Private Jerome DEVOS 1885-1916
NAA: Discovering Anzacs website (decommissioned – archived version)

Jerome DEVOS

Regimental Number
Known As
Jerome DEVOS
War Service
Egypt and the Western Front
Prior Military Service
03 Sep 1915 at Warwick Farm, NSW
20 Dec 1915 from Sydney, NSW, on the HMAT A60 Aeneas
Next of Kin
Mother - Esther Hermans Devos (address unknown). (To advise friend H. Davis, 35 East Esplanade, Manly, NSW)
Date & Place of Birth
27 Oct 1885, Bruges, Belgium
Oscar Ferdinand (deceased) and Esther (nee HERMANS) DE VOS
Marital Status
Two - Maurice, Blanche
Physical Description
5 feet 5 inches, 143 pounds (165.1cm, 64.9kg)
Eyes blue, Hair light brown, Complexion sallow
Killed in Action, 19 Jul 1916, Fromelles, France - aged 30
Place of Burial
No known grave
V.C. Corner, (Panel 10), Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France
Positively Identified

Jerome Devos – Belgium, England and Australia

Jerome Devos - Can You Help to Identify him?

There are no records of Jerome’s burial. There still is a chance he might be identified, but we need help.

A mass grave was found in 2008 that the Germans had dug for 250 bodies they had recovered after the battle. As at November 2022, 168 of these soldiers have been identified and given proper burials and recognition through finding family DNA donors. 82 soldiers remain and some identifications are still highly likely. We just need to find DNA donors.

Jerome did not have any family in Australia that we can identify but it is clear that he had ties to his family in England as his medals were returned to his nephew in the late 1990’s. See the DNA box at the end of the story for what we do know about his family.

If you know anything of Jerome’s contacts here in Australia or his relatives in Belgium, Canada or England, we would like to hear from you.

Jerome Anselme Cyrille Edouard Charles De Vos was born on 27th October 1885 at 19 Wollestraat, Bruges, Belgium. His parents were Oscar Ferdinand De Vos and Esther Victoire Hermans, but his father died when Jerome was just 10. He had an elder brother, Maurice (born 1880), and a sister, Blanche (born 1883).

While he was born in Belgium, Jerome spent time in England, and he had relatives there. His enlistment papers also state that he was a “British Subject”. Having grown up on the shores of the English Channel, Jerome went to sea and in 1904 was serving as an apprentice seaman on the ship Castle Rock.

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The “Castle Rock” anchored at an unidentified port.
source State Library of South Australia, PRG 1373/17.64

In the years before 1915, Jerome had found his way to Australia and was living in 22 Belgrave St, Manly, New South Wales and working at the Hotel Steyne. He stated his occupation as being a groom on his enlistment papers and one of his AIF mates described him as having a “nuggety build”.

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Hotel Steyne, Manly - 1919

Off to War

Jerome enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Warwick Farm on 3 September 1915.

The war had already impacted his family and he could not provide the address of his mother back in Belgium as they had become displaced by the war. He instead asked for all correspondence to be directed to the Davis family (35 East Esplanade, Manly), with whom he had been living, in the hope that they would be able to make contact with his friends in London and eventually with his family in Belgium.

Jerome was assigned to the 13th reinforcements of the 1st Infantry Battalion. After a short period of training, they left Australia on 20 December 1915. When they arrived in Egypt, there were major reorganizations underway as a result of the losses at Gallipoli and the large number of new soldiers arriving. In February 1916, Jerome was reassigned to the newly created 54th Battalion, B Company.

Jerome’s military training continued in Egypt, but in late March 1916 he was briefly hospitalised for heat stroke, likely brought about by the hot desert conditions suffered during a rigorous march from Tel el Kebir to Ferry Post on the Suez Canal. He was discharged about three weeks later.

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Unit’s diary entry relating to the intense heat endured during the march resulting in many men – including Pte Jerome Devos – requiring medical treatment for heat stroke on 27 March 1916.
source AWM: AIF War Unit Diaries, 1914-18 – AWM4 23/71/2 – March 1916, page 10

To the Western Front

The call to the Western Front came on 20 June and the 982 soldiers of the 54th left Egypt on the H.T. Caledonian to join with the British Expeditionary Force. They landed in Marseilles after a 10-day trip via Malta and then had a three-day train trip to Thiennes, about 25 kilometers from Jerome’s home country of Belgium.

According to AIF Intelligence reports (AWM War Diaries), by 2 July the Battalion was billeted in barns, stables and private houses for a week of training. This now included use of gas masks and exposure to the effects of the artillery shelling. It was hoped that these tests would “inspire the men with great confidence”.

On 10 July they were moved to Sailly sur la Lys and on the 11th they were into the trenches in Fleurbaix. The health and spirit of the troops was reported as good. After a few days getting exposed to the trenches, they moved back to billets in Bac-St-Maur.

