Story behind the face in the portrait
Young soldier lived a short but eventful life before the Belgian battlefields claimed him too soon
JACK Hunter’s life might have been cut short on the battlefields of Belgium on September 26, 1917, but his story, like so many others, did not end there.
That’s thanks to people like artist Lyn Felsman who is creating a pastel portrait of Jack for a calendar recognising people from the local area and detailing their contribution to the war effort.
She has spent long hours researching Jack in order to recreate his image on canvas.
And from this research she can retell his story with great admiration for the man.
“They gave me the portrait and I thought ‘I have to know more about this guy’,” she said.
“He was an incredible individual.
“He was 27-years-old and he owned three racehorses.
“They (the family) built the Cedars Hotel in Yarraman.
“People have to know there was another side to him, other than that he just died in the war.”
Jack’s brother Jim enlisted on October 20, 1916.
His brother signed up two days later.
Both men were shipped to England for training before heading to the front line in Belgium.
“Jim refused to be an officer so he could be with his brother Jack,” Lyn said. “They were very close.” Just how close they were was confirmed when a mortar shell killed Jack after he left the trench to remove a piece of tin that was shining in the eyes of the troops in the trench.
Not long after his death, the troops were ordered to abandon the trench so Jim wrapped Jack’s body in a ground sheet before burying him with four other soldiers.
Jim returned home to Australia two years later.
His father wanted to return to Belgium to find Jack’s body, but was convinced otherwise after he was told the whole site had been shelled and any search would probably be fruitless.
“There was just nothing left,” Lyn said.
It wasn’t until 2006 that the burial site of the five soldiers, including Jack, was discovered.
A Belgian man was laying gas pipes when they came across four skeletons and Jack wrapped in a ground sheet.
“They found four and Jack was wrapped up in the sheet and he was perfectly preserved,” Lyn said.
“The person who found him saw the eyes and said it was ‘goose bump’ moment. He said that he cried.
“The fellow from Belgium who found Jack came to schools in Australia to talk about finding Jack and the emotion was still there.
“He said when he was talking at a Mackay school he just broke down.”
Jack received two medals, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, and his name is on Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.
Jack’s story is just one of many that did not end at the Great War but has remained to remind people of the horrors of war. ■ Read the next installation of our Centenary Milestone series in the South Burnett Times on August 12.
AMAZING STORY: Lyn Felsman needed to know her subject before putting pastel to canvas.