31ST AUGUST 1918 AGE 26


Jack Coombes, a painter from Newtown, Sydney, New South Wales, was born in England in Luton, Bedfordshire. He emigrated to Australia with his parents in 1898 when he was 6. I can't tell whether his father was still alive at the time of his death, nor whether he had any brothers or sisters. It was his mother who was described as his next of kin, she also filled in the circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia and instituted a search via the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau. While two witnesses say that he was sniped "through the forehead, death being instantaneous", another man, who looks as though his name was Company Sergeant Major H.S.A. Creehy, has another tale to tell; you can decide whose is the most likely.

"Informant states that on 31/9/18 the Battalion was holding the line in a trench at Villers Bretonneux. About mid-day when they were resting in a trench Coombes was hit by a shell and died about two minutes afterwards. Informant was with him when he died. He was conscious and asked informant to remember him to his mother. Informant saw him fall, being only about 4 yards away from him at the time and had been speaking to him just before. Informant added that Coombes was a fine fellow and was well liked by his men. If Coombes' mother cares to write to him he will go and see her if she lives in Sydney."

I have a feeling that the informant (Creehy?) was a very kind man and that he possibly knew there was a close relationship between mother and son. If so he hoped her son's 'last words' would bring her comfort.