John Andrew BAINBRIDGE
Eyes brown, Hair dark, Complexion dark
Jack at Fromelles
After nearly eight months in hospital and convalescent camps, Jack was sent to Egypt and transferred to the 53rd Battalion on 20 April 1916 as part of the "doubling" of the AIF. Half of its recruits were Gallipoli veterans from the 1st Battalion (like Jack), and the other half, fresh reinforcements from Australia.
According to the Australian War Museum, the 53rd Battalion arrived in France on 27 June 1916, entered the front line for the first time on 10 July, and became embroiled in its first major battle on the Western Front at Fromelles, on 19 July. The battle was a disaster. The 53rd was part of the initial assault and suffered grievously, incurring 625 casualties - over three-quarters of its attacking strength.
One of those casualties was Private Jack Bainbridge with evidence given to the Red Cross by fellow soldiers:
From 1338 Private A. Cumming, 53rd Battalion
I saw him badly wounded and lying in the German 2nd line trench at Fleurbaix on July 19th. We held this trench for some time, and then had to evacuate it. He had to be left there. He was pretty bad … wounded in the leg and head. He may be a prisoner, but more likely he died of wounds.
Source: AWM: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files – John Andrew BAINBRIDGE, pp 2
From 3415, D. Ragan
I saw him lying badly wounded on the German parapet at Fromelles (?) in the advance. I heard since from Cumming, A. 53 D., that he died.
Source: AWM: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files – John Andrew BAINBRIDGE, pp 3
Jack’s family were of coal mining stock, originally from Durham, England. His father was Thomas James Bainbridge, born in Wingate, County Durham in 1846 and his mother was Jane Ann Cooper, born circa 1851 in Shincliff, County Durham. They married in 1872.
In 1878, Thomas and Jane emigrated to Australia, arriving in Moreton Bay, Queensland, on 2nd May on board the “Ironside” along with their two sons, Henry (aged 3) and Benjamin (aged 1). Accompanying them on the ship were members of Jane’s family:
- Mother - Ann Cooper
- Older sister, Margaret (born 1848) with her husband John Thomas Smith
- Younger sister, Elizabeth (born 1854) with her husband, William Henry Richardson, and their four-year-old son, Ralph (the recipient of the 1915 letter quoted earlier about Jack’s experience at Gallipoli)
- Younger brother, Benjamin (born 1857)
Their older brother, Joseph (born 1845) was already in Australia having emigrated two years earlier with his wife Isabella.
Soon after arrival, the extended Cooper family moved to Newcastle where they each settled (presumably drawn to the mining work available in the region). Thomas and Jane Bainbridge welcomed five more children, two of whom died in infancy. James William (1880-81), Alice Ann (born 1881), James (1884-84), Joseph (1885) and finally, John Andrew (1887).
When John (Jack) was two years old, Jane died leaving Thomas with five children, the oldest just 14. John’s maternal aunt, Elizabeth Richardson stepped in to take care of the younger children at least. Thomas himself died in 1905, so from then on, it seems that Elizabeth was completely responsible for the youngsters – certainly for John.
From family notices and correspondence with military authorities, it seems that Elizabeth brought John up as her own child. She is listed as his foster mother, refers to him as her ‘’dear one’’ or “dear boy” and he is listed at times under the surname Richardson as well as Bainbridge.
Jack’s War – Gallipoli
Jack Bainbridge enlisted in January 1915, and although being under height, was accepted in the 1st Battalion. As a labourer, he was probably very fit. He left Australia in June 1915 so was not part of the ANZAC landing but he was certainly a part of the August offensive and the battle of Lone Pine where he suffered a gunshot wound to the right thigh. He was evacuated to the Epsom County of London War Hospital. It was an island of care, between two great battles - Gallipoli and Fromelles.
His story of Lone Pine is perhaps best told in his own words with excerpts below from a letter he wrote to his foster-brother / cousin, Ralph H. Richardson. Ralph had the letter published in the Sydney newspaper (extracts below) together with the photo - sadly the worse for the printing process but the only image we have of Jack.
“My first time under artillery fire I can’t tell actually what it felt like. I was just like a man in a dream. When the word came to charge all fear left me. It was just like hell let loose. The bullets, shrapnel, and machine gun fire were awful. You would think the world was on fire. Oh! and those shells bursting all around you. One of our poor chaps was completely blown to pieces by a shell.”
