James Ross Duperouzel (1897–1916) was from York, Western Australia. He was the only AIF soldier to die out of a total of 5,230 Western Front War Dead from Western Australia whose grandfather was a convict of French origin having been transported to Fremantle, Western Australia by the British Crown in 1858. Duperouzel died defending the country of his French grandfather’s birth during the Battle of Pozières, Somme, France in August 1916.

Early years

Duperouzel, known as Jim, was born on 7 August 1897. He was the eldest son of ten children, born to George Charles Duperouzel and Sarah Jane Willey!

As a youngster, Duperouzel was raised on the family farm at Qualen about four miles south west of York. The Duperouzel farm was originally established in 1871 by his pioneering grandparents Aimable Ciril Dupérouzel, a Frenchman from St. Aubin du Perron, Normandy, and Julia Neagle, from Tipperary, Ireland. Duperouzel helped his family on the farm with early morning daily chores feeding the horses, pigs, chickens and generally tending to whatever tasks needed attention before sitting down to a big breakfast which was the main meal of the day. As Duperouzel grew older he also helped with planting, fencing, crop harvesting, training the horses and sheep shearing. 

In 1907 Duperouzel attended the newly opened Qualen School with his younger brother, George Charles, and twelve other children of local farmers. 

At the age of 13 years Duperouzel and many other local children attended a Fancy Dress Ball held in the Roller Skating Rink, Joaquina Street, York. The names of about 70 children who attended this event were printed in the local Eastern Districts Chronicle newspaper together with a description of their fancy dress character on 22 July 1910. Duperouzel left Qualen School aged 15 years to work on the family farm as a sheep shearer. 

Volunteering in the AIF 1915

By 1915 many Australian men were volunteering to enlist in the AIF, following the outbreak of World War I. For anyone volunteering under the age of 21 years and over 18 years required the consent of both parents or a guardian. Towards the end of 1915, now aged 18 years, Duperouzel ’s application to enlist in the AIF was duly signed by his parents on 13 December 1915. At this time Duperouzel’s mother, Sarah, was pregnant with her tenth child. When he enlisted he had already lost three siblings who had all died young, Elise Maud, aged 9; John Aimable, aged 5 months, and Thomas Frederick, aged 19 months. 

Following a preliminary medical examination on 28 December 1915 his application was signed off by the Recruitment Officer in Perth. On 28 February 1916 Duperouzel was formally declared fit at the Army Training Camp at Blackboy Hill, near Perth, for active service overseas and assigned to the 15th AIF Reinforcements / 11th Battalion. His Army Medical Form and the Army Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad provides a detailed personal profile for Duperouzel. 

HMAT Ulysses A38 troopship 1916

Duperouzel embarked on the Australian troopship HMAT ULYSSES which departed Fremantle Harbour on 1 April 1916 with two thousand Australian reinforcement troops on board, including Tunnellers from the newly formed Australian Mining Corps for its voyage to the AIF training camp at Tell El Kebir, Egypt.

Whilst travelling on HMAT ULYSSES Duperouzel wrote a three-page letter to his father, George, dated 16 April 1916. Duperouzel’s letter wrote about men from York on this ship who he refers to as ‘the York boys’, ”…Joseph Gurney, Henry Hines, Charles Otway…”. He also mentioned his cousin Harry Wansbrough from York who was already in France. “… ”I have a mate with me on the ship William Taylor is his name, from Southern Cross, near Kalgoorlie…”” Duperouzel’s words on page 2 are somewhat prophetic, ”“…I suppose Fred Davies will be next…I can’t see how they stop out of it. Look at this trip, the time of a man’s life doesn’t matter what happens after…”.” Like so many young men who signed-up to enlist in the AIF they were told they would be home by Christmas. At the end of page 2 Duperouzel refers to his younger brothers, George, aged 16 years, and Alexander, aged 14 years, ”“…tell George or Alick to write now & again…”.” 

After the HMAT ULYSSES arrived at Alexandria, Egypt, on 25 April 1916 the troops were stationed at the AIF training camp located at Tel-el-Kebir, Suez Canal. At the end of their initial two months training, Duperouzel was re-assigned to the newly formed 51st Battalion on 20 May. 

