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Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Trooper 1228 22y6m 16 Apr 1915 19 Feb 1919 2

Corporal John ('Jack') Sandeman (1892-1968)

Sandeman Brothers Booklet

Forty-two men from the 35 families in the rural district of Maroon in south-east Queensland enlisted in the 1st AIF, and 17 of these men made the ultimate sacrifice – an unusually high proportion from the one community. The Maroon volunteers included the Sandeman brothers John (known as ‘Jack’) and Will, who served in the 5th and 11th Australian Light Horse Regiments respectively, and they were among those who did return.

However, many of those who did return had been wounded or seriously ill - for Jack malarial fevers were a recurring challenge throughout the rest of his life. Despite this he married, raised a family and worked hard on the land (including with an unrewarding soldier settlement block 1919-1925), as a commission agent and auctioneer, and ran a petrol depot. In addition, he served as a Councillor on the Boonah Shire Council 1936-39 and during World War 2 was a Lieutenant in the Citizen Military Forces.

Family background

Jack and Will were of Scottish descent, both of their parents having been born in Scotland - John McLean Sandeman (1859-1929) in Broughty-Ferry, the son of Robert Learmonth/Learmouth Sandeman (a gardener and farmer) and his wife Mary nee Bell; while Elizabeth Kerr McLelland (1858-1923) was born in Kirkcolm to Samuel (then a tailor, later a grocer) and his wife Margaret nee Kerr.

John and Elizabeth were married with Presbyterian rites in Brisbane in 1882.  John was working as a mariner at that stage, and had met Elizabeth in 1881 when she was a passenger on a ship on which he was working.

In 1887 part of a pastoral run named Maroon in southern Queensland, near the border with NSW, was divided into small agricultural lots and sold as ‘excellent diary farms’. It was very much pioneering for those who took up a block, with the settlers clearing scrub, erecting their slab huts with a shingle roof, growing their own vegetables, meat, maize and making their own bread, butter and cheese. By at least 1891 John and Elizabeth were on a block at Maroon and John was a member of the first committee for the Maroon School opened in 1891 – built on the initiative of the locals at their own expense.

The couple had nine children, although not all lived to adulthood – sons Jack and Will were the only males who did so. John managed the local cheese factory for a time, and was among the first trustees of the 1905 School of Arts.  John and Elizabeth moved back to Brisbane sometime before 1919, and were communicant members of Saint Andrew’s Church on the corner of Ann and Creek Streets in the Brisbane CBD.

Enlistment and early service

According to the Queensland births register, Jack was born in the Lady Bowen Hospital in Brisbane on 30 July 1892. After leaving the Maroon School at the age of 12 he worked on farms around Maroon, Rathdowney and Knapp’s Creek - where he met the Roe family including Edith Mary Roe. Jack then took up droving, returning from that as soon as he had fulfilled an obligation, to enlist in Brisbane on 16 April 1915. His religion was Presbyterian and the medical examination recorded that he stood 176cms tall, weighed 68.5kg, and had a fair complexion, grey eyes and fair hair.

Placed with the 9th reinforcements for the 5th Light Horse Regiment, Jack embarked in Brisbane on the HMAT Hymettus A1 on 17 September 1915, and for the purposes of the voyage was an acting Corporal. Before leaving he and Edith Roe had became engaged and he carried her photograph with him throughout the War.

Soon after arrival in Egypt John was hospitalised for appendicitis, and when he was formally taken on strength with the 5th Light Horse Regiment at the end of the December in the large camp at Maadi, he reverted to the rank of Trooper. The Regiment marched out to Serapeum in late February 1916 to (uneventfully) occupy positions in the Suez Canal defences. During this time Jack was again hospitalised – this time with mumps – and he returned to duty a week later.

The Sinai and Palestine

Defensive outposts were established to the east of the Canal and the 5th occupied the post at Duidar until August 1916, undertaking arduous night patrols and reconnaisances into the desert and keeping in touch with patrols from Romani. A large Turkish force unsuccessfully attacked the British and Dominion forces gathered at Romani in early August - the 5th took no part in this Battle, but was engaged in pursuit of the retreating Turkish Army and the unsuccessful attack on the strong Turkish positions in the Battle of Bir-el-Abd on 9 August 1916.

After re-organising and recuperating back at the Duidar post in October and November 1916, the 5th protected communication lines and engaged in flank protection as the British and Dominion forces continued to follow and harass retreating Turkish forces until the strong defensive line the Turks held between Gaza and Beersheba was reached in March 1917.

