Jack Idriess OBE
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Ion Llewellyn Idriess OBE (1889 - 1979)

Ion Llewellyn (Jack) Idriess OBE
Born in Waverley, New South Wales, Australiamap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married about 1932 in Australiamap
Father of [private daughter (1930s - unknown)] and [private daughter (1930s - unknown)]
Died in Mona Vale, New South Wales, Australiamap
Profile last modified | Created 31 May 2018
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    Ion Idriess OBE was one of Australia's finest authors, known for his narrative, story style of writing. His contribution to Australian publishing and literature was profound. He established a form of writing which continued to flourish in the work of such authors as Frank Clune and Colin Simpson.

    Idriess's combination of the bush yarn and historical or geographical subjects brought a new vision of Australia to its city-bound readers.

    Formative years

    Born Ion Windeyer Idriess on 20th September 1889 at Waverley, on Sydney's southern seaboard, New South Wales, Australia, Ion was the only son and eldest of four children of Walter Owen Idriess, sheriff's officer from Wales, and his Australian-born wife, Julia Windeyer Edmonds.[1] At some point very early in life he altered his middle name from Windeyer to Llewellyn. He also preferred to go by the name 'Jack'. His family travelled much as he was growing up: from Sydney to Tenterfield to Lismore and Grafton to Tamworth and to Broken Hill. Ion lost his mother to typhoid at Broken Hill when he was just fifteen years old.

    Wandering, it's a "boy-thing"

    Sent to his step-grandparents in Sydney, Jack soon found work on a paddle-steamer on the Sydney to Newcastle run. The ocean may have been wide, but he soon yearned for the wide spaces of Australia's "outback". Escaping his step-grandmother a second time, Jack worked in the western districts of New South Wales as a rabbit poisoner, boundary rider and drover. He also worked as a shearer and dingo shooter. The opal mining at Lightning Ridge drew the young man; before heading to North Queensland to search for gold and tin, and harvesting sandalwood. He travelled extensively throughout Cape York Peninsula, often with Aboriginals, beginning his lifelong interest in their customs, and then on to the cattle stations of the Gulf of Carpentaria. His interest in journalism was whetted at this time, writing short pieces for The Bulletin about life on the opal fields.

    Australian Lighthorseman

    Jack Idriess OBE is an Anzac who served in World War One.
    Jack Idriess enlisted on 26th October 1914 in the Australian Imperial Force to serve his country in The Great War.[2] He sailed from Sydney on 21st December 1914, disembarking in Egypt on 1st February 1915.[3] He was a trooper in the 5th Australian Light Horse Regiment, 2nd Light Horse Brigade, seeing action at Gallipoli and in Sinai-Palestine. The 2nd Light Horse Brigade landed in Gallipoli in late May 1915 and was attached to the 1st Australian Division. The regiment played a mostly defensive role throughout the Gallipoli campaign but was involved in several minor attacks. Jack was wounded for the first time at Gallipoli. The regiment left the Gallipoli peninsula on 20th December 1915.
    Roll of Honor
    Jack Idriess OBE was Wounded in Action at Gallipoli and at Gaza during The Great War.

    Back in Egypt, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade became part of the ANZAC Mounted Division and in February 1916 joined the forces defending the Suez Canal from a Turkish advance across the Sinai Desert. The 5th Regiment's main activity in the Sinai was long-range patrolling. The ANZAC Mounted Division advanced into Palestine in late December 1916. The regiment participated in all three battles aimed at capturing Gaza, most notably the first abortive attempt on 27th March 1917. On this occasion the 5th attacked Gaza from the rear and was fighting its way through streets and gardens when ordered to withdraw. Jack was wounded again in the fighting after the final battle of Gaza.[4] This time his wound was sufficient to be invalided home. He began the long voyage to Australia on 15th February 1918.

    Adventurer, or Swagman

    After convalescence, Jack Idriess surveyed and explored parts of Cape York, travelled with pearlers and missionaries in Torres Strait and then turned to gold in New Guinea, buffalo shooting in the Northern Territory, and exploration in Central and Western Australia. The restlessness continued for some ten years before, approaching 40 years of age, Jack settled in Sydney, where he began to write as a freelance writer.

    It was in Sydney that he met, courted and, in 1932 married Eta Morris.[5] They had two daughters:

    • Judith Idriess, married Peacock in 1957.
    • Wendy Eta Idriess.

