Percival James KELLY was 30 years of age, with 3 small children,when he enlisted in the Great War on 30th April 1918. He was working as a Shunter with the Western Australian Govenment Railways, based in Collie, when he responded to the demands of a Special Draft. He was posted to the Railways Unit Depot at Broadmeadows Victoria, prior to embarking from Melbourne on the troop ship ” Zealandic “, on 5 October, 1918, bound for London.
Shortly after arrival in the United Kingdom, Sapper KELLY was transferred to the Australian Railways Operating Division Depot at Longmoor on 6th December, 1918. During his 7 weeks stay at the Longmoor Depot, he was struck down with sickness, being admitted to Frensham Hill Military Hospital Farnham on 18th January 1919. Within 3 days, a Medical Report was issued, stating that Sapper Kelly was ” seriously ill “.
Tragically, Percival Kelly died in Hospital on 26th January 1919 from the the effects of Influenza and Bronchial Pneumonia. He was buried at the Brookwood Military Cemetery in the Australian Military Burial Ground Section , on 30th January 1919.
The powerful impact of the Great War 1914 – 1918 on the Kelly Family is illustrated by extracts from letters written by Percival’s wife/widow, Jessie Isabel Kelly, during the eighteen months following his death:-
Letter Dated 8th January, 1919 –
” I am anxious about my husband Pte. P.J. Kelly No. 2813 who went away with the Western Australian Railway Corps from Fremantle 0n 13th September, 1918 and left Melbourne on 5th October for England. I am anxious to know where he is if you could oblige me. I am not in too good health myself and I have to go under treatment and I do not want to leave my little children until he comes home, if it is not too long to wait, otherwise I will have to leave them “.
Letter Dated 4th February, 1919 –
” Dear Sir, Will you please forward to me , my husband P.J. Kelly No. 2813 Special Draft Railway Unit Death Certificate in duplicate as I have several other matters to fix up and I cannot do so till I get a Death Certificate. I hope you will let me have it as soon as possible as they have already stopped my Pension and I do not know how I will manage at home. Three Children and they are only giving me 3 Pounds fortnightly “.
Letter Dated 15th February , 1919 from MLC Assurance Co. Ltd to the Army –
” Kindly forward Death Certificate with identification particulars for Percival James Kelly No. 2813 Railway Corps W.A. who died on 26th January, 1919 and was assured with this Company “.
Letter Dated 4th May, 1919 –
” I would be very much obliged if you could please send me the Death Certificate of my husband as I want it badly. I can’t get his Insurance or Lodge money without it. I think it is time I had it as he has been dead since 26th January. I wish if you were unable to send the Death Certificate, you could please send me something that would convince these unbelieving Insurance people that it is only too true that my husband is really dead. I have fatherless children , and why should they dispute the fact, when the Military says it is true “.
Letter from the Army Dated 13th May, 1919 –
Reports the regrettable loss of husband admitted Frensham Hill Military Hospital at Farnham, Surrey, England on 19th January, 1919. He died on 26th January, 1919, from the effects of Influenza/Bronchial Pneumonia. Sapper KELLY was buried on 30th January, 1919, in the Australian Military Burial Ground , Brookwood Cemetery, England. He was honoured with a Full Military Funeral, coffin draped with Australian Flag, surrounded by several beautiful wreaths, Firing Party, Bugler and Pall Bearers.. There were 2 Sergeants and 4 other ranks present , Chaplain, the Rev. CROTTY conducted the Ceremony. Photographs of Grave were taken to send to next-of-kin .
Document signed 24th July, 1919 –
Mrs. Kelly signed a Receipt for Consignment of husband’s Personal Effects .
Death of Jessie Isabel KELLY
Mrs Kelly died on 11th August, 1919, leaving behind her 3 Children aged 7 years, 5 years and 18 Months.
Letter from Provost Marshall’s Office Perth Dated 23rd October, 1919 –
” I interviewed Mrs. Annie EMERY, and she informed me that she was the Mother of the late Jessie Isabel KELLY who died on 11th August, 1919. There are 3 children left by Mrs. Kelly, all of whom are now being cared for by the Grand-Parents- Marjory aged 8 years, Nellie aged 6 years, and Harold aged 2 and a half years. The Death Certificate is presently in the Supreme Court in connection with the house and land of the Deceased, which is to be sold on the behalf of the children. Mrs. Emery has been granted the Pension on behalf of the children “.
Note from Mrs. Annie EMERY to the Army dated July 1921 –
” Please accept my grateful thanks on behalf of my little grandchildren “. ( This note was in response to receiving the British War Medal, Memorial Plaque and Memorial Scroll in Honour of their Father’s Sacrifice ).
NOTE FROM AUTHOR
We are left to wonder whether the protracted delay in the Army issue of the Death Certificate hastened the Death of Mrs. Jessie Isabel Kelly.
How did the Grand-Parents cope with raising three young children to adulthood?
Did the Family encounter further trauma with the onset of the Depression?
Did the children go on to lead happy, rewarding, and successful lives?