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John Thomas Fearish. Image courtesy

John Thomas Fearish had a relatively short military career; he enlisted in November 1916 and died less than a year later from wounds received on the Western Front.

John was born in Orange in 1882, the fifth of eight children born to English immigrant William Fearish and Bathurst born Bridget Mary Fogarty. The family relocated to Surry Hills in Sydney, where John attended Marist Brothers School.

In October 1903 John’s father William was working as a bricklayer’s labourer when he was killed by a falling brick. John’s mother died seven years later from a cerebral haemorrhage.
When 34 year old John enlisted in November 1916 he nominated his sister Catherine as his next of kin. Private Fearish was assigned to the 1st Pioneer Battalion, 9th Reinforcements. He embarked from Sydney on 24 January 1917 and arrived in Devonport in 27 March 1917.

Less than a month later John was admitted to Fovant Military Hospital with bronchial pneumonia. He was discharged to the Pioneer Training Battalion in late May and proceeded to France on 25 September where he was taken on strength with the 45th Battalion.

On 20 October 1917 John was hit by a shell, sustaining multiple fractures to his arms and legs plus wounds to the face and groin. He was transported to the nearby dressing station where he died a few hours later.

In May 1921 the Base Records Office wrote to John’s sister Catherine to say:

Upon enlistment the late soldier recorded you as next of kin, but it has been ascertained that he has a brother living, Mr W Fearish of Weston…and I shall be obliged to if you will advise me whether there are any reasons why the War medals should not go to him.

Catherine replied:

Upon enlistment my brother recorded me next of kin. My Brother lived with me since My Mother’s Death. When my Brother got killed I lost the only one I loved and who loved me in the Family. John and I were true Friends. I pray you grant me this Medal in honour of My Brother so I may keep it in love and memory until I die and when I die I will give it to William Fearish of Weston.

In July 1921 the Office wrote to John’s older brother William to ask if he had any objection to Catherine receiving John’s war medals:

[Catherine] was nominated as next of kin and seems to have distinct moral claims to the mementos.

William failed to reply, but it was not until December 1922 that Catherine received John’s war medals and memorial plaque.

John Thomas Fearish is commemorated on panel 27 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium and on panel number 139 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

John’s cousin Sidney John Fogarty also served in WWI; he was killed in action at Warlencourt in France on 14 November 1916.