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John Sydney FYFE

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Pte 1715 21y 20 Jul 1915 6 Jul 1918 4

Private John Sydney Fyfe (1893-1959)


Family history and early life

John Sydney Fyfe (known as Jack) was born in Townsville on 19 November 1893, the second son of John Taylor Fyfe (1860 – 1923) and Sarah Jane née Manning (1870 – 1938).  Jack Fyfe had an older brother and sister and a younger brother and sister.  Their father, John Taylor Fyfe was chief engineer on SS Wodonga, a vessel owned by Australasian Steam Navigation Company to serve Australian cities and towns mainly from Townsville to Melbourne.  The steamship operated from 1890 to 1924.

The Fyfe family were living in Brisbane when the eldest child was born. They later moved to Townsville in connection with J. T. Fyfe’s work as a marine engineer.  In the early 1900s the family returned to South Brisbane and lived at Bogston, 159 Gladstone Road.

Jack’s older brother Charles Taylor Fyfe enlisted in the AIF in 1914 and sailed on the Omrah from Pinkenba on 21 August 1914.  Driver C. T. Fyfe served on Gallipoli Peninsula where he was wounded and transported to hospital at Mudros.  Though he rejoined his unit in Egypt, he spent most of his time there in hospital suffering debility and returned to Australia from Suez in November 1918.  Charles Fyfe’s name is not on the honour board at Saint Andrew’s.

Enlistment and service

After his schooling, Jack Fyfe was a shop assistant in the firm of R. J. Morris, a shoe store at 222 Queen Street, Brisbane.  For seven months, he was a member of the Signalling Corps in Brisbane.  At the age of 21 years 8 months he enlisted in Brisbane to serve in the Australian Imperial Force.  He was 5 feet 4½ inches (164 cm) tall and weighed 130 lbs (59 kg). He nominated his mother as next-of-kin and gave his religious denomination as Presbyterian.

On 20 July 1915 Private Fyfe, Regimental Number 1715 was appointed to 10th Reinforcements (Army Medical Corps) for No. 1 Australian General Hospital (1st AGH).  His unit embarked with 9th Battalion from Brisbane on 5 October 1915 heading to Egypt. The ship called at Sydney and Fremantle and reached Suez on 5 November where the troops disembarked.

The 1st AGH was accommodated in a building and tents at Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo. The building was very large and palatial and was well known as the Heliopolis Palace Hotel. The hospital took over other additional premises for the treatment of patients from all ranks of Australian troops serving in Egypt as well as the sick and wounded who had served in the Gallipoli Expedition in 1915.

In March 1916, following the decision that the AIF should join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France, the various AAMC units were ordered to close and pack up, their patients being transferred to the auxiliary and other hospitals.

The 1st AGH after a hurried departure from Heliopolis, with personnel and equipment for an establishment of 750 beds, embarked at Alexandria on 29 March 1916 on board HM Hospital Ship Salta.  Arriving at Marseilles on 5 April the unit disembarked and after a few days’ waiting for orders, proceeded by rail and arrived at Rouen on 13 April. The hospital was opened for the reception of patients on 29 April 1916.  The patients received were from all ranks (except officers) of the British armies in France - English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, South African, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian soldiers. No distinction was made.

Private Jack Fyfe was a patient himself on more than one occasion. He was admitted with gastritis at Rouen in July 1916 and with influenza in February 1917.

In January 1918 Private J. S. Fyfe joined the 1st Australian Divisional Train to supply medical support transferring to membership of the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance Unit but was diagnosed with Trench Fever in February and transferred for admission into Graylingwell War Hospital at Chichester and later the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford.  His condition did not improve and the decision was made he should return to Australia for discharge. He embarked per HMAT Borda on 1 June 1918 and was discharged from the AIF at Brisbane on 6 July 1918. Both Jack and his elder brother Charles received the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal for their services in the Great War.

Marriage and family

In civilian life Jack Fyfe resumed his previous occupation as a salesman and lived with his parents at their Gladstone Road home.  The minute book of Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Kirk Session notes the acceptance of John Sydney Fyfe to the membership of the church “by profession of faith” on 28 November 1918. Also listed in the minute book for the same reason was Miss Mary May Stone of Chester Street, Highgate Hill.  The two were married in Saint Andrew’s Church on 5 February 1919, the Rev. Hubert Robertson officiating.  The couple made their home called Rothesay at Evadne Street, Graceville. There they raised two sons, Allan and Keith.

Their first son, John Gordon Allan Fyfe, was born on 11 March 1920, served in the 2nd AIF, married Edna Betty Taylor and later moved with his wife to Lane Cove, New South Wales, employed as a shipping officer. He died in 2006.

Keith Taylor Fyfe was their younger son. Born on 1 April 1922, he married Bethel Mavis Smith at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Creek Street, Brisbane on 4 September 1948 and settled at Cairns, North Queensland where he worked as a clerk. He died in May 2014.

Jack Fyfe was involved in activities of the Masonic Lodge. Worshipful Brother J. S. Fyfe was a member of Marshall Haig Lodge No 277, United Grand Lodge of Queensland and served as secretary of Rising Sun Lodge No 83, Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australia, Graceville Branch. He was presented with a jewel at the fortnightly meeting of the Graceville Lodge where his sons were also members, for his effective work amongst adult and juvenile members.

He was also a member of the Sherwood Sub Branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA).

In the year 1938 the Fyfe family experienced sadness through the deaths of Jack’s mother in March and his wife Mary May aged 42 years in September.

Jack’s second marriage took place on 22 November 1940 in Brisbane, the Rev Brian Cavanough, minister of Sherwood Presbyterian Church officiating.  His second wife was Barbara Steel Stuart (nee Caskie) (1888 – 1977).  They lived at 84 Verney Road West, close to Jack’s first home in Graceville where he was able to continue his local interests and pastimes including a lengthy membership of Graceville Bowls Club.


Jack Fyfe died on 1 September 1959. The memorial plaque for Mrs Barbara Steel Fyfe at Mt Thompson Crematorium shows she passed away on 6 May 1977 at the age of 84 years.

• National Archives of Australia, military records, World War 1 and World War 2
• Australian War Memorial, unit histories
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901 - 1980
• Ancestry, online
• Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church, Archives
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• Ryerson Index
• State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library
• Brisbane Courier, 5 February 1919, page 11
• Daily Mail, 19 August 1926, page 2
Telegraph, 2 September 1938, page 12
Cairns Post, 2 November 1948, page 4
• Courier-Mail, 4 September 1952, page 12

Compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane, May 2018 ©



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