An entry in the war-time diary of 4766 Private Herbert Charles Cruttenden, 51st Battalion, who also travelled on board HMAT ULYSSES, describes the journey from Fremantle to Egypt and onwards to France, “… we left Fremantle on April 1st 1916 and landed in Suez on April 23rd 1916, it was the best trip they had ever had for years. We saw the first A on entrance to the Canal; we went through the Canal to Alexandria and landed there on April 25th 1916 and proceeded to Tel-el-Kebir camp where we stayed for seven weeks and then went to France. We landed in Marseilles on June 12th 1916 and went to our camp at a place called Étaples, about twenty miles from Boulogne. A training camp for all soldiers about seventy miles from the firing line…”. 

Duperouzel and his fellow 51st Battalion servicemen departed Alexandria on 7 June 1916 on board the HMAT HUNTSPILL and arrived in Marseilles, France, on 14 June 1916. The troops travelled for three days by train to Étaples, north west France, the location for the Australian 4th Division Base Depot. 

The Somme, France 1916

Within a few weeks of Duperouzel’s arrival in France the men of the 51st Battalion marched out on strength from Étaples in July to the theatre of war at Mouquet Farm, near Pozières. They were in the trenches and engaged in their first major encounter of warfare during the Battle of Pozières. The attempt of the AIF to capture Mouquet Farm, situated about one mile north of Pozières, was shrouded in controversy. Thousands of Australian troops died over a period of several weeks while the farm was captured and retaken by the enemy a number of times. 

Charles Bean who witnessed and recorded these events wrote the history of Australia’s part in the Great War in 226 diaries published in twelve large volumes covering the period 1914-1918. 

In his third volume, Bean describes the fighting that took place in 1916, the first year of AIF operations on the Western Front. It was a shattering ordeal which cut deeply into the minds of those involved. The fighting and, inevitably, the casualties were the heaviest experienced by the AIF throughout the war. In Bean’s book, History of Australia in the Great War 1914–1918 Vol II The AIF in France, he describes the horrors of the war and carnage of trench warfare unfolding before the eyes of the men who had no way out of this hell-hole. 

Private 611 Private Percy Nuttall, 50th Battalion, AIF, who had survived Gallipoli and who was also engaged in the fighting that took place at Mouquet Farm in 1916 recorded the events in his diary, noting many of the unbelievable orders the troops had to carry out. His war diary provides a very graphic account of what took place during the initial advance on Mouquet Farm which were the same harsh conditions the soldiers of the 51st Battalion had to endure during these days as both AIF Battalions were fighting side-by-side at Mouquet Farm. 

Killed in action

4783 Private James Ross Duperouzel was killed in action at Mouquet Farm in August 1916 some 250 miles east of Coutances, Manche, the home of his French grandfather. The Field Service Record, Report of Death of a Soldier, refers to Duperouzel’s death simply as, ‘Died 14/16 August 16; In the Field; Killed in Action’. There is no mention of the place where Duperouzel died or whether his remains were recovered and re-buried in a nearby military cemetery. 

News of his death was delivered to his parents by a telegram to their family farm at Qualen on 11 September 1916. This tragic news came as a great shock to all the family including Duperouzel’s Irish grandmother, Julia, aged seventy two. 

No known grave

During World War I a total of 3,648 men from Australia, mostly from Western Australia, served in the 51st Battalion as part of the 13th Brigade, 4th Division. As a result of the fighting a total of 911 soldiers of the 51st lost their lives, of whom 321 servicemen have no known grave and their names are inscribed on the Australian National War Memorial Wall, Villers-Bretonneux, including Duperouzel. 

During the month of August 1916 the 51st Battalion lost a total of 115 soldiers before the troops pulled back to re-group, of whom 81 men have no known grave. Duperouzel was one of 40 servicemen of the 51st killed in action between 14/16 August 1916, 30 of whom have no known grave. 

In 2015 an in-depth analysis of the 51st Battalion war dead for the month of August 1916 was carried in an attempt to identify where Duperouzel may have died ‘in the field’, and where any possible remains of his may have been re-buried in a nearby war cemetery. The records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, CWGC), were invaluable namely, Grave Registration Reports; Concentration of Grave Reports of Exhumation and Re-Burials; Comprehensive Reports of Headstones and Trench Maps covering the area Mouquet Farm and Pozières. 

The outcome of this research concluded there is a high probability any possible human remains of Duperouzel may have been re-interred in the nearby Courcelette British Cemetery where 6 identified soldiers of the 51st, who died during 14/16 August 1916 are buried with 12 unknown AIF soldiers of whom 10 were exhumed from the same trench map grid reference point of 57.d.R.28 or in the Serre Road Cemetery No.2 where 3 identified 51st soldiers who died during 14/16 August are buried with 8 unknown AIF soldiers, all of whom were exhumed from the same trench map grid reference point of 57.d.R.34 which is near 57.d.R.28. 

