James Henry RIX’s life story

James Henry Rix enlisted for the Great War on 19 July 1915 at 29 years of age; he was 5 feet 6 ¼ inches tall, fresh faced, with blue eyes and brown hair.

He, along with fellow friends, enlisted together with a sense of adventure.

James was born in Malvern, Victoria in 1885, and after 1900 the Rix family had moved to their parcel of land in Officer to establish an Orchard.

After completing school James worked with his father Henry on the orchard which was now well established with various plantings of fruit trees on the acreage.

James enjoyed his working life and his sports, belonging to the Beaconsfield Sports Club, the Officer Sports Club and the Beaconsfield Rifle Club. He married Sarah Haw in 1908 but sadly she passed away the following year.

With the love and support of his parents Henry and Jane, and siblings Albert, Elizabeth, Violet and Mabel, James continued to work with his father on the fruit tree orchard.

Enlisting for the Great War on 19 July 1915 James was considered fit for active service. He was assigned to unit 3rd Divisional Train, Army Service Corps, given the rank Driver and the Service No 10918.

The Beaconsfield community in support of their local recruits celebrated their enlistment and departure with a dance to which the proceeds would aid the Red Cross Funds, on 4 August 1915. This gave the community the opportunity to collectively wish the new recruits, including James, their best wishes and support for their departure to the training camp and then the Great War.

James began training on 22 November 1915 at the Broadmeadows training camp and continued there until 25 March 1916. On completion James embarked aboard the HMAT Persic, the ship arrived in England on 3 June 1916; he continued training in England before departing for France on 24 November 1916.

For two and a half years James was a transport driver on the battlefield in France, although his war record reveals very little of his life during this time the operation of the 3rd Division Train involved the following:

  • Division and Brigade Trains were logistic support and supply units under the command of the Division.

Without logistics there is no combat. Ammunition, food, water and equipment supply and maintenance are vital components of the combat power of an army.

During the First World War, the challenge had become enormous indeed. Division Trains were a prime mechanism to ensure the Army could move and fight. The tasks of the trains and motorised columns varied. The basic tasks of train companies were to carry baggage and resupply food, provisions and water for the headquarters and units of the division.

In addition the Train companies supported Division units with a wide variety of general tasks from providing drivers for headquarters units and field ambulances, to carting road making materials and engineer stores, using sledges to evacuate casualties through the mud, providing transport for postal deliveries, repairing unit equipment, and operating makeshift pack transport units. This, by any man’s standards, would be an arduous task.

Returning to England after the war, James met English born Mabel Hill and on 8 May 1919 they married at St Pauls Church in Liverpool, England. They embarked for Australia on 2 July 1919. James arrived back in Melbourne on 18 July 1919 and was later discharged from the Australian Imperial Forces on 4 September that same year. James and Mabel lived at the orchard, ‘Fairview’, Officer where they had their own family, two girls, Laurel and Elizabeth.

James had experienced the full extremities of life, the tragic death of his first wife while pregnant and the horror of the Great War, and then after the war creating his new life with his wife Mabel, children and lifelong friends while living in the beautiful countryside in Beaconsfield/ Officer.

In later years James suffered from the debilitating ailment, Acute Rheumatoid Arthritis, inflammation of the joints, and he was in terrible pain. On 23 March 1938 James succumbed to his illness and died, only 53 years old. The cortege on entering the Berwick Cemetery for burial drove through a guard of honour formed by returned soldiers; a tribute that the footprint of war inflicted on James Rix was, and is not forgotten.

Researched, compiled and written by Penny Harris Jennings