The final resting place of Private Joseph Henry Mitchell who died in 1917, but not from war wounds.
The final resting place of Private Joseph Henry Mitchell who died in 1917, but not from war wounds. Samantha Elley

Young soldier found to be unfit for service

OFTEN when we see a gravestone for a young man who has died during the era of a world war, we can easily make the assumption they were killed in battle.

Despite a beautiful headstone for Private Joseph Henry Mitchell who died in 1917 at the age of 25 years, this was not the case.

His grave overlooks the spectacular views in East Ballina cemetery and the headstone is adorned with a soldier's hat, gun and sword.

Joseph enlisted in the 7th reinforcements of the 11th lighthorse division on August 16, 1915 having worked as a blacksmith at Tintenbar before that.

His medical examination declared him fit for active service after being checked for a number of conditions including syphilis, impaired constitution, defective intelligence, haemorrhoids and much more.

It seems, however, he wasn't checked for kidney disease.

Only a couple of months later in December of 1915, Joseph was admitted to hospital while on transport as he was complaining of pain and swelling on his left side.

On arrival he was admitted to the Suez government hospital where it was discovered he had an abscess of the kidney.

According to his army medical records he had become very emaciated due to a poor appetite.

His condition was eventually diagnosed as pyonephrosis, an infection of the kidney's collecting system causing distension.

A nephrectomy - kidney removal - was performed and he was eventually discharged as his condition was seen as being aggravated by active service.

As his condition worsened news was being sent home and printed in local newspapers for his family and community.

He returned to Australia in May 1916.

It was only a year later on September 16, 1917 that he eventually passed away.

Reference

  • 'Pyonephrosis', en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyonephrosis, accessed November 29, 2017.
  • Joseph Henry Mitchell, 'Australia, WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920', Ancestry.com, Accessed November 29,2017.


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