James William Kershler (MSM)
Temporary Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
Serial No. 5708
James William Kershler (MSM) - Information
James William Kershler, also known as Jack, was a member of a prominent Campbelltown family. The Kershler’s had settled in Campbelltown in the 1800s, and developed strong commercial and farming ties to the area. Jack was born in Campbelltown in 1893 to George and Elizabeth, while George was developing a political career as a leading Town Alderman. He spent his childhood in the area with his sisters, Elizabeth and Edith, in the family property on Broughton St. After Jack finished school, he began working as a railway clerk at Campbelltown Train Station. However, the advent of war with Germany would soon transform the lives of the Kershler family. Jack’s younger cousin, Warren, decided to enlist in the AIF in August 1915. Despite Warren supporting the war effort, the Kershlers suffered from hostility and distrust due to their German ancestry. The development of the War Precautions Act of 1914 encouraged suspicion and harsh treatment of those considered to be ‘enemy subjects’ of the British Empire. The Kershlers were called names and treated badly by some members of the community. George Kershler was especially maligned, as he received nasty comments from his colleagues, even though he was a member of the Campbelltown Recruitment Committee. These comments persisted, even as Jack joined the colours, enlisting in Casula on the 17th of January 1916, aged 22.
After enlisting, Jack was stationed to B Company Depot Battalion in Casula and then assigned to the 18th Reinforcements, 13th Battalion. Jack’s unit departed Sydney Harbour on the 3rd of May 1916 on the HMAT Clan McGillivray. While receiving training for the Western Front in England, Jack came down with influenza and was admitted to Fargo Hospital in early September 1916. He recuperated, and was marched out to the 4th Training Battalion at Rollestone a week later. He joined his unit, and was sent to France on the 30th of September. At the time, the 13th Battalion were resting in the lines, before being moved south to the Somme Battlefield to spend the winter in the cold wet trenches, stuck in the mud sometimes waist high.
In the new year, the 13th Battalion participated in renewed attacks on the Somme, fighting in the snow at Guedecourt in February. The following month, the Germans were in the middle of withdrawing to a new defence system, known as the Hindenburg Line. Well-fortified with barbed wire, concrete blockhouses and protected by machine gun nests, it was formidable. The Allies were ordered to advance on the new German position, the 13th launching an assault at Bullecourt in April. It was a bloody disaster. They were then sent into action during the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium. Here, Jack was promoted Corporal on the 8th of September. In early October, he was detached to the 4th Infantry Brigade Headquarters. Jack continued to serve with Brigade Headquarters after the war ended, working as a Room Staff Orderly. He proved himself to be a reliable and efficient soldier and was mentioned several times in General Sir Douglas Haig’s despatches. In January 1919, he was recommended for a Meritorious Service Medal for his devotion to duty and hard work from September to December 1918. He worked tirelessly in and out of the lines helping the Brigade to achieve their final objectives of the war. In March 1919, Jack was promoted to Temporary Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. Jack left England to return to Australia on the 1st of July 1919.
James returned to his life in Campbelltown, where he followed in his father’s footsteps, and became a Town Alderman. Honouring his fallen mates, he also served on the Committee which ran the Campbelltown Soldiers’ Memorial School of Arts, which opened on the 10th of October 1925. James’ political career skyrocketed when he became Mayor of Campbelltown, serving from 1930-37.