Story be­hind the face in the por­trait

Young sol­dier lived a short but event­ful life be­fore the Bel­gian bat­tle­fields claimed him too soon

South Burnett Times - - CENTENARY MILESTONES 100 YEARS OF ANZAC -

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.

PHOTO: TROY KIP­PEN

AMAZ­ING STORY: Lyn Fels­man needed to know her sub­ject be­fore putting pas­tel to can­vas.

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