Ex-army nurse will be among those paus­ing on the cen­te­nary of Ar­mistice

Warwick Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL NOLAN

AS A young girl Jess Devine, 97, grew up in a home touched by the re­al­i­ties of World War I.

She saw her fa­ther strug­gle with wounds suf­fered on the Western Front and has vivid mem­o­ries of the ear­li­est Re­mem­brance Days when bro­ken men lined the streets.

LIKE many older Australians, Jess Devine was born to fam­ily touched by the legacy of World War I but watch­ing her fa­ther’s for­ti­tude strength­ened her re­solve to serve later in life.

Mrs Devine’s fa­ther John Kennedy, her aunt Jess, and un­cle Claude all served in World War I.

Claude was with the Light Horse 2nd Divi­sion in Egypt and Gal­lipoli and later along­side his brother, John, in the 47th Aus­tralian In­fantry Bat­tal­ion on the Western Front.

Her aunt was a mil­i­tary nurse and awarded the Royal Red Cross for Ex­cep­tional Nurs­ing for her man­ag­ing a hos­pi­tal boat off the coast of Gal­lipoli and the Royal Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal at Sid­cup.

Of the three sib­lings, it was John who came clos­est to death.

“My fa­ther’s bat­tal­ion ended up with eight lots of re-en­force­ments and only 35 of orig­i­nal men lived, there were 800 men in the bat­tal­ion so you can see what the slaugh­ter was like,” Mrs Devine said.

Dur­ing the Ger­man at­tack on Der­nan­court, John Kennedy saw his best mate blown apart by an ar­tillery bar­rage.

The sight had a pro­found af­fect. Later that evening his unit was hold­ing a rail­way line un­der heavy fire and a sus­tained gas at­tack. Mrs Devine said her fa­ther was over­come by shell­shock. “My fa­ther stood up and Ger­man sniper got him through the face,” she said.

“His brother was try­ing to put a gas mask on him and his jaw was hang­ing down to his chest.”

De­spite the hor­rific wound, Mrs Devine said her fa­ther re­mained pos­i­tive.

“He was al­ways a cheer­ful man but the gas got him in the end,” she said.

John lived for about an­other 40 years un­til he caught a flu. Mrs Devine said it ac­ti­vated the dor­mant gas and de­stroyed his lungs. Most mus­tard gas sur­vivors didn’t last as long.

“I can re­mem­ber go­ing to my first An­zac day as a fiveyear-old and see­ing all th­ese young men with hag­gard, blue­grey faces, they were in the sun but shiv­er­ing,” Mrs Devine said.

Decades later, it was Mrs Devine’s turn to serve and she en­listed as an RAAF nurse to care for dig­gers lib­er­ated from Ja­panese prisoner of war camps.

“They were ema­ci­ated, wear­ing just a loin cloth, they had dysen­tery and tu­ber­cu­lous en­teri­tis and all sorts of jun­gle dis­eases,” she said.

She cared for the sol­diers in a Bris­bane con­va­les­cent camp and said the bro­ken men showed great courage in the face of their in­juries.

“I re­mem­ber the first An­zac Day af­ter the war; I was on night shift and it was 2am, the boys were up strap­ping on their ar­ti­fi­cial limbs, find­ing their crutches, help­ing their mates, they all wanted to get into Martin Place for the Dawn Ser­vice,” she said.

“It’s a sight I’ll never for­get.”


Photo: Michael Nolan

Jess Devine's fa­ther, un­cle and aunt each served in World War I and, when her time came, Mrs Devine, who now lives in War­wick, en­listed as an RAAF nurse and cared for ex-POWs af­ter World War II.

Photo: Michael Nolan

GUARDIAN ANGEL: Jess Devine con­tin­ued a proud fam­ily tra­di­tion of ser­vice to Aus­tralia as an RAAF nurse, car­ing for ex-Prison­ers Of War af­ter World War II.

Jess Devine's fa­ther, un­cle and aunt each served in World War I and when her time came, Mrs Devine en­listed as an RAAF nurse a gen­er­a­tion later.

LEFT: Of the 800 men in John and Claude Kennedy's bat­tal­ion, only 35 re­turned to Aus­tralia.

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