Palace Hotel Wagin
Wagin WA 6315
Jack Joyce, a drover from Wolverhampton in England, was working in Western Australia in the years before the war, driving flocks of sheep in the wheat-belt. He enlisted on 21 July 1915, but when applying to join the AIF was hard pressed to find a person to name as his next of kin. He had no blood relations in the immediate vicinity and possibly none at all in Australia. The issue must have been pressing as he presented to fill in the attestation papers. If he could name nobody as his next of kin would the Australian Army reject his application?
As it happened, a nurse at Wagin Hospital agreed to be named. At Jack’s request Rita Tourney became the person to whom any future contact from the Australian Army was to be directed.
Jack undertook military training at Blackboy Hill and sailed to Egypt and France.
Although there is some confusion in Jack’s service record concerning the date of his death, it seems most likely that he died at Fromelles on 19 July 1916.
At first he is posted wounded and later ‘missing after action’. Rita Tourney, as nominated next of kin, was first informed in a telegram from Base Records on 13 August 1916 that Jack had been ‘wounded’. Twelve months later she wrote to Base Records in Melbourne, having received confirmation of his death:
Dear Sir, Kindly send me the Death Certificate of Private Joyce No. 1624, 32 Battalion confirmation of whose death I have received from Headquarters.
In her correspondence Rita noted that she was a nurse at Kalgoorlie Government Hospital and had nursed at Wooroloo Sanatorium outside Perth, where she tended returned soldiers. This was one of many letters she sent on Jack’s behalf, attempting, for example, to recover his personal effects. The later letters on Jack’s service record demonstrate that she also persisted in an unsuccessful attempt to secure his service medals. By that time she had married a returned soldier and as Mrs Calder seems to have maintained her efforts on behalf of her dead friend.
Letters on Jack’s file demonstrate Rita’s persistence and the army’s strict adherence to rules. She finally failed to acquire Jack’s service medals, despite persistent correspondence, because she was not a blood relation. She explained to the Army bureaucracy that Jack had no blood relations in Australia and that his attestation papers expressed his wish for her to fill that role, but to no avail.
Portrait of Private Jack Joyce and notes concerning exhumation of Australian soldiers in 2008 https://www.awm.gov.au/people/P10244745/
Service Record of Jack Joyce http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=7365705
Fromelles: The Story of Australia’s Darkest Day. The Search for Our Fallen Heroes of World War One, Patrick Lindsay, Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne, 2007
Service record of Alexander Calder, who married Rita Tournay c. 1920: http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3186590
Thanks to volunteers at the Wagin Historical Village Museum and especially to Jessica Hamersley.