War Service: James Edward Courbarron – letters from home 1914-1918.

Correspondence with family at home survives that provides some interesting background to James’ time in service during WWI. What follows is documentation of letters sent by the army to his sister Mildred Hopkins when James’ was reported wounded in action, also letters sent by Mildred and his mother Mary.  As you will see, Mary Courbarron (nee Morrissey) was going by the name Mrs Mary ‘Casey’ in 1914/15, although no record of a formal marriage exists  in NSW records. Towards 1918 however, in her correspondence regarding her youngest son Frederick serving overseas in France, she signs her name as Mary ‘Courbarron’. Click on images to open in larger format.

On his enlistment, James named his elder sister Mildred, the eldest of the four Courbarron children, as his next-of-kin. It is not known why he nominated his sister rather than his mother, however Mildred was living with her husband Patrick Hopkins at ‘Craigle’ Calgoorlie Street in Willoughby at the time. This letter is the first Mildred received in 1915 informing her that James was wounded and taken ill at Gallipoli dated 18/08/15, please note that the original telegram is in block letters and without punctuation:

“Mrs P Hopkins Willoughby Sydney (N.S.W) Regret brother Private J.E Courbarron wounded not reported seriously no other particulars available will immediately advise anything further received“.

On 26th August, 1915, James’ mother, Mary, happened to be looking through the list of wounded published in the Sydney Morning Herald when she came upon the particulars of her son in the list. Shocked, she wrote this letter immediately to Base Records asking for more information about him.

The letter was sent from the address – Wynola, Cuthbirt  Street, Waverley:

“To the Officer in Charge. Dear Sir, when reading the casualty list in this mornings Sydney Morning Herald, I was shocked to see name of No.122 Private J. E. Courbarron, No.1 Platoon, No.1 Company, 15th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, 2nd A.I.E.F who is my son. He enlisted at Enoggera Brisbane. I would be very grateful to you if you would write me the full nature of his wounds. I remain yours (word illegible) Mrs Mary Casey (Mary Casey being underlined). 

Mary promptly received this reply from Base Records which detailed James’ injuries and his whereabouts to date. Dated 6th September, 1915 and addressed to Mary living at Waverley:

“In reply to yours of the 26th ultimo concerning your son No.122 Private James Edward Courbarron, 15th Battalion, I beg to inform you the only information received was contained in a brief cable message from Alexandria, to the effect that he was wounded in action at the Dardanelles. He is not reported as seriously wounded and Egypt advises in the absence of further reports, it is to be assumed that such cases are  progressing satisfactorily. Next-of-kin who is shown as sister residing at Willoughby, N.S.W, will be immediately notified upon receipt of any later information. His postal address is as under: No.122 Private J. E. Courbarron, Wounded, 15th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force, Alexandria, Egypt. It is necessary that the word ‘wounded’ should be endorsed on the top left hand corner of the envelope, but this is only required during the period he is in hospital. Yours faithfully, Office Base Records”.

On 16th October 1915 Mildred received this wire from Base Records:

“Now reported brother Private J. E. Courbarron sick slight disembarked Malta 27th September Hospital Ship Dunluce Castle will promptly advise if anything further received”.



At this time James was suffering from the debilitating illnesses Dysentery and Colic and required transfer to military hospital in England. All contact was related through his sister Mildred, no further correspondence sent to Mary. On the 26th October Mildred was informed of James embarking for England.

“Dear Madam, with reference to my wire of the 16th instant, I now beg to advise you that your brother, Private J. E. Courbarron, embarked for England 9/10/15, Hospital Ship Regina D’Italia. In the absence of further reports it is to be assumed that all are progressing satisfactorily. Should anything further be received concerning the above soldier you will be promptly notified. Yours faithfully J. M. Lean Captain. Officer in charge of Base Records.”

On 3rd November 1915, Mildred received the following letter from Victoria Barracks in Melbourne advising of James being transported to Malta and then onto Birmingham in England for treatment for dysentery:

“Dear Madam with reference to my wire of the 26th ultimo I now have to advise you to the effect that your brother Private J.E Courbarron is now in the Hospital at Birmingham England. His postal address will therefore be: 122 (112) Private J.E.Courbarron, I11, 15th Australian Infantry c/o Australian High Commissioner, London, S.W. Any further particulars coming to hand will be immediately transmitted. Yours faithfully J. M. Lean Captain. Office i/o Base Records”……..

.and then on 3rd December 1915…

“Dear Madam the following is an extract from a Nominal Roll of sick and wounded received by post, dated 3/10/15 who landed at Malta 27/9/15 from hospital ship ‘Dunluce Castle’. No.122, Private J.E. Courbarron, 15th Battalion, suffering from Dysentery. You are already aware that he has since been admitted to Hospital Birmingham. Any further reports received will be promptly communicated to you. Yours faithfully  J. M. Lean Captain. Officer i/e Base Records. A.I.E.F Victoria Barracks Melbourne”.


 In May 1916, Mildred wrote a letter to the Base Records in Melbourne informing of her change of address from ‘Craigle’ Kalgoorlie Street in Willoughby to Brown Street in Chatswood.

“Brown Street, Chatswood, Sydney, May 31st, 1916. To the Officer in Charge Base Record Melbourne. Sir, this is to notify you that the next of kin (Mrs P Hopkins) of Pvt J. E. Courbarron (122) 15th Battalion 4th Brigade has changed her address from ‘Craigle’ Kalgoorlie Street Willoughby to the above address. Thanking you for all past information. I am yours(?) etc, M Hopkins”.


Mildred was fortunate that the only correspondence she received regarding James was in relation to wounding and illness, unlike many others living around her who received telegrams bearing more tragic information. The next article will detail correspondence regarding their youngest brother, Frederick Courbarron, who enlisted in 1917.









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