    Author of Australian Classics

    Idriess' writing style drew on his real-life experiences as a soldier, prospector, and bushman. He wrote on a multitude of topics, including travel, recollection, biography, history, anthropology and his own ideas on possible future events. His books were generally non-fiction, but written in a narrative, story style. Julian Croft noted, "Together with a belief in the heroic went a belief in the social and economic development of Australia". Idriess was a prolific writer, completing over 45 works at a rate of more than one per year, many of which have been categorised amongst Australia's classic writings; just to mention a few:

    Ion Idriess' Greatest Stories (1986)
    • Madman's Island (1927). Fiction version and Idriess's first book; published by Cornstalk Publications, whereas all other Idriess titles were published by Angus and Robertson.
    • Lasseter's Last Ride (1931). Lasseter's Reef gold discovery.
    • Flynn of the Inland (1932). Tale of John Flynn, founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
    • The Desert Column (1932). Diary of an AIF trooper in Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine.[6]
    • Man Tracks (1935). Tracking skills of Indigenous Australian of the Kimberley region.
    • The Cattle King (1936). The story of Sir Sidney Kidman.
    • Forty Fathoms Deep (1937). Pearl-diving community of Broome, Western Australia.
    • Must Australia Fight? (1939). Whether Australia was prepared for invasion and what might happen if the British fleet were not able to come to Australia's assistance.[7]
    • Lightning Ridge (1940). Based on Idriess's opal prospecting experience at Lightning Ridge.
    • The Great Boomerang (1941). A scheme for developing the Australian outback.
    • The Red Chief (1953). A story of Cumbo Gunnerah, Indigenous Australian life and military strategy in New South Wales before European settlement.
    • The Silver City (1956). A history of Broken Hill.
    • Ion Idriess's Greatest Stories (1986). A two-volume set of six of Jack's most popular titles:
    Volume I: Flynn of the Inland, The Cattle King and Lasseter's Last Ride;
    Volume II: The Desert Column, Lightning Ridge and The Silver City.
    Guerilla Tactics handbooks

    A specialist set of handbooks was written for the Australian Army during the years of the New Guinea and Islands campaign:

    • Australian Guerilla – Shoot to Kill (1942). Practical details on accurate shooting.
    • Australian Guerilla – Sniping (1942). Tactics for concealment and stalking, and how to identify an enemy's position by drawing fire.
    • Australian Guerilla – Guerilla Tactics (1942). Bomb making, booby-traps and mines.
    • Australian Guerilla – Trapping the Jap (1943). Particularly aimed at the expected Japanese military invasion of Australia.
    • Australian Guerilla – Lurking Death (1943). Stories of snipers in Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine
    • Australian Guerilla – The Scout (1943)

    Jack also wrote two very popular propaganda pamphletts. The first, Must Australia Fight? was distributed at the commencement of the Second World War and dealt in brief with the issues he had raised in his book of the same title. The second, Onward Australia, was distributed at the end of the war, covering post-war development, and Australia taking its role in the region and the world.

    Retirement, and rest

    Aged 70 years, Jack was widowered in 1959.[8] Jack appears to have stopped writing in 1969, probably as a result of the heartache upon the loss of Eta.

    Jack was often approached for comment on contemporary affairs. His instaible interest in history also continued unabated.

    In 1968, Ion Idriess was recognised for his services to literature when he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[9]

    Three months short of his 90th birthday, Ion Idriess passed away on 6th June 1979 in the nursing home at Mona Vale, on Sydney's northern seaboard, New South Wales.[10] On 13th September 1979, his ashes were placed and a Banksia tree (tree 1169) planted in his memory in the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, North Ryde, New South Wales. He was survived by his two daughters and grandchildren who, it is certain, grew up on Jack's yarns.

    Appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire;
    recipient of the
    1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal


    1. New South Wales Birth Index #7796/1889
    2. Discovering Anzacs: Ion Idriess; accessed 31 May 2018
    3. Australian War Memorial nominal roll: 358 Trooper Ion Llewellyn Idriess; accessed 31 May 2018
    4. Australian War Memorial unit record: 5th Light Horse Regiment; accessed 31 May 2018
    5. New South Wales Marriage Index #
    6. Australian War Memorial: The Desert Column; accessed 31 May 2018
    7. Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld: 1878-1954) Fri 16 Jun 1939 Page 11 Must Australia Fight?; accessed 31 May 0218
    8. New South Wales Death Index #18215/1959
    9. Its an Honour: Ion Idriess OBE; accessed 31 May 2018
    10. New South Wales Death Index #11771/1979

    See also

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Jack is 28 degrees from Massasoit Wampanoag, 21 degrees from Priscilla Alden, 20 degrees from William Bradford, 21 degrees from Mary Brewster, 21 degrees from Mary Cushman, 19 degrees from Elizabeth Howland, 20 degrees from George Soule, 20 degrees from Myles Standish, 19 degrees from Edward Winslow and 27 degrees from Dave Ebaugh on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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Categories: AIF, 5th Light Horse Regiment | Gallipoli 1915 | Australia, Authors | Officers of the Order of the British Empire | Famous Authors of the 20th Century | Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, North Ryde, New South Wales | Notables | Australia, Notables | Anzacs, World War I | Wounded in Action, Australia, World War I