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Fletcher, James Lionel (1890–1977)

by A. W. Hammett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

James Lionel Fletcher (1890-1977), soldier, teacher and farmer, was born on 4 December 1890 at Warwick, Queensland, son of English-born George Frederick Fletcher, apiarist and storekeeper's assistant, and his native-born wife Matilda, née Roper. He attended Sandy Creek State School until he was 14, then in 1906-09 was a pupil-teacher at Sandy Creek and at Warwick. He taught at Warwick as an assistant teacher for the next two years and at Cunnamulla in 1912-15. He served for two years in the Junior Cadets and as a lieutenant in the Senior Cadets, Universal Training Scheme, in 1911-12.

After enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 February 1915, Fletcher was promoted sergeant and then commissioned as a second lieutenant on 29 March before being posted to the 25th Battalion. He was promoted lieutenant on 1 June and embarked for Egypt on the Aeneas at Brisbane on 29 June. He landed at Gallipoli with the 25th on 11 September and served there until the evacuation.

The battalion reached Marseilles, France, on 20 March 1916, moved into the Armentières sector and was in action at Pozières Heights from 3-4 August. Fletcher, responsible for moving the troops to the front, was wounded in action at Pozières. He was awarded the Military Cross for laying telephone wires under heavy machine-gun and shell-fire. Although he was wounded, and had severe casualties among his men, he continued to maintain communications and rally his troops. He was promoted captain on 12 August while recuperating from his wounds. He rejoined his unit on 22 October but was detached to the 7th Infantry Training Battalion from January to June 1917.

After his return the 25th Battalion took part in the battle of Broodseinde on 4 October and suffered heavy losses, Fletcher being one of the wounded. He returned to his unit on 20 December but was again wounded on 5 June 1918. He was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross for displaying conspicuous gallantry when his company was held up during an attack by heavy machine-gun fire from the right flank. Rallying his men, he rushed an enemy trench, killing six Germans with his revolver.

Fletcher was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his untiring efforts during an attack near Mont St Quentin on 2 September 1918: he personally captured a machine-gun post and took command of his unit after the commanding officer was wounded. He was promoted temporary major on 26 September and posted to the 26th Battalion on, 12 October. He was mentioned in dispatches in 1919 before returning to Australia in September; his A.I.F. appointment ended that month and he was placed on the reserve of officers as a captain in January 1920.

After demobilization, Fletcher bought a pineapple and citrus farm at Palmwoods, Queensland. On 18 April 1920 he married Leila Barnett Warner at St Albans Anglican Church, Cunnamulla; they had one son and three daughters. He moved to Belmore, Sydney, in 1973 and died at Campsie on 18 August 1977; he was cremated. His four children survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 26 Sept 1916, 24 Sept 1918, 31 Jan, 1 Feb, 11 July 1919
  • 25 Battalion AIF, Brief Summary of Events 1915-18 (Australian War Memorial)
  • F. S. Rosensjkar, With the 25th Battalion AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • war diary, 25th Battalion AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

A. W. Hammett, 'Fletcher, James Lionel (1890–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fletcher-james-lionel-6192/text10643, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 25 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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