Jasper Samuel Creagh, from Wingham in New South Wales, was one of the ‘old originals’, who sailed to Europe with 13 Battery in 1915. Two years later, Creagh’s war service came to an end on the battlefields of northern France.
Then aged 39, Creagh was ‘knocked over’ by a shell bursting near him. Following another such incident, he was reported to have coughed up a great deal of blood. Following lengthy hospitals tests, he was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and was discharged on November 2, 1917.
He returned to Australia and died in Liverpool Hospital. He is buried in Rookwood Cemetery, Lidcombe, Sydney.
Jasper Creagh’s unslefish service – remember every member of the AIF in World War 1 was a volunteer – is documented in ‘Fired for Effect, The Story of 13 Field Battery in the Great War’, a book written by one of my three younger brothers, Andrew Ricketts.
13 Battery was one of three batteries making up the 5th Artillery Brigade during the Great War. Andrew’s book is a summary of more than four years of diary entries from Australian soldiers.
13 Battery was removed from the Australian Army Order of Battle by a military ‘re-organisation’ in 2013.
Andrew’s interest, in tracing the fortunes of the battery, was derived from his time with ‘this amazing military force’, in his days as an officer in the Royal Regiment.
A former school teacher at Iona college, Lindum on Brisbane’s southern bayside, Andrew has done a sterling job. I must confess, I thought his account could make for dry reading, given the subject matter. But even those without any connections with the artillery, will find the book a fascinating insight into the horrors of World War 1, and the impact it had on our young men of the time.
Christmas, 1917, saw the Battery’s men cover a barn with a tarpaulin, before setting up tables and lighting a large open fire, to combat the severe cold. “Great merriment and a great success”, one soldier’s diary recorded. No doubt it was the last Christmas for many of those men.
New Year’s Day, 1918, began with a fireworks display, but not the kind anyone would appreciate, as the enemy fired 4.20 guns and a 77mm trench mortar. The Germans were covering an infantry ‘working party’.
No casualties were reported for day one, of the last year of the War to End all wars.
And what would a book, written by a Ricketts, be without a mention of rugby league?
On February 25, 1918 the men of 13 Battery played a game of ‘Northern Union’ against a hospital selection at Boulogne. The hospital side, from England, was victorious, no doubt partly because they were more aware of the rules of the ‘Northern’ game, which had started in England in 1895, whereas ‘rugby league’ (as the 13 man Northern game would become known) did not start in Australia and New Zealand until 1908.
‘Fired For Effect’, by Andrew Ricketts, can be purchased through Amazon.com
1 Fired for Effect, by Andrew Ricketts
2 Andrew Ricketts (left) with other Sydney Roosters’ rugby league fans in the Ricketts’ clan (from left) Damien Ricketts, Jon Ricketts and Stephen Ricketts.