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John Francis Roberts. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

On 14 February 1916 brothers John Francis Roberts and Charles Joseph Roberts travelled from their home in Wolgan Street, Portland, to Bathurst to enlist in the First World War.

Both brothers served overseas, but only Charles returned; John was killed in action on the Western Front on 29 July 1918.

John and Charles were born in Lucknow where their father Claude Hubert – aka Charles – was manager of the Anna Mine. The boys were educated at Shadforth Public School. In 1900 their mother Caroline passed away. John was just five years old at the time, and Charles, seven. In about 1914 Charles and his boys moved to Portland, where Charles snr found work at the Boulder Mine.

At the time of his enlistment John was working as a cement worker and served with the 41st Battalion Militia. He embarked HMAT A46 Clan MacGillivray in Sydney on 3 May 1916. After a brief stopover in Alexandria he arrived in Southampton on 9 August 1916. Two days later Private Roberts was admitted to Fargo Hospital at Lark Hill suffering from pneumonia.

Upon his recovery John proceeded to France. He was taken on strength with the 53rd Battalion on 26 October 1916, six weeks after his brother Charles had arrived in France.

In early November John was taken to the 39th Casualty Clearing Station with mumps. He was transferred to the 25th Stationary Hospital at Rouen, and did not rejoin his unit until 20 December 1916.

In July 1917 Private Roberts undertook two weeks training at Sniper School. He rejoined the 53rd Battalion on 22 July and was wounded in action just five days later. John was admitted to 3rd Casualty Clearing Station with gunshot wounds to the left forearm and evacuated to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital in Dartford, England. He was released from hospital and marched in to No 2 Command Depot at Weymouth on 22 October 1917.

Private Roberts rejoined his unit in France on 10 April 1918. On 29 July 1918 Private John Roberts was charging German trenches near Morlancourt when a shell fragment penetrated his chest, killing him instantly. He was 22 years old.

In April 1921 Charles Roberts snr returned to Orange to erect a commemorative plaque for John on his wife’s grave in Orange Cemetery. The plaque is located in the Catholic Section TF at Grave 300.

John Francis Roberts is also commemorated on the Shadforth Public School honour roll, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph, on panel number 158 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France.

John Francis Roberts commemorative plaque. Image courtesy Orange Cemetery.