Joshua Ernest (Ern) Jenyns
Service number 2170

Joshua Ernest Jenyns, or Ern to his family and friends, was among the 23,000 Australians killed or wounded in the costly battle for Pozieres in the Somme Valley.

Born in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane in 1888, Ern was a 27-year-old dairy farmer when he enlisted at Beaudesert on June 12, 1915.

The second of eight children of Joshua and Sarah Jenyns, he was six months old when the family moved to a 300-acre property, Sylvania, at Bromelton, which became a dairy farm.

He attended Bromelton State school and, at 14 left to work full-time on the family farm.

Ern often visited his brother Herbert, who was living on Tamborine Mountain, and in December 1905 acquired, from John Siganto, 50 acres of land at the south end of the Mountain near what is now known as Guanaba Road.

With its commanding easterly view of the ocean, Ern named the property Seaview and worked hard to turn the scrubland into a dairy farm.

He developed pastures, fenced paddocks, established a herd, constructed bales for milking and built a dairy and a tool shed. Helped by his brothers he also built a beautiful home at Seaview.

Ern had lived on the Mountain for nine years when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1915.

He was posted to the 4th Reinforcements of the 25th Battalion, which was at that time mired at Gallipoli, and trained at Enoggera in Brisbane for three months.

“Ern worked hard to turn the scrubland into a dairy farm.”

Faced the full force of German machine guns and artillery.

Army records show that on September 18, 1915 Ern embarked on the HMAT Armadale in Brisbane for Egypt. Once there, he continued to train before being posted to defend the Suez Canal at Ismailia.

In March 1916, Ern’s battalion and the 26th, 27th and 28th Battalions grouped for transfer to France, arriving in Marseilles on March 19.

From there, the troops endured a 60-hour train journey to the north.

Ern’s first experience of life in the trenches was at Armentieres. In early July his battalion was told it would be taking part in an offensive on the Somme.

In the early hours of July 29, Ern was among the troops who faced the full force of German machine guns and artillery in the disastrous attack on Pozieres Ridge.

Battalion diaries record that Ern’s company had reached its objective but, because the battalions on either flank had met considerable resistance, were unable to provide the support needed for the 25th to hold its position.

Realising it was cut off, the battalion withdrew, suffering further casualties.

Ern was not among the remnant of the 25th Battalion which straggled back to camp at 6am. As the battle for Pozieres continued during the next six weeks, Australia lost almost as many fine young men as it had during the entire eight-month campaign at Gallipoli – 23,000 killed or wounded – dealing a body blow to the AIF which, according to historian Charles Bean, “was never the same again”.

Ern, 28, was initially posted as missing in action but in July the following year a court of inquiry determined that he had been killed.

Not Light Horsemen – just infantry comrades playing tourist at the pyramids in Egypt. Ern (Joshua) Jenyns is third from the left and would soon be among the battalions grouped for transfer to France.

A testament and prayer book were among Ern’s few effects returned.

Like that of so many others, Ern’s body was never recovered. As Charles Bean was moved to write:

“Pozieres Ridge is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth. The field of Pozieres is more consecrated by Australian fighting and more hallowed by Australian blood than any field which has ever existed or likely to exist.”

The telegram confirming Ern’s death and dispatched to the Postmaster Tambourine Mountain read:

“Now reported killed in action 29th July 1916 No. 2170 Joshua Jenyns 25th Battalion please break news Mr Robert Jenyns Tambourine Mountain through Baptist clergyman if possible and convey deep sympathy King Queen Commonwealth Government loss he and army have sustained. Lt Col Luscombe”.

A testament and prayer book were among Ern’s few personal effects returned to his brother.

Ern is among the thousands listed as ‘the missing’ on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

As a living memorial to his brother, Herbert Jenyns planted a tree in the grounds of St Bernard State School, with a plaque detailing the dates of Ern’s birth and death.

The tree and the little white fence which enclosed it are gone but a plaque has been placed in the school’s ANZAC Garden.

In April 2015, to commemorate the centenary of ANZAC, a seedling from the Lone Pine at Gallipoli was planted at Tamborine Mountain State School in memory of Joshua Ernest Jenyns and eight other men from the Mountain who served in World War One.


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