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VIGOR James Edward
52 Battalion
49th Battalion
16 August 1891
Wotton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, England
7 January 1916
RMS Mooltan
20 April 1916


Walter James Vigor, a grocer, married Sarah Munday on 13 February 1884 in All Saints Church, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, England. Their elder son, James Edward Vigor, was born on 16 August 1891 at Wotton Under Edge on the southern rim of the Cotswold hills in Gloucestershire, England.

In the Census of 1891, James Edward Vigor, aged 2 years, was recorded in the household of his widowed grandmother Sarah Munday at Bridge St., Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. His parents and siblings were recorded in the Census at Long St., Wotton under Edge.

James' father, Walter James Vigor, died on 3 January 1893.

In the Census of 1901, the head of house at 18 Bridge St., Leighton Buzzard, was James' uncle, Thomas Henry Munday (39, single). Also in the household were aunt Louisa Munday (38) and mother Sarah Vigor (43, widow). Sarah was “living on her own means”. Sarah’s children in the household were Esther Louise (16, pupil teacher), May Blanche (14), James Edward (12) and Dora Annie (8). James' brother, Walter Munday Vigor (10), was elsewhere.

James emigrated to Australia, and arrived at Brisbane aboard the “Otranto” on 14 November 1910.

In the Census for England and Wales on April 1911, the family James left behind were still living in the household of his uncle Thomas, a "jewellery shopkeeper".

In the Queensland Electoral Roll of 1913, James was recorded as a “labourer” at Pomona.

Military Context

James enlisted on 7 January 1916 at Enoggera, Brisbane.

The 52th Battalion was raised at Tel el Kebir in Egypt on 1 March 1916 as part of the doubling of the AIF. Approximately half its recruits were veterans from the 12th Battalion, and the other half fresh reinforcements from Australia. Reflecting the composition of the 12th, the 52nd was a mix of men from South and Western Australia and Tasmania. The 52nd became part of the 13th Brigade of the 4th Australian Division.

After arriving in France on 11 June 1916, the 52nd fought its first major battle at Mouquet Farm on 3 September. It had been present during an earlier attack mounted by the 13th Brigade between 13 and 15 August, but it had been allocated a support role and missed the fighting. In this second attack, the 52nd had a key assaulting role and suffered heavy casualties – 50 per cent of its fighting strength. The battalion spent the rest of the year alternating between front line duty, and training and labouring behind the lines. This routine continued through the bleak winter of 1916-1917.

Early in 1917, the battalion participated in the advance that followed the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, and attacked at Noreuil on 2 April. Later that year, the focus of AIF operations moved to the Ypres sector in Belgium. Then the battalion was involved in the battle of Messines between 7 and 12 June and the battle of Polygon Wood on 26 September. Another winter of trench routine followed.

When the German army launched a major offensive on the Western Front at the end of March 1918, the 4th Division was deployed to defend positions south of the River Ancre in France. At Dernancourt on 5 April, the 52nd Battalion assisted in the repulse of the largest German attack mounted against Australian troops during the war. The German threat persisted through April, and on ANZAC Day 1918, the 52nd participated in the now legendary attack to dislodge the enemy from Villers-Bretonneux.

The defeat of the German forces had come at a high cost. Due to heavy casualties and a lack of reinforcements from Australia, three brigades were directed to disband one of their battalions to reinforce the other three. The 13th Brigade was one of these, and on 16 May 1918 the 52nd Battalion was disbanded.


James Vigor enlisted at Enoggera on 7 January 1916. He recorded his age as 26 years 4 months and occupation as “labourer”. He was unmarried. James declared his mother, Sarah Vigor, of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, England as his next of kin. At enlistment, his height was 5 feet 10 ½ inches, weight 135 pounds, of dark complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. His religion was Church of England. His service number was 1758.

Private Vigor’s service commenced with the 11th Depot Battalion at Enoggera. He was allotted to the 2nd Reinforcements to the 52nd Battalion.

Military Service

With others in the 2nd Reinforcement s to 52nd Battalion, Private Vigor embarked at Sydney on 20 April 1916 aboard RMS “Mooltan”, bound for Tel el Kebir in Egypt. On 27 May 1916, he was taken on strength of 52nd Battalion. The priorities for the AIF were changing fast, and the pressure of the war on the Western Front demanded more resources.

