Remembrance Day

Tales from the trenches from James Patrick Cloney

By Shepparton News

Originally from Murchison, James Cloney enlisted for WWI on July 24, 1915 aged 37.

James Patrick Cloney holding a war certificate of his great-uncle of the same name, after whom he was named. Mr Cloney said his great-uncle was considered a bit of a character with a light-hearted personality.

He embarked at Melbourne on November 23, 1915 as a Sapper from the 5th Field Company, Australian Engineers.

He served overseas in the Middle East, France and Belgium.

During his time James was awarded a 19.4.15 Star, British War Medal and a Victory Medal.

Following the war, he stayed in France to work for one of the occupational forces.

He died on February 20, 1919 aged 42 from pneumonia.

He is buried at St Marie Cemetery, Le Harve, France, Plot 8, Row L, Grave Number 3.

An extract from a letter from the trenches — August 3, 1916 — sent from Sapper James Patrick Cloney:

It is just about eight weeks since I came into the trenches, and am getting quite used to them now.

The first three weeks the weather was awful — rain, hail and snow for seven days without stopping, so you might form some idea of what the trenches are like.

You could guess it wasn’t too nice splashing through the trenches in the pitch dark with the water up to your knees.

I have been on night duty for the past six weeks, and it is tricky work repairing the parapets where Fritz has blown them in with shells.

Another pleasant job is crawling out into ‘‘No Man’s Land’’ between the trenches repairing the barbed wire where the shells have cut it down.

Star shells are sent up from the trenches every few minutes, and they light up the place all around for about a minute.

If you keep perfectly still until they go out you are not likely to be seen, as there is grass up to your knees between the trenches, but if you move at all they are sure to spot you and turn on machine guns and rifles.

Then your only chance is to lie down flat in a shell hole until things are quiet again.

Sometimes you will be crawling along in Indian file when you come across a party of German sappers out on the same game, repairing their wire.

A letter from 1920 written by Nora Cloney on behalf of her father, who was James Cloney’s brother. The letter is addressed to the Victoria Barracks and asks if her family could be sent James’ personal belongings following his death in 1919.

But in such cases you seldom fire on each other, the game being for each party to crayfish back to their own trench, for if you start to scrap the machine guns from both trenches are turned on and both parties are pretty certain to be wiped out.

If you want excitement you can get it here.

The boys are a game lot, I can tell you.

The other night one of my mates was unlucky enough to get in the line of a bursting shell.

It took his left hand off at the wrist, one piece went into his shoulder and two in his leg.

He was as cool as a cucumber, and walked a quarter of a mile to the dressing station smoking a cigarette.

Some have great luck.

One Easter Sunday Fritz sent over hundreds of shells.

One of the first (a high explosive) landed right over our section officer, Lieutenant Olive, and burst.

All we could find of him were a few rags that we dug out of the wrecked trench.

One of our fellows Jack Bellharry was standing within three feet of him at the time, and all he got was a small piece through his cheek that broke his false teeth.


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