Brothers: Edmund and Norman Ainsworth, Ballina
Brothers: Edmund and Norman Ainsworth, Ballina

Ordinary people fought for our freedom in first world war

MOST of the soldiers who went to the First World War were ordinary soldiers who simply followed orders, got on with their lives as best they could, had a spot of leave occasionally, tried not to be too scared, and endeavoured to stay alive so that they could go home again.

Many had been looking for adventure, or had hoped they would see some of the world "up there".

Training usually took them to Egypt where they saw plenty of sand, or to Salisbury Plain where they saw (and heard) plenty of English NCOs bellowing out orders.

After a while most of them simply wanted to get to the war, get the fighting over, and return home.

Two brothers who enlisted from Ballina were Private Edmund Clarence and Sapper Norman William Ainsworth.

They were the sons of Charles and Harriet Ann Ainsworth. Norman enlisted in October 1915.

As he had a trade he was attached to the 11th Field Company Engineers.

He did his initial training in Adelaide and arrived in England in July 1916.

He was sent to Brightlingsea, a small fishing village in Essex for further training and later also went to Salisbury Plain.

In November 1916 he was sent to France and took part in various battles as part of the Somme offensive.

Norman's training at Adelaide was a bit unusual, so also was his training at Brightlingsea.

However, it is explained by the fact that he was in the Engineers and there was an Australian and New Zealand Engineers Training Camp at Brightlingsea.

It apparently provided a special eight-week advanced training course in bridge-building and defence construction including sand-bagging.

The men were billeted in the small town and often had to find their own transport to and from the village. Norman returned to Australia in May 1919.

His younger brother, Edmund, enlisted in August 1917 as soon as he was 18.

He was living in Alstonville at the time.

One record says he was a grocer while another says he was a clerk.

Unlike his brother he embarked almost without any training in Australia.

He arrived in England in December 1917 and went into training on Salisbury Plain.

He served initially with the 52nd Battalion and later probably with the 30th.

Both Battalions were involved in major battles in France.

However, he returned home safely in April 1919, shortly before his brother Norman.

Another, somewhat different, soldier was Ernest Gordon Jarrett who was born in Ballina.

He enlisted in December 1914 at Bundaberg, aged 24.

He was working at the time as a station hand.

His father is listed at Samuel Jarrett of Tintenbar.

He was initially attached to the Light Horse but apparently was discharged in 1915 for bad behaviour.

He re-enlisted in 1918 but shortly afterwards went absent without leave.

A note on his record tells us a little more about him.

It states that he was born in 1889 to Edith Jane Cooper; his father was "uncertain".

In 1923 he married Annie Beryl Grant at Murwillumbah, and they had three daughters.

He died in Queensland in 1991. The note also says "thought to have joined a travelling circus".

It is not stated, however, when this was. Perhaps, it was after being AWOL, or after the birth of his three daughters! Was he really 102 when he died? Who knows!

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