19867 Driver James Herbert Sommerville, 8th Field Artillery Brigade


James Sommerville

Author: Australian War Memorial

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James Sommerville was born in England on 9 June 1893 to James and Augusta Sommerville of Clovelly, Devon. He was educated in Clovelly, where he was described as “a well-mannered, conscientious schoolboy, with strength of will enough never to be associated in that which was wrong or low." His father worked for the coast guard, and around the turn of the century, the family moved to St Dogmell’s in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where James’s father worked as Chief Boat Man of the Coast Guard.

James undertook an apprenticeship on the ship Arethusa at the age of 15, coming to Australia to collect a load of wheat. Instead of reboarding the ship to return to England, however, he chose to remain, finding employment with a contractor in Port Victoria, a small town on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.

James Sommerville tried to enlist for service in the Australian Imperial Force shortly after war broke out in August 1914, but was turned down because of his dental problems. He was rejected once more before being accepted for service in September 1915.

Sommerville went into camp in Adelaide to begin his military training. Shortly after arriving, however, he volunteered for the artillery, and so was transferred to Maribyrnong Camp near Melbourne. He emerged from his training with the rank of driver, and embarked on board the troopship Medic at Melbourne on 230 May 1916.

On 24 June 1916, Driver Sommerville presented to the Medic’s hospital bay with what appeared to be influenza. His condition quickly deteriorated into double pneumonia. Within a few days it was clear there was little to be done, and James Sommerville died quietly on 2 July 1916. He was buried at sea the same day.

Today James Sommerville is commemorated on the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton, England. Erected to commemorate a number of service men and women with no known graves, the Hollybrook Memorial bears the names of those who died and were buried at sea and have no other commemorative stone. James Sommerville was 23 years old.

DOD 2 July 1916


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