Name: James Martin Clement Neagle (known as Martin)
Service Number: 2233
Unit Served: 50th Battalion
Personal Details: Martin Neagle born in 1880 at Port Pirie was the son of Edward Joseph and Susan Neagle of William Street Norwood.
Enlistment Details: He enlisted with his younger brother Vin on May 11th 1916. They had consecutive numbers (2233 and 2234).
Details of his role in the War: Both brothers served in the 50th Battalion and departed from Adelaide on the “A 70 Ballarat” on the 12th of August of 1916. The deadly Battle of the Somme was in full force and the brothers avoided this battlefront being placed in the training camps on the Salisbury Plains at Codford in the UK. They experienced one of the coldest winters on record. Prior to leaving for France, Martin sent a number of postcards one of them to my mother Catherine Royal (nee MacFarlane). Martin was her favourite uncle and remembered him all of her life until she died in 1995. The postcard to my mother read:
November 21st 1916
My dear Cathy,
Just a line from ‘Uncle Marty’ before I go to France on Saturday and fight for you, Mary and Jim. Don’t forget to pray for Uncle Vin and Mart and we’ll be home again soon. This (view on the postcard) is something like the country looked like last Saturday and Sunday. when we had snow here. Be a good girl for mummy and daddy. With love and kisses,
On December 8th 1916 Martin arrived at the notorious British training camp at Etaples. Its reputation amongst the troops was one of harsh cruelty and awful treatment of the troops by the officers. On the 23rd of December the reality of the front line hit Martin Neagle as he joined the unit for battle. His records don’t show his movements until the following year when his battalion was involved in the horrific Battle of Messines. In June of 1917, 19 British mines that had been prepared for two years exploded in the largest underground detonation in military history. The impact was devastating killing many Germans and changing the landscape of the Messines region forever. Massive craters were created and it was reported that the blast was felt in London. The Neagle brothers were a part of this attack and both were wounded. Martin suffered shell shock and was hospitalised from June 9th for two months. While recuperating he spent time at Le Havre and a collection of his postcards written in early August show many of the local sites. They were all filled in ready to be posted however they were not sent and are part of the memorabilia our family have from this man’s war experiences. One of the most poignant messages was “Battered but not beaten”.
Martin rejoined his unit after a period of leave in the UK and once again postcards reveal his brief time as tourist going to Scotland and seeing the sites in London such as the Tower of London. On the 4th of October 1917 Martin sent a beautifully embroidered Xmas card to his sister and brother in law, my grandparents.
“To Cis and Mac, a happy Christmas and bright New year. Your loving brother Mart.”
On October 18th 1917 Martin Neagle was killed in action in the Battle of Passchendaele and was buried in Polygon Wood. The Buttes New British Cemetery is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the former killing fields of Flanders. He lies in peace with many other Australians who fought in some of the most horrific battles of the war. My mother never forgot her favourite uncle and if Cathy was alive today I am sure her grief and loss would be lessened by the fact that this man was the inspiration for the commemorative tours I have taken students on since 2001. He and his mates have NOT been forgotten.
Age at Death: 28
Date of Death: 18th October 1917
Cemetery Details: Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood, Plot XXVIII, Row A, Grave 2
Postscript: the woman engaged to Martin never married and died at the age of 93 in a Catholic Nursing home. Like many women of her generation the loss of their beloved fiancé was a loss too great to bear.
LEST WE FORGET Uncle Martie