Darwin war history
A Favourite Son
Jimmy Cain was born at Port Wakefield, South Australia, in 1885, the son of Margaret and Thomas Cain, the District Maintenance Foreman with the Palmerston-Pine Creek railway.
Jimmy was one of four brothers, Joseph, Cyril, and Norman who all served in the Great War. The family arrived in Darwin on 29th June 1898 aboard the S.S. Changsa. He was a popular young man, well-known in the town and ‘whose singing was such a feature of all musical entertainments and social evenings’.
Paying His Passage
As there was no recruitment station in Darwin in the early part of 1915, the men who left to enlist paid their own fare to eastern or western ports to do so. Jimmy Cain was one of them, departing Darwin aboard the S.S. Aldenham on 8th March 1915 in company with Robert Butters, Frank Thompson and Elgio Castaldi, who would enlist in March 1917. Private James (Jimmy) Cain joined the 1st AIF in Townsville on 22nd March 1915, was allocated Service Number 2060 and attached to the 9th Infantry Battalion after arriving at Enoggera Camp, Brisbane.
At the time he enlisted he was thirty years and four months old, single and working as an ‘Engineer’. He recorded that he had served a 5-year apprenticeship in the Northern Territory Railway workshops and listed his father, of Hergott Springs, SA, as his next of kin. Jimmy stood 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 9 stone and 7 pounds and boasted a chest measurement of thirty-four to thirty-six inches. He was of a ‘Fresh complexion”, with grey eyes and grey hair.
Gallipolli to Egypt
He embarked in Brisbane on 16th April 1915 and sailed for Egypt aboard H.M.A.T. A55 Kyarra. He joined the 9th Battalion at Gaba Tepe, Gallipoli, on 22nd June 1915 and served there until 24th August at which time he was evacuated due to ill-health (recorded as a ’debility’ but possibly typhoid fever). He was transferred to Alexandria, Egypt, aboard the Hospital Ship (H.S.) Nile disembarking in that port on 27th August 1915. After disembarking, he was admitted to Number 3 Auxiliary Hospital, Alexandria, on 28th August and remained there until being discharged and admitted to the Convalescent Camp at Halloran on 17th September.
He was discharged from the Convalescent Camp and transferred to light duties in Cairo on 5th October. He remained on light duties until 7th January 1916 at which time he re-joined his battalion at Tel-el-Kebir prior to being transferred to France.
A Life Cut Short
On 27th March 1916, he left Alexandria bound for Marseilles, France, to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) with the AIF’s 9th Battalion. He disembarked at Marseilles on 3rd April 1916 and was posted to billets two miles from the front at Rouge De Bout, France. On 20th April, Jimmy was struck and killed by shrapnel ’in field’ during a German artillery bombardment behind the lines. He was buried in Grave Number F26, 13th London Grave Yard, Lavente, Pas de Calais, France where he lies today. And so, Jimmy Cain’s life came to end - suddenly and prematurely.
Final Resting Place
On 8th July 1921, his family was provided with three copies of photographs of his grave and in March 1922, they received a Memorial Plaque and the King’s Message of thanks. However, one folio in Jimmy’s service record indicates that his father, Thomas, had previously signed for the memorial plaque in February 1922 but had not received same. It would appear the error was rectified the following month. He was awarded the Victory Medal, received by his father on 27th October 1922,the British War Medal, received by his father on 15th August 1921, and the 1914-15 Star,although there is no record on his file of his family having received the medal, other than the stamp of the Star on the last page of his file.
James Laurence Cain was 1 of 63 Territorians who lost their lives during the Great War. While his remains lay forever in peace in a quiet corner of France, his name is inscribed on the Darwin Cenotaph, The Esplanade Darwin, with his spirit being forever within that ‘empty tomb’.
Lest We Forget
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Darwin Military Museum