An unforgettable birthday
“When I got hit it was about 3 o’clock in the morning of August 7. My birthday, so I won’t forget it for some time. I guess these bombs tickle us up a bit. When I got hit, I thought my leg was blown off.
I’ll never forget the night before I was wounded. In our trench, we were firing rapidly from about 5 o’clock till I was hit the next morning. The Turks were bombing us all night. Our trench was full of dead and the moaning and groaning were awful to hear.
There were only two of us left on the parapet of the trench. We got the order to fix bayonets and just as I was fixing my bayonet a Turk sneaked up to the end of the trench and that was the end of me.”
Respect for comrades and enemies alike
“But I tell you it was not bad blazing away at them and I got a couple of them. They were only 20 yards away from our trenches, but mind, there is no doubt about them. They are good shots, but they won’t face the bayonet and I tell you the Australians and New Zealanders are the boys with the bayonet. We have lost pretty heavily, but the Turks’ losses are enormous. Out of our battalion of 700 only about 100 returned.”
Evacuated to England
“I suppose you have seen in the papers that I have been wounded. Well, I’m glad to say it is healing up fine. I was wounded in the right thigh from a bomb. I was three weeks in St Elmo Hospital in Malta, that is four days sail from the Dardanelles, and then they sent a lot of us to the hospital in Surrey, England. It is only 12 miles from here to London. It is a beautiful building; there are seven miles of corridors in it, so you can imagine what it is like.”
A cruel war - but fit and off to France
“There is no doubt about this war being a cruel war. It would make your hair stand on end to see the poor chaps that are wounded. I can only hop about on one leg yet, but otherwise I feel O.K. When we are fit again they will send us to France.”
Jack’s family published memorial notices for him in local newspapers and his name is also commemorated on war memorials in the local region. Memorials include the Young Wallsend Roll of Honour (pictured below), the West Wallsend Soldiers’ Memorial (corner of Carrington and Hyde Streets) and the Cessnock War Memorial (North Avenue).
In more recent years (about 2018) a memorial was placed on the grave of Jack’s parents, Jane and Thomas Bainbridge, in Sandgate cemetery, Newcastle. It was described as follows on the VWMA website:
The headstone at his parent’s gravesite has been destroyed, so I have placed a memorial cross adorned with poppies on the gravesite, taken a photo of the memorialised grave and uploaded the photo onto the Northern Cemetery website as a permanent record of his service. METHODIST 1 (WESLEYAN) C NE. 18.
The Search for DNA
The search for suitable DNA donors was not the easiest. Of the five Bainbridge siblings to survive to adulthood, only the eldest (Thomas Henry) married and had children. After writing to all the Bainbridges listed in the Newcastle area telephone book, it was still difficult to identify a likely connection on the male line.
In the meantime, however, a search on Trove enabled our researcher to identify a likely connection between the Bainbridge and Lindus families. John’s maternal cousin, Elizabeth Smith (daughter of his mother’s older sister - Margaret Smith, nee Cooper), had married Bill Lindus in 1901. After writing to the Lindus families, a reply from a lady well versed in the family’s history led to our researcher contacting family connections who were excited to hear of the search on Jack’s behalf and willing to provide the necessary Mt DNA samples.
Our researcher was still however actively seeking a suitable donor on the YDNA line, going back several generations and working through numerous roadblocks and red herrings. After two years of researching – to the day – a submission was made to the army with details of a direct line. To date, identification has not been confirmed and the search continues.
DNA is still being sought for family connections to
|Soldier||John (Jack) Andrew BAINBRIDGE 1887-1916|
|Parents||Thomas James BAINBRIDGE 1846-1905 and|
|Jane Anne COOPER 1851-89 – both born Durham, England,|
|emigrated to Australia in 1878 and died Newcastle, New South Wales|
|Paternal||James BAINBRIDGE b.1822 in Durham, England – travelled to Australia in 1858, collier. Date and place of death unknown, and Alice BARNETT or BARRETT 1825-96, Durham, England.|
|Maternal||Benjamin COOPER b. abt 1817 in Durham, England. Date and place of death unknown, miner; and Ann RICHARDSON b. abt 1819 in Durham, England. Emigrated to Australia with 4 of her adult children. Died 1896 Newcastle, NSW.|
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