To Violet with love from Jim

Cushion cover 1915

This stunning keepsake was sent to Violet Wilkinson sometime in 1915, from a keen admirer ‘Jim’ but it is not recorded who Jim was.

The donor of the item, Violet’s granddaughter couldn’t enlighten us, and the family thought that ‘Jim’ didn’t return from the war.

During the First World War, Violet was living with her family in Macknade, north Queensland, a cane growing and mill community.  There were approx. 13 men who gave their place of residence as Macknade / Macnade, when they volunteered, among them was James McMurray Blackburn.

James (Jim) enlisted in August 1914 and sailed for Egypt on board the troopship Omrah, with the 9th Infantry Battalion. He landed with first wave of troops at Anzac Cove on the morning of 25th April 1915 and remained on the Gallipoli Peninsula until being taken ill with dysentery in September.

A soldiers farewell

By the time he was fit again for service, troops had been evacuated from the Dardanelles and he embarked for England. Not long after his arrival he was admitted to hospital with mumps but by May 1917 he was again in the front line with the 9th Battalion serving in France.

While involved in operations west of Peronne in September 1918 James Blackburn received gunshot wounds to the hip, arm and leg and was evacuated to England, never seeing active service again. By the time he had recuperated the Armistice had been signed and men were being returned home.

James Blackburn

James Blackburn arrived in Brisbane in May 1919 and remained at the 17th Australian General Hospital, Enoggera for treatment, eventually returning home to Macknade, sadly he died in 1922, age 29.

We can’t be certain that this is the ‘mysterious Jim’ but it would be lovely if it was, he was obviously seriously wounded and this keepsake is a reminder of his service.

What happened to Violet ? In February 1917 Violet Wilkinson married William Robert Ninnes, also from Macnade, who had returned from the war in 1915 having been medically discharged.

You can view the cushion cover in full from the State Library Catalogue.

Further to this story:

Postcards written by Jim were later found and donated by Violet’s family and reveal that the man was James Henry Urquhart, 9th and 49th Infantry Battalions, who was killed in action at Pozieres, 13 August 1916. You can read his full story here – In love and war.

Read more …

Marg Powell  |  QANZAC100  State Library of Queensland

Posted in Qld Faces of WWI | Tagged WW Browse Queensland's World War 1 Centenary
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  1. Lesley Bryant

    Many thanks to the WWI staff at SLQ for unearthing this wonderful story! Our family is very pleased to hear about ‘Jim’ who obviously did well to survive Gallipoli and all the illnesses, wounds, and perhaps a broken heart, to return to Australia. Sad to hear he died so young. Violet’s husband, William Robert Ninnes, died young too of a rheumatic heart which, we have no doubt, was related to the infection which saw him medically discharged from the army some time after landing at Gallipoli with the second attack wave on 25 April. He died before his 4th child was born in 1924. We would be interested to connect with any of the family of James Blackburn.

  2. Lesley Bryant

    I have just discovered my grandmother (and later my mother, both now deceased) kept 8 post cards from ‘Jim’ even though Violet married ‘Will’ (my grandfather). The last one dated 10/5/1916 acknowledged receipt of Violet’s letter dated 22/3/1916 which was obviously a ‘Dear John ‘ letter! This time instead of signing ‘Love Jim’ it is signed ‘I remain Yours truly Jas. H. Urquhart’! So the identity of ‘Jim’ is solved but sadly he died in France 3 months later and perhaps that is why his letters have been preserved. I have deposited them with State Library Qld so they can help tell the story of the cushion cover.

  3. Lesley Bryant

    It is important to realise that when my first comment, dated 28 March, was written we thought that ‘Jim’ might have been James Blackburn so search separately for his name and see the story the SLQ researchers uncovered.

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