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CHIRNSIDE, James Ivor McIver MC (1878-1940)

CHIRNSIDE, Dr James Ivor McIver MC (1878-1940)

Born on 21 May 1878, he was the sixth of nine children of Robert Chirnside and Margaret nee Forbes, of Mount Rothwell, Little River. He was educated at Geelong College, enrolling in 1892 and continuing to the end of 1897. He is listed in the Geelong College Annual Report prize lists in 1987 awarded 1st in Latin in the Honour Class; 1st in Greek in the 3rd Class; and 1st in French in the University Class. James was also a member of the 1897 1st Football Team. His College enrolment record lists his name as 'James Ives Chirnside'.

He then entered Ormond College, The University of Melbourne, where he graduated MBBS.

During World War I he enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) attached to the 4th Light Horse as a Captain on 16 September 1915, and embarked for Egypt on 20 December 1915 on HMAT A60 Aeneas.

Neil Smith in Men of Beersheba wrote of his exploits about the time of Beersheba: 'The 4th Light Horse Regiment like all major units had on its establishment an Army Medical Corps officer termed the Regimental Medical Officer. During the operations around Beersheba the Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) was Doctor James Chirnside who had joined the Regiment in Egypt. The RMO had a position of great responsibility both in and out of action. Apart from practising his trade daily in the Regimental Aid Post in the former situation he was also a close adviser to the Commanding Officer. In action he may need to travel to squadrons but always maintain a link with his RAP and the supporting Field Ambulance. Chirnside was no doubt involved in the charge at Beersheba although this cannot be confirmed, and was later awarded the Military Cross. He was later replaced following his evacuation due to sickness.'

Neil Smith also wrote about his service at Es Salt in April 1918:
'A number of men displayed the greatest gallantry in rescuing, under very heavy fire, their wounded comrades who otherwise must have been abandoned to the enemy as the Ambulance had been captured. The men therefore had to carry the wounded in waterproof sheets and in front of their horses up and down almost impassable hills and wadis for a distance of several miles. The Regiment’s Medical Officer Captain James Chirnside worked tirelessly to save life and alleviate suffering despite being frequently under fire himself from the enemy only a few hundred yards distant. During the whole period of the engagement the enemy were pressing in on the right flank and almost succeeded in cutting off the main body but due to the fine efforts of the Australians on the high ground with a few Hotchkiss machine guns, the enemy was checked until late in the morning by which time the rearguard had passed the most dangerous points.'

Promoted to the rank of Major in 1918, he was awarded the Military Cross on 18 August 1918, the citation read:
'On 1st May 1918 near Visr ed Damie displayed the greatest gallantry while under very heavy shell, machine gun and rifle fire in attending to wounded men. During the retirement of the Rearguard Squadron this officer personally attended to the wounded although the enemy were firing on him at a distance of 300 yards. Again at Black Hill on 3rd and 4th May 1918 during which time the regiment had heavy casualties and the dressing station being heavily shelled this Officer with marked ability and the greatest gallantry succeeded in getting all the wounded men back on camels to the Ambulance.'

He was demobilised on 19 September 1918, took leave in America before his return to Australia, and was presented with his Military Cross on Gala Day, 31 October 1919. He died in 1940.

His brothers, Thomas Chirnside (1875-1957) and Charles Rothwell Chirnside (1883-1910) were also educated at Geelong College

Sources: 'Geelong Collegians at the Great War' compiled by James Affleck p 156 (citing The University of Melbourne: Record of Active Service of Teachers, Graduates, Undergraduates, Officers and Servants (1926); Neil Smith, Men of Beersheba: A History of the 4th Light Horse Regiment 1914-1918; Australian War Memorial; Pegasus; National Archives).
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