919”. I have realised there is so much I don't know about my uncle, but I will continue to search for more information.