This blog is a companion to the Database of Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington

Friday, August 16, 2013

Lost Digger - Jack of the 20th Battalion - Updated

 Photo courtesy of Isabelle Godard, Vignacourt.

"Jack" on the left of the picture, had this photo taken in Montigny-le-Tilleul (Belgium) in 1919 and sent it to a French family in Vignacourt with his first name and his Battalion - the 20th - written on the back.  The family have kept that photo for all these years, and now would like to identify him.  Their enquiry ended up with The Lost Diggers volunteers to attempt to identify him.    

Volunteers Alison McCallum, Tim Lycett and Sandra Playle have identified the clues in the photo - his appearance fair, light coloured eyes, average stature, probably aged in his early thirties, late twenties  WW1 uniform, three overseas service chevrons on his right sleeve, and a wedding ring on his left hand.

After detailed research, Alison says "Jack had posted the photo to Vignacourt (Somme, France) from Montigny-le-Tilleul (Belgium) where he was stationed with 20th Battalion. Based on a search of the 20th Battalion War Diaries and the Quota lists and staff movement lists for 20th Battalion found in the diaries for 6 Feb - 30 April 1919, locating men with J as an initial, I started with a list of 90 surnames and initials. That was then narrowed down to any with Jack or John as given names. Finally further refined list working from clues in the photo, cross-checking with Embarkation Rolls, and Service Files and narrowed it to one soldier as a POSSIBLE."

I haven't included all of Alison's research here, but John Howarth Blythe served with a number of battalions, the 24th, 23rd, 17th, 19th, and in 1919 the 20th Battalion. 

Alison believes the soldier may be John Howarth BLYTHE of 27 Parsons St, Kensington who enlisted in 1916.  We would be very glad to hear from anyone who believes they can identify the man in the photo above, or confirm or otherwise his possible identification with Private 4622 J H Howarth.  PLEASE PHONE Alison McCallum  0400 063 718 OR E-MAIL


  1. Correction:
    on the back of the 1919 photo was the address
    20th Battalion AIF HQ, Belgium, so far the only known Battalion "Jack" served in.
    It is the soldier Private 4662 John Wilfreth BLYTHE ( a possble match) who served in the 24th, 23rd, 17th, 19th,
    and cruicially in 1919 the 20th Battalion.

    The identity of "Jack of the 20th Battalion AIF, billeted at Montigny-le Tilleul, Belgium , HAS NOT been discovered.

    Pte 4662 John Wilfreth BLYTHE could not be confirmed as a match. Lenore FROST kindly contacted some of BLYTHE's descendants and they stated that 20th Battalion Jack was NOT to the best of their knowledge a relative.