Born: St James, Victoria
Occupation: Clothing cutter
Sprinter and footballer, Jim Pugh, captained the 1914 Northern Tasmanian Football Association premiership team and his enlistment papers, dated 1 March 1916, noted he was in very good physical condition with a pulse rate of 66 beats a minute.
Jim Pugh trained with the 40th Battalion at the Claremont Camp but headed north to his home city of Launceston in May 1916 with other soldiers to play a football match. Launceston’s Daily Telegraph reported on 12 May 1916 page 3 that:
“The well-known athlete, James Pugh, who is now wearing khaki, is back in the city from Claremont … looking as hard as a stout wire nail. Camp life evidently agrees with the sprinter, and if it ever comes to Pugh’s lot to chase a German the Australian’s pace would stand him in good stead.”
Jim Pugh was the only Tasmanian selected to play in an Australian Rules Football exhibition match in London in 1916 which introduced Londoners to the Australian game. On the 34th anniversary of Anzac Day, The Examiner newspaper reflected on the Australian Rules Football by publishing an article on 26 April 1948 page 8 saying:
“…the thought of sporting men…those virile sons of Australia, who so willingly gave up their sports and everything they held dear to play a sterner game on the fields of France and elsewhere.”
Warfare is no game with its unclear rules and devastating consequences. Sergeant Pugh was killed in France on 28 January 1917. He was 30 years old.
The Examiner (31 May 1917 page 6) quoted a letter from Captain J Chisholm to Mr John Pugh (father of Sergeant Pugh’s father) describing the tragic end.
“Sergeant James Pugh…had been one of the raiding party which entered the German trenches, and with the men he was in charge of had fought his way to the German third line, and then back again, bringing along his men with him. He was just getting over the German parapet when he was shot in the back of the neck and died a few hours afterwards.
“On a previous occasion when we were under heavy fire, your son showed what he was made of. His personality, soldierly qualities, and unfailing good humour endeared him to all of us and his platoon, and the company as well, are much the poorer for his death. You have no doubt lost a splendid son, while we mourn the loss of one who proved himself a staunch comrade, a gallant soldier and a man”.
Sergeant James Pugh is commemorated at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, Lille, Nord Pas de Calais, France.