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FREEMAN, James Arthur DCM (1896-1966)

FREEMAN, James Arthur DCM (1896-1966)

James Arthur Freeman, after attending Flinders National School, Geelong was enrolled at Geelong College in February 1911 continuing until December of that year. At enrolment he was living at Waverley, Western Beach, Geelong. He was born on 2 September 1896, the son of Benjamin James Freeman and his wife Emily nee Dann.

During World War I, he served in the Cadets for 4 years prior to enlisting (No 8847) on 12 October 1915 at the age of 19. He embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Port Macquarie on 16 November 1915 with the 1st Reinforcements, 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column and served in France.

He was later promoted to Sergeant and on 26 March 1917, while serving with the 105th Howitzer Battery, 5th Field Artillery Brigade, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the citation read:
'For gallant conduct near Martinpuich on the morning of 2 February 1917.
At about 11.45 am that morning a direct hit with a 15 cm H.E. shell was obtained on No. 5 pit, killing two of the detachment outright and badly wounding the remaining three men. A considerable number of the charges in the pit were ignited by the explosion. Sergeant Freeman was in No. 6 pit at the time, and he immediately ran into No. 5 pit and with his bare hands grabbed many of the burning charges from out of the debris, and threw them clear of the pit into the snow. He then ran outside and got a shovel and finished putting out the remaining charges in the pit. But for the prompt action of Sergeant Freeman, three wounded men in the pit would have been burnt to death. As it was, Sergeant Freeman took charge of the men that came to assist and got the wounded away promptly. It was also due to the prompt action of this Non Commissioned Officer that the gun was only out of action for about half an hour. Had the fire in the pit not been extinguished, it would certainly have greatly damaged the gun and rendered it out of action.'

Freeman received concussion at Ypres on 4 October 1917 and experienced otorrhoea which caused partial deafness in his left ear he was treated at NO. 4 London General Hospital. He was further injured by gun shot wound to the left arm in November 1917.

He was commissioned as a Lieutenant, and returned to Australia on HT SS Karmala leaving England on 1 July 1919 and disembarking on 17 August 1919.

Harry Purnell wrote to the Headmaster about his award, part of the letter was quoted in Pegasus of May 1917:

'You will be very pleased to hear that Jim Freeman has been awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal, and I can assure you he fully deserved it, as it was rather a plucky thing he did. I was a few hundred yards away and saw the whole performance. Fritz put one of his iron-foundries right into one of our gun pits, and of course the woodwork and charges were soon ablaze, and had it not been for Jim’s smart work in putting the fire out the shells would have soon been popping.'

James Arthur Freeman died in 1966.

His younger brother, Harvey Freeman MC (1897-1917), also educated at Geelong College, was killed on 12 October 1917, when going to the aid of a wounded comrade, and was buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele. Two other brothers, John Russell Freeman (1899-1964) and Thomas Dann Freeman (1903-1971) were educated at Geelong College

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp 38-40, 191-2 (citing Pegasus; Australian War Memorial; National Archives; AWM PB1455).
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