Farm Labourer and Fireman
I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope28
Finally, he was in safe hands, far away from the atrocities and savagery of the raging Somme offensive. Now, in the relative tranquillity of the 12th General Hospital Rouen31 John was fighting another battle, but this time it was for his life; his prospects of winning through were very bleak indeed31.
Born14 in Whattall, in the parish of Cockshutt2 on 4th October 189310, John Edmund Rogers was the seventh of several children born to Farmer Edward Rogers and his wife Emma Annie35. On a busy farm and with his older siblings moving away from home3, young John would have grown up quickly, taking it for granted that chores had to be completed both before and after the school day whilst also minding his younger siblings46. The unexpected death of his fourteen years old sister, Sinah Annie16, would have impacted everyone and despite his own grief, nine years old John would have dug deep to support his parents42.
After leaving Cockshutt School22, John remained at the farm, working for his father3. But with the effects of the agricultural depression still being felt9, life would have been tough; income hard to achieve. So, at the age of eighteen23, possibly in pursuit of better-paid work, John, along with his elder brother Arthur, embarked for a new life in Australia, sailing from London to Sydney on the SS Omrah23. Once settled in New South Wales31, he found employment as a Fireman31.
Before long, the shadow of war which had fallen over Europe spread worldwide, and the call for enlistment was heard throughout Australia. Maybe it was a simple willingness to fight for King and country; perchance it was the lure of a being paid five shillings per day45. Whatever the reason, John enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force at Blackboy Hill on 15th June31.
On 18th October, Private John Edmund Rogers, Service Number 269843, embarked for Alexandria31 and his first major engagement in conflict. The destination was Gallipoli31. Arriving with 16th Battalion, he was immediately engaged in ferocious fighting, until the order for withdrawal in December45. Debilitated by sickness and exhaustion, John was admitted to hospital31 where he remained until early February 1916, before re-joining his Battalion in Egypt31.
A year on from his attestation, John was posted to the Western Front in the Somme valley31, with its full horror of bloody trench warfare. In the Battle of Pozieres such was the ferocity of fighting and loss of life that the Australian WW1 Correspondent CEW Bean11 wrote that Pozieres ridge “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”11.
It was here, on 11th August 1916, that Private JE Rogers was wounded in action, with severe shell and gunshot wounds to his right leg, chest and left arm31. Dangerously ill, he fought his last battle with every ounce of strength left; but it was a battle this grey-eyed, brown haired young man31 was destined to lose. On 16th August 1916, four years to the day since leaving England for Australia, Private JE Rogers died from wounds; laid to rest in St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen43, he was posthumously awarded the 1914/15 Star, The British War Medal and Victory Medal31.
In a final tribute, in the peace and tranquillity of SS Simon & Jude’s Churchyard42, John was reunited with his sister, when his name was added to her headstone13. Among the few final effects returned to his parents, were his Devotional Book31 and, in a remarkable act of compassion, camaraderie and kindness, a photograph (of whom, we might never know) which had been retrieved on the bloody battlefield of the “The Peninsular”31 and forwarded to his Commanding Officer31.
We Will Remember Him.ROGERS_JOHN_EDMUND
Private John Edmund Rogers, 2698, 16th Bn. Australian Infantry, A.I.F.
Died of wounds in France on 16th August 1916.
Buried at St Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France. Grave B. 27. 12.
And it may be near, or it may be far,
And it may be a season of sun, or rain,
When we say farewell to the things that are,
With a hope that it has not been all in vain27.