In March and April of 1917 the 5th took part in two unsuccessful attacks on Gaza, with the frustration of the 5th making key inroads in attacking Gaza from the rear on the first occasion, but being ordered to withdraw.

Gaza finally fell in November. However, Jack suffered an injury to his right hand shortly before this when the 5th cleared deep wells blown up by the Turks at Asluj and were searching for enemy forces nearby. When digging a trench in stony ground on the night of the 26/27th October 1917 Jack was troubled by severe jarring – later diagnosed as inflammation of the connective tissue – although he initially stayed with the Regiment on light duties, seeking medical help only when it was clear that the condition was not improving. In December 1917 he was admitted to hospital, although in addition to the hand injury there is some reference in his service papers to appendix pain.

After a period of convalescence Jack re-joined the 5th in May 1918, when it was in positions on the western side of the Jordan River. The Jordan Valley was notorious for mosquitos and malaria and a substantial number of Light Horsemen were struck down - Jack contracted the disease in July, and after repatriation to Australia on the HMAT Wiltshire A18, was formally discharged on 19 February 1919.


Jack relished being on the land and working with horses and cattle, and balloted in 1919 in the soldier settlement scheme, being allocated a block of land at Mt Hutton (close to Injune). After building a house on this block he and Edith were married at Knapp’s Creek on 4 November 1920, with Methodist rites. However, like many others who took part in the soldier settlement scheme, and despite Jack having a background on the land, drought and other circumstances forced him to walk off the Injune property, in February 1925.

He then took up a dairy farm at Tabooba south of Beaudesert, where his family expanded to a total of four children (daughters May, Joan and Jessie and son Gordon). A severe recurrence of his malaria in late 1927 necessitated repatriation assistance and some periods in hospital - it took 12 months for him to recover.  

Jack sold the Tabooba farm in 1929 and moved his family to Aratula (south-west of Fassifern) where he trimmed logs to build saleyards and operated as a commission agent and auctioneer. He also had a petrol depot, selling 24 and 44 gallon drums of fuel as well as kerosene and oils. In addition, Jack contributed to the region as a Boonah Shire Councillor from 1936-39.

In March 1939 the family moved to a dairying and grazing property at Cooyar (90 kms north of Toowoomba). The land was very hilly and steep in places, with three spring-fed creeks down low, and Gordon, Joan and Jessie did a good deal of the dairying. During the Second World War Jack served in the 9th Battalion of the Citizen Military Forces from May 1942 to October 1945, at the rank of Lieutenant from September 1944.

With the help of a cousin Jack built a small house for his and Edith’s retirement at Beachmere north of Brisbane, with eight acres of land so he could still ‘feel country’.  They moved to Beachmere in late 1951, but not long afterwards Jack’s health declined noticeably, particularly from emphysema, and he was cared for by Edith for an extended period.

Jack died on 30 May 1968 at the Freemasons Home, Sandgate, aged 75. Edith had passed away 10 weeks earlier. They were survived by Gordon, Joan and Jessie (daughter May had passed away two years earlier). Jack’s funeral was conducted in the Presbyterian Church in King Street, Caboolture, and his remains were interred in the Caboolture Cemetery, beside those of Edith.

In commemoration of their service in World War 1, Jack and his brother Will are listed on the Honour Boards in Saint Andrew’s Church in the Brisbane CBD, and the War Memorial at their home town of Maroon.

Select bibliography
• Australian electoral rolls.
• Australian War Memorial – embarkation rolls.
• National Archives of Australia – service records (WW1 and WW2), repatriation files. 
• Queensland births, marriages and deaths registers.
• The assistance of John’s daughter Jessie is gratefully acknowledged.
• Krause, H.A., The story of Maroon in the Fassifern District of Queensland: a souvenir review of its history and development, 1827-1961 (Maroon Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1961).
• Maroon Centenary Celebrations Committee Maroon State School: Centenary Celebrations 1891-1991 (Maroon Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1991).
• Pfeffer, Colin.  The Fassifern story: a history of Boonah Shire and surroundings to 1989 (Boonah Shire Council, 1991).
• Walsh, Leo W.,  A brief history and detailed nominal roll of the 5th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force, 1914 to 1919 (Victoria Barracks Museum and Historical Society, Brisbane, 2010).
• Wilson, L.C. and Wetherell, H.  History of the Fifth Light Horse Regiment (Australian Imperial Force) (A. Green, Brisbane, 2008). 
Courier Mail (Brisbane) 1 June 1968.

Written by Ian Carnell AM, Buderim.  November 2017 © Revised March 2018 ©



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