jimmys war

jimmy cover

Jimmy's War - 1915

It’s 1915 and World War I has been going for over a year, but in Melbourne life for Jimmy and his mum is hard. Jimmy’s brother, Arthur, couldn’t wait to enlist and sail off to fight at Gallipoli, and there’s been no word from him for weeks. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s mum is sick and he’s forced to work in the rail yards to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Jimmy is tempted by an offer of work from local crim, Bill Prosser – more money and less hard graft, but he knows Bill’s reputation. However, when Arthur arrives home from the war, severely injured and unable to get a job, Jimmy gives in and goes to work for Bill. At first it’s running errands and collecting betting money, and the extra money is a great help. At home, Arthur is suffering from nightmares and not coping, and, more and more, Jimmy feels the heavy weight of responsibility.

When Jimmy discovers a plot by Bill and his mate to stage a payroll hold-up, he must make a decision. Go along with it and hope he doesn’t get caught? Or stand up to Bill and risk retribution? And what can he do about Arthur, who is sinking further and further into depression?

Jimmy’s War shows the reality of life at home during the war, and the lasting effects on the soldiers who returned.

Jimmy's War is now part of the Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages exhibition, currently in Brisbane libraries and maybe coming to a library near you.

Check out the blog - and the material about Jimmy's War in the exhibition.

Here are some of the photos I was able to use that also helped me in my research.

boy 1910

This is how I imagine Jimmy looked going off to school with his lunchbox.

old general store

In 1915 much of Yarraville would have looked like this, with some cars but still many carriages and horse-drawn carts.

soldiers on dock

There are many photos of soldiers embarking for the war, mostly from Princes Pier in Melbourne.

(Thanks to the State Library of Victoria and the Melbourne Museum for use of these photos)

You may know that Jimmy (James) and Arthur in the book are inspired by my grandfather and great-uncle who both went off to fight in WWI. My grandfather came home, but sadly my great-uncle James died in Europe and is buried at the military cemetery in Belgium. This is a photo of his headstone.

Through the Defence Department website in NZ I was able to access both of their war service records.

James Dawson