3548 Sergeant Eric Roy JARVIS – Military Medal and two Bars
Eric Roy JARVIS was born on 2 August 1896 at Mount Gambier,
South Australia, the third of six children of Arthur Harold JARVIS and Eliza Jane JARVIS (nee JAMES). He attended the Victor Harbor public school, and at age 13, joined the Port Elliot Post Office as a telegram boy and was later transferred to the Adelaide General Post Office as a telegraphist.
In July 1915, Roy, as he was known, after eighteen months in the 75th Battalion cadets, enlisted in the AIF. After initial training Roy was posted to the 11th Reinforcements, 10th Infantry Battalion. He embarked from Outer Harbour on 27 October 1915 on the HMAT A24 Benalla and arrived in Egypt in December. His telegraphic skills were soon recognised and on 14 March 1916 he was transferred to the 5th Divisional Signal Company. On 17 June 1916, the 5th Division sailed from Alexandria for France.
The Signals Company formed part of the Australian Engineers and were responsible for wire and radio communications. One of its main functions was to lay and maintain cables to keep telegraphic contact with different units across the front. The signallers were scattered across the 5th Division and close to the frontline. The Division was the most inexperienced of the Australian divisions in France and was be the first to see major action in the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916, a week after going into the trenches. During the battle the troops suffered heavy losses and were eventually forced to withdraw. The Australian divisions’ casualties totalled 5,533 and it took until October to bring the Division back up to strength.
Sapper JARVIS was promoted to Lance corporal on 1 May 1917 and on 9 August was promoted to corporal. By September 1917, the Division was in Belgium and relieved the 1st Division during the Third Battle of Ypres. On 26 September, the signallers supported the divisional units in the Battle of Polygon Wood. In late March 1918, the Division was rushed back to France and helped repulse the German spring offensive near Amiens. In April, the Australians captured the town of Villers-Bretonneux. It later fought in the Battles of Hamel in July and Amiens in August 1918. In September it crossed the Somme River at Peronne and fought on to the Hindenburg Line.
On 4 April 1918, near Corbie, Cpl JARVIS led a party of linesmen to establish a forward station under fierce shelling. This action earned him the Military Medal and promotion to sergeant. On 8 August 1918, at the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, he again displayed courage by repairing lines whilst subjected to heavy shellfire and was later awarded a Bar to his Military Medal. Sgt JARVIS was later awarded a second bar to his Military Medal for his actions on 29 September at Bellicourt, when he established an advanced post under heavy fire and gas-attack. Later, as one of Australia’s most decorated soldiers, he was presented to King George V.
The citation for his award of a Bar to his Military Medal read:
For courage and devotion to duty. This N.C.O. is with No. 4 Section of this Company, attached to 15th Australian Infantry Brigade. During the attack on the VILLERS BRETONNEUX front on the 8th August 1918, he was with the Brigade advanced Signal party and was most untiring in his duty of maintaining communications between Brigade and Battalions. Throughout the advance he was continually out repairing lines under heavy enemy shell fire with a total disregard for danger. On several occasions after returning to Brigade Headquarters from repairing cable, he worked at the telephone switchboard. His courage, devotion to duty, and cheerfulness were a wonderful example and encouragement to the men with whom he was working. It was to a great extent due to his energy that communications were successfully established throughout all phases of the attack.
The citation for his award of the 2nd Bar to his Military Medal read:
For gallantry and devotion to duty. Sergeant JARVIS is an N.C.O. of No. 4 Section of this Company attached to 15th Australian Infantry Brigade. On 29th September 1918 whilst proceeding with a party from Brigade Headquarters near TEMPLEUX-la-GUERARD to establish an advanced Brigade post about 100 yards west of BELLICOURT they came under heavy enemy shell fire directed upon the road between HARGICOURT and BELLICOURT and suffered casualties. he rallied the uninjured men, proceeded to the advanced post and successfully established communication. The line was urgently required and it was chiefly due to the excellent example he set to the men by his coolness, courage and devotion to duty that communication was successfully established.
Sgt JARVIS embarked on the SS Franconia from England on 8 April 1919 and was demobilised on 12 July. He resumed employment with the Postmaster-General’s Department and married Alice SCOTT on 23 August 1920 and there were later two children of the marriage.
The following members of Eric’s family enlisted during the First World War:
His father, Arthur Harold JARVIS, served as 657 Sergeant major A.H. JARVIS, with the ANZAC Police. Older brother Harold Arthur JARVIS, served as 1323 PTE H.A. JARVIS in the 16th Infantry Battalion. Younger brother Reginald Lancelot JARVIS enlisted however he was found medically unfit and was discharged on 23 March 1918.
During the Second World War, Eric enlisted in the army on 20 March 1942 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Corps of Signals. Lt JARVIS MM was responsible for the important communications link with Darwin during World War Two. After the war, he was appointed as the postmaster at Port Pirie, and then at Glenelg, later retiring to Victor Harbor in 1961. Eric Roy JARVIS died at Victor Harbor on 13 November 1967 and was cremated in Adelaide.
Service file of 3548 Eric Roy JARVIS downloaded form the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au ).
Australian War Memorial database ( www.awm.gov.au )>
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, December 2011.