McKEOWN, James

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Enlistment Address

Lower Miller Street, Gilgandra, NSW

Service Number

4862

Unit

13th Battalion, 15th Reinforcement

Comment

Gilgandra Coo-ee

Fate

Returned to Australia 31.7.1917

Information

Private James McKeown 4862

James was a 37 years old dealer and skin buyer when he enlisted in Gilgandra on October 9, 1915. He was married to Ruby Rose King and lived in Miller St Gilgandra with their five children. The medical examination described him as 5’ 11” tall, 11stone 4lbs (71kgs), dark complexion, brown eyes, brown hair, no distinctive marks noted. He had previously served in South Africa for 18 months with the NSW 3rd Mounted Rifles.

He joined the Cooee March to Sydney where they trained at Liverpool before embarking to Egypt on the ‘Star of England’ March 8 1915. After training in Egypt James was transferred to the 45th Battalion and arrived in France in June 1916 to face Poziers and life in the trenches.

In December 1916 he was admitted to hospital with bronchitis and convalesced at Weymouth in England. James returned to Australia on the ‘Thermistocles’ and was discharged on July 31, 1917 medically unfit with heart and lung problems.

On his return he spoke to the Gilgandra Weekly (July 13 1917) and said he had spent Christmas of 1916 in Flers with George O’Connor of Collie. He described his experience of battle and said that ‘when a man faces the Germans in one of those big engagements he sees for the moment in front of him, a vision of those at home’. He was glad to be home.

After his return, James travelled around the country in a wagonette, buying and selling skins and hides, while Ruby ran a small shop and looked after the children. He won a ballot block at Barcaldine, Queensland in 1920 and the family moved there in a seven seater, Australia Six car. James died on November 13, 1945 at Rockhampton aged 68 years.

James grew up near Gilgandra in the Breelong district as his parents, John and Annie McKeown owned ‘Karuah’ at Breelong from 1884 to 1892 and hosted the first school at Breelong. Ruby’s father, George was the first blacksmith in Gilgandra.

James is commemorated on the Gilgandra Honor Roll and the Gilgandra Coo-ee Memorial Gateway. He was issued with the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.