Warragul & District Gazette
November 10, 2015
John Deveraux was just 17 when he volunteered to fight in the First World War.
On Monday, 99 years on, the students of Nilma Primary School paid tribute to John and seven other former pupils of the school who died in service during the First World War.
One by one, senior students of the school came forward to read the details of the young men who never returned to their homeland.
The reading was part of a ceremony to rededicate the school’s newly restored honour board.
Students and guests alike were moved by the realisation that those soldiers were only a few years older than the girls and boys reading their names.
The current students have spent the Anzac centenary year researching the stories of their school forebears.
John Deveraux, described as a labourer and unmarried, was just 17 and a half when he enlisted in Melbourne on September 6, 1916.
Less than a month later, on October 2, he was on board HMAT Nestor, sailing for the Middle East.
He was killed in action at the infamous battle of Ypres on October 4 1917 and is buried in one of the many military cemeteries constructed to accommodate the remains of the hundreds of thousands who died there.
Altogether the names of 40 former pupils are inscribed on the the school’s honour board “In Honor of the Old Scholars of this School who Served in the Great War”.
There was special poignancy for the school principal, Annette Sutherland, in discovering that the J. Jephson listed on the board was her maternal grandfather.
On Monday, Warragul RSL president Noel Tucker spoke of the excitement of the young men – “the sons and fathers of Nilma” - who left to join the army.
“They would be bombed and shot at. Some would die immediately, some would die a slow death, some would die of wounds and disease.
“Of those who died overseas, their remains would never return home.
“Those who survived would return home with an everlasting memory of the horrors of war.”