Jerome’s Commanding Officer, Major Roy Harrison, a veteran of Gallipoli had written home a few days before the battle:

“The men don’t know yet what is before them, but some suspect that there is something in the wind. It is a most pitiful thing to see them all, going about, happy and ignorant of the fact, that a matter of hours will see many of them dead; but as the French say ‘C’est la guerre’.”

FFFAIF Digger 52

An attack was planned on the 17th, so they went back into the trenches. However, the attack was delayed due to the weather and they were relieved at the front by the 53rd Battalion. The weather soon improved and Jerome returned to the front trenches by 2:00 PM on 19 July, in readiness for the attack on the Germans.

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Map of the scene of the Battle of Fromelles showing troop placements.
source Michael Senior, Fromelles 1916, Pen & Sword Books, Barnsley England. Reproduced with permission

The assault began at 5:50 PM with Jerome’s B Company in the first wave of soldiers. They were under heavy artillery, machine gun and rifle fire, but were able to advance rapidly and they occupied the German trenches by 6:00 PM. Some of the advanced trenches were just water filled ditches.

As later documented by Private James Thorpe, 4321, from Orange NSW, Jerome and his mate Private George Clapperton, 4166, did not make it very far. Both men were killed before reaching the German barbed wire.

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Evidence from Red Cross files from survivors of the Battle of Fromelles regarding Privates 4182 Jerome Devos and 4166 George Clapperton.
source AWM: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files – DEVOS, Jerome, page 2

Fighting and shelling continued throughout the night. With heavy losses and the German counterattacks, the Australians were eventually forced to retreat. The 54th were pulled all the way back to Bac-St-Maur by 7:30 AM on the 20th.

Private Jerome Devos was initially listed as missing in action from the night of the battle and – more than a year later – it was eventually determined that he had been killed in action on the evening of 19-20 July 1916. He was 30 years of age when he died.

Where is Jerome and Where is His Family?

Even though Jerome was not far from the Australian lines when he was killed, given all the confusion from the battle, his body was not recovered by the Australians.

As noted earlier, Jerome did not know his mother’s address at the time of his enlistment, but he did list a friend, H. Davis of 35 East Esplanade, Manly. The Army contacted Mr. Davis and advised him of Jerome’s fate, but there are no further records of communications.

It took some years to finalise Jerome’s estate and the sole beneficiary in his will was Albert Sydney Charles Faulkner of 107 Hoe Street, Walthamstow East, England. Possibly a friend from seafaring days, Albert was not a relative and there are no further records in Jerome’s files.

The Army spent many years after the war unsuccessfully searching for Jerome’s next of kin to be able to distribute his medals, but this effort was finally noted as “untraceable”. Many, many years after the battle, a connection was finally established to Jerome’s family. According to the now de-commissioned Discovering Anzac’s website, “Only 80 years later did his family discover his fate and his medals were released to his surviving nephew.”

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A screenshot from the Discovering Anzac’s website where mention is made of his nephew receiving Jerome’s medals many decades after his death.

In relation to the possibility of donating DNA to help identify if Jerome was buried in the mass grave by the Germans, one of Jerome’s family connections has come forward.

Research by family and the FAA team indicate that a Y DNA line no longer exists, but it is a slight possibility that a Mt DNA line may exist in Canada, with any children of Laure and Marguerite De Clercq.

Jerome is commemorated at VC Corner at the Australian Cemetery and Memorial at Fromelles, but his body remains unidentified to this day. As Jerome could be one of the unidentified soldiers, we would like to hear from you.

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Pte Jerome Devos name is commemorated on Panel 10 of the VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial.

DNA is still being sought for family connections to

SoldierJerome De VOS / DEVOS 1885 – 1916 [Belgium, England, Australia]
ParentsOscar Ferdinand De VOS 1858 - 1895 and Esther Victoire HERMANS 1858 - unknown
SiblingsMaurice 1880 - 1945 (married Marguerite De KONINCK)
Blanche 1893 - (married Pierre VERHELLE)
PaternalFerdinandus De VOS 1826 – 1876 and Roslie Van CAUWENBERGHE 1821 - 1878
MaternalFrancois HERMANS 1813 – 1866 and Therese WANTE 1822-1901

Possible Donor Lines:
Laure Alice Juliette DE CLERCQ b. 10 Apr 1887, Brugge, Belgium d. 1978, Longueuil, Chambly, Quebec, Canada

Marguerite Marie DE CLERCQ b. 22 Sep 1880, Brugge, Belgium d. 1961, Longueuil, Chambly, Quebec, Canada

Seeking DNA Donors

Fromelles Association of Australia


The Fromelles Association welcomes all contact regarding this soldier.
(Contact: royce@fromelles.info or geoffrey@fromelles.info).
We also urge any family members to contact and register with the Australian Army
(Contact: army.uwc@defence.gov.au or phone 1800 019 090).


The Fromelles Association maintains this web site, purely by donations received.
If you are able, please contribute to the upkeep of this resource.
(Contact: bill@fromelles.info ).