Their bodies are buried in peace; but their names liveth for evermore.
Their Duty Done
A tribute to the men and women of the East Gippsland Region who Died as a result of their participation in World War One : 1914 -1919
2477 Sapper Jack Freeman - Bairnsdale Died of wounds 15 November 1916
When Jack Freeman was 23 years old he had reached a personal goal. Wearing jumper No. 9 he was playing for the South Melbourne Football Club and in 1913- 14 was their leading goal kicker for the season. He had played 22 games and kicked 39 goals and had the distinction of only kicking goals – no behinds. Jack was born in Bairnsdale on 15 November 1891 and some years later the family moved to Northcote where Jack’s natural talent developed with the Rose of Northcote team. He was then recruited to South Melbourne where his sporting abilities shone and were always noticeable on the field. On 5 July 1915, with several other South Melbourne players, he enlisted with the 2 nd  Field Company Engineers and was presented with a safety razor and pipe on leaving the club. Before the end of the year he was on the Mooltan headed for Egypt; packed amongst his belongings were the safety razor, pipe and a boomerang. From Cairo he wrote home one feels a bit strange over here for a time, but you soon get used to the habits and customs of the natives. Their money is difficult to deal with for the first week or so: the 20-piastre piece is a great clumsy coin – four of them would make a fine set of perambulator wheels. Travelling is very cheap, soldiers being taken at half fare.  On 18 August he was suffering from shell shock after a shell burst almost on top of him knocking him silly for a couple of days until he rejoined his unit on 25 August. He was only back with the unit for two months when his commanding officer reported that on the night of 1 November Freeman was at work clearing and draining a communication trench between Fleurs and Longueville on the Somme. About midnight, as the party were leaving their work and returning to their billets, the enemy placed a barrage over the area, killing three men and wounding four others. Sapper Freeman was one of the wounded with pieces of high explosive shell shattering both of his legs. Jack was in great pain and bore his wounds admirably. Stretcher bearers conveyed him to the dressing station and he was immediately evacuated to the Casualty Clearing Station and then taken to the closest hospital where his left leg was amputated above the knee and the right leg was amputated below the knee. A fortnight later, on 15 November, he was placed on the 7th Ambulance Train at 2.30pm and six hours later, at 10.30pm he died on his 25th birthday.  His commanding officer reported that he received a short note from Freeman the following day that he had written before being placed on the train. In it he asked for his letters to be readressed to England and that he seemed confident of reaching there. He also mentioned, in a casual way, the amputation of his foot and leg but the strain of the letter was cheerful ending with remembrance to all the boys. Two hours after receiving this note, he received his death report and was told he had been buried at the Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France. An indication of the time delays that occurred in notifying families can be seen as three days after Jack died a cablegram was received by his father in Melbourne that read Hit by Shell Fragments legs right broken not too bad. Jack Freeman. When news of his death reached his father he wrote to the officials requesting that his death not be made public as his mother was not sufficiently recovered from a severe operation and would not be able to take the news. The official held off releasing his name for some weeks abiding by the request.    Sister Estelle Doyle wrote to the family and the officials when asked about Jack’s death and said she remembered him being very ill from the time he was put on the train and that regretfully I am really sorry I cannot tell you more but so many go through our hands it is quite impossible to remember them all. Jack was not to come home, but the souvenir boomerang that he had taken with him was returned to the family among his belongings.
….. leading goalkicker with South Melbourne had legs amputated
We have been unable to locate a photograph of Private Jack Freeman, if you know of one, please make contact. Our group would appreciate your assistance.