Private Francis Jennings was part of Australia’s 15th Battalion which helped to make August 8, 1918 what was described by German General Erich Ludendorf as ‘the black day of the German army in this war’.
The fighting which had taken place in France near Amiens on August 8, during the massive allied advance that month, was seen as the greatest success achieved in a single day by the British and Commonwealth troops on the Western Front.
A little over a month later, Francis Jennings was dead.
Killed in action on September 18 near Jeancourt during the first of a 17-day allied campaign to punch through the Hindenburg Line, he was among the 5500 Australian dead and wounded whose efforts are credited with helping to bring the war to an end two months later.
Had he survived that final campaign, Francis would likely have survived the war.
His battalion, comprising mostly Queenslanders and Tasmanians, was withdrawn in October, at the request of Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes, and did not see action again before the Armistice of November 11.
Francis Jennings had been a 21-year-old blacksmith when he enlisted on October 20, 1916.
Born at Jimboomba, he had served three years with the citizen forces Light Horse before the war, according to his enlistment papers.
He left Brisbane on the HMAT Kyarra on November 17, 1916 and arrived in Plymouth on January 30, 1917.
After further training in England, he left for France via Southampton in late May.
In mid-August 1917, Francis was wounded in action in the left thigh and was evacuated to hospital in England.
His mother, Martha, received a telegram dated August 28 advising that he had been admitted to Tooting Military Hospital on August 21 with a severe gunshot wound to the left leg.
This was followed by a second telegram on September 17 to say he was ‘progressing favourably’ and a third, on October 11 advising: “Private Francis Jennings convalescent”.
Francis spent a total of 42 days in hospital but on September 20 an entry in his service record noted that the “flesh wound” he had sustained had healed.
Still in England, he went absent without leave for six days in October, for which he forfeited 16 days pay.
He returned to France two days after Christmas 1917.
Private Francis Jennings was among the 1194 men of the 15th Battalion who paid the supreme sacrifice during the Great War.
His final resting place is outside the small village of Jeancourt, between Peronne and St Quentin, where he lies with others of his battalion who were killed on the same day.
In May, 1919, his mother was forwarded his effects – a wallet and some photos, cards and letters.
In April 1920, she received a mis-spelt telegram which said only:
“Madam, your son the late No. 6794 Private FWH Hennings 15th Battalion is buried in Jeancourt Communal Cemetery Extension.”
Although Francis had nominated his mother as his next-of-kin, she received a letter from Base Records in May 1921 inquiring whether his father were still living. Considered by the army to be a “nearer blood relation” than his mother, his father was entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal awarded posthumously to her son.
The medals, together with a memorial scroll and plaque, were forwarded to Francis’ father in March, 1923.