A last, hurried embrace then a life lost to war
WORLD War I soldier James Frier’s brother-in-law, Clarrie Hey, was the last family member to see him alive.
Lance Corporal Hey was returning from battle at Dernancourt, France, when he spotted Private Frier in passing.
The pair were given permission to break ranks and embrace on the road.
Frier was later reported as missing in action while fighting as a member of the 26th Battalion.
His mother, Jemima Frier, penned a letter to him following his disappearance.
“To my dear boy, I have got word that you are missing … Dad and everybody all send their love to you. Oh Jim, come back to me. God bless you my darling boy.”
An eyewitness account would later reveal that Frier had been shot in the neck by machinegun fire and buried in a cemetery near the Albert-Amiens Rd.
The witness described him as a quiet, well-built man, with ginger hair and small moustache.
“On May 28 we were on patrol about 9pm and got quite close to the German outpost,” Queenslander Harry Warne told the inquiry into Frier’s death, while a further witness said he had been hit by machinegun bullets and died instantly.
The records were updated to read that Frier had been killed in action on May 28, 1918, while on patrol in no man’s land.
Great niece Lyn Kirkwood and her brother have visited the grave in the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension in France.
“We read him the letter from his mother and left a copy of it there with a poppy,” Mrs Kirkwood said.
“It was a very emotional experience. James’s mother adored him; she was a very loving woman.”
Mrs Kirkwood’s father, Geoff Frier, 94, was born six years after his “Uncle Jim’s” death in France, but grew up hearing all about him.
Hobart-born Frier had joined up in August 1915, aged 22.
He had worked as a painter and was a soccer player for South Hobart.
During his war service he was wounded in action, hospitalised with dermatitis, and fined for being absent without leave.
His sister-in-law, Eva Lipscombe, was a member of the family involved in establishing the Soldiers’ Memorial Avenue in 1918.
James Youl Frier is remembered at tree 478 on the avenue and is commemorated on the Hobart Town Hall honour roll.
PAYING TRIBUTE: Geoffrey Frier and his daughter Lyn Kirkwood next to the memorial for Private James Youl Frier, left, at the Soldiers’ Memorial Avenue.
REMEMBERED: James Frier, left, was killed by machinegun fire while serving in France.