On 5 June 1916, he embarked again at Alexandria on the “Ivernia”. He disembarked at Marseilles on 12 June. He was in the first contingent of the 52nd to fight in France. His battle experience included the battle of Mouquet Farm where the 52nd suffered heavy casualties.

On 8 January 1917, Private Vigor reported sick with boils. Over the next six weeks in the Picardie region, he was treated in the 39th and 38th Casualty Clearing Stations at Allonville and Heilly respectively. On 25 February 1917, he was transferred some 100 kilometres west to the No.2 Convalescent Depot on the outskirts of Rouen. He was released one month later to travel north to the 4th Division Base Depot at Etaples. On 6 April, he was able to re-join the 52nd Battalion in the field. He had missed his battalion's advance behind the German retreat to the Hindenberg Line and the attack on Noreuil.

With the disbandment of the 52nd Battalion on 15 May 1918, Private Vigor was one of the men transferred to help reinforce 49th Battalion.

On 2 October 1918, he was given two weeks’ of furlough to the United Kingdom. Armistice was declared on 11th November.

Return to Australia

On 8 April, Private Vigor was marched out from Le Havre for return to Hurdcott, England. On 18 June 1919, he departed London aboard H.T. “Swakopmund”. He disembarked at Melbourne on 2 August (also leaving the vessel and catching the train to Brisbane was Percy Hook of 4th Pioneers). Four days later at his final medical examination, he was assessed as being without disability – one of the fortunate few. He was discharged from the A.I.F. at Brisbane on 18 September 1919.

After the War

In the Queensland Electoral Rolls of 1919 and 1925, James Vigor was a “labourer” at Pomona.

On 8 June 1929, James Vigor wrote to Base Records requesting the issue of his service medals. At the time, his address was Memerambi, Kingaroy Line. He was issued the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

On 28 November 1931, James Vigor married Evelyn Myrtle Davidson. The couple were to have three children: Hedley James (born 1933), Evelyn ("Eve") Jean (Tilse) (born 1934) and Janet Winifred (Sanders) (born 1939).

In the Rolls between 1936 and 1949, James was a farmer living at Charlestown, Memerambi with his wife.

In 1954, the couple were recorded at Boonyouin, M.S. 189, Kingaroy. James was still a farmer. By the Roll of 1958, the couple had moved to 29 Russell St., South Brisbane where James’ occupation was “caretaker”. At the same address was their daughter, Evelyn Jean, a nurse.

On 5 November 1958, James Vigor, still living at 29 Russell St., South Brisbane needed to write to Base Records to obtain another copy of his discharge papers which he had lost while moving.

In 1963, James and Evelyn were living at 15 Birdwood Rd., Carina. From 1968 to 1980, the Roll recorded them at 69 Cain St., Coopers Plains. In 1977, their granddaughter Jennifer Maree Vigor, shop assistant, was living with them. Jenny and Evelyn May (Cahill) Vigor were Hedley's daughters.

James Edward Vigor, ex-A.I.F., died on 16 June 1981. Informant to his death certificate was his wife Evelyn, then living at 69 Kain St., Coopers Plains. He had suffered from ischaemic heart disease for two years but the cause of death was "cerebrovascular accident". His body was cremated at Mt. Thompson crematorium on 18th June. James' death came at the worst possible time for his granddaughter Jenny. She was close to her grandfather and she was grieving deeply when she married David Stanley Noble on 20th June.

  • Hindenburg Line
  • Western Front
Mouquet Farm
VIGOR James Edward
VIGOR James Edward
Returned to Australia
Disembarked from H.T. "Swakopmund" at Melbourne on 2 August 1919
16 June 1981
Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Hospital, Coopers Plains
92 years
Cremated at Mt. Thompson Crematorium on Thursday 18th June 1981

Shire of Noosa Roll of Honor, Shire Council Chambers, Pelican Street, Tewantin

Australian War Memorial

National Australia Archives

Queensland Death Certificate (registration number 1981/4273)

The contribution of Jenny Noble, granddaughter of James and daughter of Hedley, and the Vigor family for information and photograph is gratefully acknowledged.

Grant Thorne

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