In 2016 Duperouzel’s nephew, William Thomas Duperouzel, submitted his DNA to the Australian Department of Defence, Unrecovered War Casualties-Army, Canberra. In January 2017 the Department of Defence advised that the Forensic Biologist, having compared the DNA profile submitted with that of the profiles obtained from unidentified remains, and in their expert opinion concluded there was no match. The DNA profile submitted will be retained on record and may be compared with any future human remains located in the region of Mouquet Farm / Pozières. 

Military Service Record

The Australian Army Service Record for 4783 Private James Ross Duperouzel, consisting of 36 pages, is held with the National Archives of Australia. 

The Australian War Memorial, Canberra also holds a vast collection of material for servicemen and women embracing military events, units, places, articles, books, people, collections of photography, private records, art, a publication collection, heraldry, technology, film, official records, manuscripts, digitised collection and sound. 

The Memorial’s purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war. Its mission is to assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society. The AWM combines a shrine, a world-class museum, and an extensive archive. “Here is their spirit, in the heart of the land they loved; and here we guard the record which they themselves made”. Charles Bean, 1948. 

In memoriam

In 1920 the Australian Department of Defence issued a 72 page booklet, edited by Dr. Charles Bean, entitled, ‘The Graves of the Fallen’, which includes the booklet entitled, ‘Where the Australians Rest’, provides a description of many of the Cemeteries overseas in which Australians, including those whose names can never be known, are buried, 1920-1924. It was only ever available to the families of servicemen who lost their lives during World War I. 

In addition, the family were sent a 12cm diameter bronze Memorial Plaque 1914-1918 from King George V and the 1914-1918 Memorial Scroll and King’s Message. 

The name of 4783 Private James Ross Duperouzel is inscribed on several memorials most notably, The Australian National War Memorial, Honour Wall of Remembrance, Canberra; Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France; Western Australian State War Memorial, Mt. Eliza, Kings Park; York District Honour Board 1914-1918, York Town Hall, Western Australia; York War Memorial, Railway Reserve, York, Western Australia; ANZAC Plaque Eucalyptus Tree, May Drive, Kings Park, Western Australia; Methodist Church Honour Board, York, Western Australia. 

On 16 August 1917, the first anniversary of Duperouzel’s death, an Anzac Heroes In Memoriam notice from his friend, Private 4904 William Taylor, AIF, 16th Battalion, was inserted in the West Australian newspaper, Perth. This moving tribute is testimony to their friendship and mate-ship for William was still on active service at this time. 

ANZAC HEROES IN MEMORIAM 

DUPEROUZEL. A tribute to the memory of my comrade, Jim,
who was killed in action August 16, 1916, in France. 

In Northern France, mid the carnage,
Where the shrapnel freely flew,
He fought side by side with his comrades,
Who stood fast with the red, white and blue, 

But in memory, dear comrade, you’re with me today.
Though on earth we shall not meet again;
You’ve gone to that Home that is open to all,
Where you will never know sorry or pain”. 

Private 4904 William Taylor was Killed in Action a few weeks later at the Menin Road, Ypres, Belgium, on 28 September 1917. Taylor has no known grave. 

Duperouzel’s family inserted a notice in The Avon Gazette and York Times, on Friday 17 August 1923, seven years after his death. 

IN MEMORIAM – DUPEROUZEL:

In sad and loving, memory of our dear son and brother, Private James Ross Duperouzel, killed in action somewhere in France, about August 16, 1916. Aged 19 years. 

No loved ones stood around him,
To bid him a fond farewell,
No word of comfort could we give,
To the brother we loved so well.

He never shunned his country’s call,
He gladly gave his life, his all;
He died, the helpless to defend,
An Australian soldier’s noble end.

In France’s lonely hillside,
Beneath the lonely sod,
There lies our darling brother,
Resting in peace with God.

Inserted – By his sorrowing mother, father, sisters and brothers. 

War medals

Duperouzel was posthumously awarded two war medals, the British War Medal 1914-1920 and the Victory Medal 1914-1919. Duperouzel’s father, George, received the Victory Medal on 7 March 1923 and the British War Medal on 31 January 1924. 

Further reading / viewing