John Arthur Earls was born in Warrnambool in 1893, the son of John Alexander and Edith Burchell Earls.
‘Jack’, as he became known was working as a railway clerk in Orange when war was declared; he was among the first men in Orange to enlist. Jack proceeded to the Expeditionary Camp at Queen’s Park in Waverley with fellow railway clerks Thomas Henry Nicholson and Claude Bertie West. Tom wrote a letter his colleagues in Orange describing their experiences in camp, and adding “Jack Earls is still a clerk, but does not like it owing to the hours being too long, which are anything from 6 a.m. to 1a.m.”
Jack and his mates embarked from Sydney in October 1914 aboard the Euripides. Jack served in Egypt, France and Belgium, and was hospitalised several times during the course of his service, suffering from gastritis, pneumonia and influenza.
In July 1916 Jack was wounded in action, but recovered from his injuries. On 12 October that year he was killed in action in Belgium.
Jack Earls’ name appears on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll, the Orange Railway Ambulance and Rifle Club Honour Roll and the Orange East Public School Honour Roll. He is also remembered in Newman Park in Orange, where his name appears on a plaque commemorating former Orange East Public School students who were killed in action.
He is also commemorated on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph.
On 25 April 1917 the second ever Anzac Day service in Orange was held at the Orange Public School. Mayoress McNeilly placed a laurel wreath on the Union Jack for each fallen soldier who had attended the school, including Jack Earls.
In July 1917 a tree was planted at Orange Public School in Jack’s memory. It was one of 26 trees planted in honour of fallen soldiers who had attended the school.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Sgt JA Earls”; it was donated by his mother, Edith. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
During his war service Jack found the time to write many letters to his friends and family in Orange, often with evocative descriptions of his surrounds. One such letter, written from camp in Mena on Christmas Day 1914 describes his visit to the pyramids. He also mentions Dr Neville Howse’s new moustache and gives an account of his Christmas dinner.
Leader, 3 February 1915, p. 3
Letters from the Nile, the pyramids described