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Jarvis, Eric Roy (1896–1967)

by Carl Bridge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Eric Roy Jarvis (1896-1967), soldier and postmaster, was born on 2 August 1896 at Mount Gambier, South Australia, son of Arthur Jarvis, policeman, and his wife Eliza Jane, née James. He attended Victor Harbor Public School, and at 13 joined the Port Elliot Post Office as a telegram boy. Two years later he was transferred to Adelaide General Post Office as a telegraphist.

In July 1915, after eighteen months in the 75th Battalion cadets, Jarvis enlisted as a private in the 10th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, but his telegraphic skills were soon recognized and in March 1916 he was transferred to the 5th Divisional Signal Company in Egypt. Soon afterwards his unit sailed for France. He was promoted lance corporal in May 1917 and temporary corporal next August. On 4 April 1918, at Hamelet near Corbie, he led a party of linesmen to establish a forward station under fierce shelling. This action earned him the Military Medal and promotion to sergeant. On 8 August, at Villers-Bretonneux, for 'continuously … repairing lines under heavy shell fire' and displaying 'courage', 'cheerfulness' and 'total disregard for danger', he received a Bar to his M.M. He won a second Bar on 29 September, at Bellicourt, when he again established an advanced post under heavy fire and gas-attack. Later, as one of Australia's most decorated soldiers, he was presented to King George V.

Discharged in July 1919, Jarvis returned to the Adelaide Post Office. On 23 August 1920 at the Holden Memorial Methodist Church, Adelaide, he married Alice May Scott. In 1923, and again in 1929, he was posted for three-year terms in Darwin, the second time in charge of the telegraph. During the Depression he operated the repeater station at Cook on the Nullarbor Plain, before becoming postmaster at Orroroo and, in 1940, Port Augusta. In 1942 he was commissioned lieutenant in the Australian Corps of Signals and organized the vital communications link with Darwin for the rest of World War II. After the war he was postmaster at Port Pirie, then from 1950 at Glenelg whence he retired to Victor Harbor in 1961.

Roy Jarvis was a 'livewire', totally involved in all he did. He was active in the returned servicemen's association, the Masonic lodge, golf and bowls clubs, and helped to form the Victor Harbor Progress Association. He was vice-president of the Commonwealth Postmasters' Association and its representative on the P.M.G. appeals board. During World War II, he ran the local recruitment campaigns and comforts fund. Verses by an Orroroo colleague described him as 'always … up and doing', a man 'who can touch the people's hearts' and their 'pockets'. Modest about his achievements, he often told his grandchildren that he won his medals for 'milking cows under shell fire'. However, he did boast the world's longest golf drive: at Cook he drove a ball into a passing railway-truck and it was returned to him from Kalgoorlie, 1100 miles (1770 km) away.

Survived by his wife, son and daughter, Jarvis died at Victor Harbor on 13 November 1967 and was cremated with Anglican rites in Adelaide.

Select Bibliography

  • A. D. Ellis, The Story of the Fifth Australian Division (Lond, 1920)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 6 Aug 1918, 24 Jan, 14 May 1919
  • J. H. Thyer, Royal Australian Corps of Signals: Corps History, 1906-18 (manuscript, 1974, Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Carl Bridge, 'Jarvis, Eric Roy (1896–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jarvis-eric-roy-6828/text11817, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 27 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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