Downer: John (Jack) Lanarch
Born 2nd May 1898, John Downer (known as Jack), was the younger son of Charles and Mary Downer of Craigburn, Coromandel Valley.
Jack attended Coromandel Valley Public School from 1904 to 1911 and then Adelaide High School from October 1911 to mid-1913. He then gained employment as a Clerk with the firm Elder-Smith.
On 5th January 1916, Jack enlisted in the A.I.F. Standing 5’6” (168cm) tall and weighing 12 stone (154lbs or nigh on 70kg), he had brown eyes and dark hair. Jack’s enlistment details also stated that he had had three years military training in the Cadets Service
Jack was only 17 and a half at the time and therefore under-age, but he told the recruiters he was a year older and the deception was accepted.
Assigned to D Company of the 50th Battalionn as Private 1669, Jack embarked for overseas service on 11th April 1916. His group of re-enforcements arrived at the Suez, Egypt, just over six weeks later, on 27th May.
After a short period of training, they proceeded to Alexandria from where they embarked for France on 5th June. On arrival on at Marseilles on 12th June, these re-enforcements were moved rapidly to the Somme area as Australian soldiers were to be engaged in heavy fighting in late July at Pozieres.
Jack’s Battalion joined into the on-going battle in mid-August 1916. Taking part in an attack on Mouquet Farm, called Moo-Cow Farm by veterans, Jack was killed in heavy fighting on 16th August 1916. His body was never recovered.
Jack’s name is listed amongst the missing of the 50th Battalion on Australia’s War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, France.
Being barely 18 years old when he was killed, Jack is youngest local man known to have died in World War I.
In August 1917, Jack’s mother received his personal effects. These included a wristwatch, Bible, wallet, notebook, letter and photographs.
The Adelaide High School magazine of 1917 contained a photo of him and he is listed on the school’s Roll of Honour. He is listed as Jack Downer on the Coromandel Valley Public School’s Honour Roll and his name appears on the Blackwood War Memorial.
Research by Geoff Lock, 2015