Prisoner of War
contributed by Michael Hall
The First Battle of Bullecourt on 11 April 1917 saw over 1100 Australians taken prisoner, the largest number the AIF suffered in a single battle in World War 1.
One of those captured was Jack Kevans who, like Ernie Mayo, belonged to the 13th Battalion. Kevans married Flo Hollingsworth from Hall in 1911. Her parents had run the Cricketer’s Arms hotel in Hall for several years and her brother Clyde Hollingsworth would die at the Second Battle of Bullecourt on 11 May 1917.
“Dearest Flo. I am writing you another letter, trusting you receive have ere this received the ones sent previously. Things in general are much the same. I am keeping well and our treatment leaves no cause for complaint. Of course, the ration allowance is our chief difficulty; however, if we get our parcels this should be overcome. We hear no war news now and are quite in the dark as to whether the end is yet in sight - we all hope for a speedy termination. I miss you and the boys very much indeed. At present we are in a camp some miles from the lines, and have nothing to do. It is a fine, large building and the sleeping accommodation is good. We expect to move any day, and may be put to farm work; the remuneration is 3d per day.
Some of the boys here have been captured as long as nine months and received their first instalment of parcels from the Red Cross the other day. Underclothes are scarce. I understand the Red Cross send them and we are all anxiously looking forward to some coming to hand at no distant date. With our scanty wardrobe renewals are absolutely necessary, socks and shirts in particular. Prisoners of war receive a sort of uniform, but we have not yet received ours. It consists of long bluish trousers with a wide brown stripe down the seam; same coloured coat or tunic with a wide brown band on right arm; it is let into the sleeve so cannot be removed.
I do hope yourself and the boys are well. The address on top of the letter is the latest one and all letters or cards should be so addressed. I had my razor taken when we were first searched and find it very inconvenient; soap is scarce, also cigarettes. I am keeping very well personally, only my boots are bad and I am hoping to get a pair through a parcel. Give my love to mother and all at home; fondest love and kisses to self and boys, hoping to be with you soon. Your own affectionate, Jack”.
Kevans was a POW for 21 months. After the Armistice he “agreed to stay behind and assist in repatriating our fellow prisoners”. He went to Altadanin in northern Germany where “something like 20,000 men passed through our hands up to January 6th 1919 when we left with the last draft”. He was motivated to remain “by the fact that for 12 months we had been fighting for the interests of the men attached to the camp”. Kevans returned to Australia in May 1919 and lived with his family in the Hall district after the war, for a while at the old Catholic church at Ginninderra.