John Edward Holland
Service number 5591

The harsh conditions of active service had exacerbated Private John Holland’s varicose veins, making it impossible for him to continue to serve in the front lines, according to a medical report prepared in September 1917.

Born at Garton in Yorkshire, John was one of numerous English immigrants working in the Canungra district who joined the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force in the Great War.

John, a journeyman plumber, was already more than 41 years old when he enlisted in Brisbane on April 1, 1916, joining the 15th reinforcements of the mostly Queensland 25th Battalion.

He nominated his father, Ned Holland, of Fernberg Road, Rosalie, as his next of kin before leaving Brisbane on September 9, 1916, on the Clan MacGillivray.

Arriving at Plymouth on November 2, John went to Rollestone for further training before embarking for the Western Front on the SS Victoria on December 13.

He joined his battalion in the field in France on December 18, as the region was experiencing its worst winter in decades.

The troops endured wet and freezing conditions, mostly with inadequate clothing, and often knee-deep in mud.

It was not until the spring of 1917, that John experienced his first major action of the war, when the 25th Battalion played a supporting role during the Second Battle of Bullecourt, a fortnight of fierce fighting from May 3 to 17.

Battalions from three Australian divisions faced determined opposition from the Germans in attempting to secure the fortified village of Bullecourt. Although the Germans finally withdrew from what remained of the village, the Australians had paid a high price for the ground gained, suffering more than 7480 casualties.

(Image: Public Domain.)

“Already more than 41 years old when he enlisted.”

The medical condition had been aggravated by the demands of active service.

After just six months in the field, John was out of action from June 19, suffering painful varicose veins in both legs, and returned to England mid-August.

A medical report said the varicose veins had first begun to trouble the soldier while on the march in March, 1917. By the time the medical report was prepared in September, John had particularly prominent veins on the right leg which was quite swollen.

The report found that he had likely developed varicose veins years earlier but that the condition had been aggravated by the demands of active service.

After returning to England, John spent some two and a half months at Weymouth, the Australian convalescent depot for soldiers expected to be out of action for an indefinite period.

Classed as unfit for active service but fit for home service, John was placed on duty at Tidworth and then Parkhouse during the remainder of 1917 and into 1918.

In the midst of it all, John found time for romance in his home county of Yorkshire. On Christmas Eve, 1917, he married Minnie Faley the daughter of shepherd John Faley, from his birthplace of Garton on the Wolds. According to the AIF extract of the marriage certificate, John, then 42, was the divorced husband of Hannah Holland (nee Weise) and Minnie, 30, was previously unmarried.

John had an operation on his varicose veins but it did little to alleviate the problem.

He returned to Australia on the Leicestershire, leaving England on December 9, 1918 and arriving in Melbourne on January 22, 1919. John was discharged from the Army as medically unfit in Brisbane in July 1919.

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