2/Lieutenant (Captain) Ian FAIRWEATHER, M.i.D – (‘A’ Company)
Captured: 24 August 1914 Repatriated: 17 November 1918
Personal: Ian was born on 2nd September 1891 at Bridge of Allan, Stirling, Scotland. He was the youngest son of James (Surgeon General, Indian Army Medical Service) and Annette Margaret Dupre (née Thorp) Fairweather.
Ian had 8 older siblings, Winifred, Aline Margaret Jane, James Courtenay Thorp, Neville Edward, Ethel Rosalie, Arthur Dupre, Annette Violet and Harrold. (See Footnote below)
Annette was 24 years younger than her husband and was only 19 when they married in Simla, India, on 11th October 1852. She was born in Simla where her father, Edward, was also a doctor in the Indian Army. James died in July 1916, and Annette in April 1944. Many of Ian’s siblings were born in India.
Just before Ian was born the family had returned to live at Bushmead Avenue, St. Cuthbert, Bedfordshire, although he was born in Scotland. When he was six months old, Ian’s father was recalled to India to be medical adviser to the Maharaja of Kapurthana. With reluctance, his parents left Ian and some of his siblings, behind in the care of two pious, alcoholic spinster aunts, Jane and Isabella Fairweather. He would not clap eyes again on his mother until he was nine. The aunts took him to live in Brechin, Sydenham and Jersey. [Source: “Fairweather” – Murray Bail]
In 1901 (Census RG 13/557) Ian was living with the aunts, brother Arthur and sister Annette at 8 Longton Avenue, Lewisham, London. (The aunts gave their occupations as “Looking after nephews and nieces“!) His parents returned later that year and by 1911 (Census RG 14/34826) Ian was back at the family home, now Forest Hill, Beaumont, Jersey, employed as a “Student – Indian Forestry“.
After returning from his time as a prisoner-of war during The Great War, Ian travelled the world, eventually settling on Bribie Island in Queensland, Australia. While captured, he was permitted to study drawing and Japanese. He was responsible for the illustrations in many POW magazines. His four-year incarceration included lengthy periods of solitary confinement as a result of repeated escape attempts.
He became a well know painter and artist and his works became much sort after in the art world and stand in many galleries in Australia, as well as the Tate Gallery, London, the Leicester Art Gallery and the Ulster museum, Belfast. One of his more significant works – ‘Monastry‘ – is shown left.
He is also famous for his solo trip on a home made raft from Australia to Timor. The photo, right, was taken in about 1966.
Ian, who never married, died on 20th May 1974 in Brisbane City, Queensland, Australia, aged 82, and was cremated with full Presbyterian Rites. His ashes “.. were given to a friend“.
Military History: Ian was posted to the 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, from the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, as a 2nd Lieutenant on 10th June 1914, just over 2 months before the Battalion sailed for France. Despite being a prisoner of war from 24th August 1914, he was appointed a ‘Temporary’ Lieutenant on 5th September, becoming ‘Permanent’ on 18th November 1914.
Ian had joined the Battalion shortly before it sailed to France on 14th August and marched to meet the enemy. On the morning of 23rd August 1914, the British Expeditionary Force met and engaged the enemy at Mons and the following day was undertaking a fighting retreat against a force of four German regiments.
Captain Arthur Dyer was the C.O. of ‘A’ Company and was ordered to take up position to the east of the line facing the oncoming German Divisions, covering the Wiheries-Audregnies and Elouges-Audregnies road junction.
His 2nd i/c was Captain B.E. Massy, also severely wounded, as was Lieutenant W. G. R. Elliot D.S.O. The other two Officers of the Company were 2/Lt. I. Fairweather and 2/Lt. G. S. Jacobs (Special List) who were both taken prisoner.
In an account written from his prisoner of war camp at Torgau on 1st September 1914 Lt. C. A. K. Matterson had this to say about Captain Dyer’s action during the Battle of Audregnies:
“2.30 pm Captain Dyer then called out, “Advance and Enfilade the Enemy”. I jumped up and left the road and led the attack. I was alone some 20 yards in front of the gallant little firing line of about 6 men who followed me.
I had drawn my sword with scabbard on, the latter, I remember pulling off, and throwing away. There was a hail of bullets, and how I escaped I don’t know. I made up my mind it was certain death.”
As a Junior Officer in ‘A’ Company it is almost certain that Ian Fairweather would have taken part in what became known as “Dyer’s Charge“. There were no reports that Ian had been wounded during the Battle of Audregnies, only that he been taken prisoner, probably as his Company tried to withdraw.
.…. a .pdf file giving Lt. Matterson’s full account of the Battle, supplied by his daughter. [Source: “Prison in Paradise” unpublished memoir of Major Eric Archer Jackson, 2 i/c ‘C’ Company]
ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) Records show Ian at Mainz Camp on 5th June 1915 and at Friedberg p-o-w camp with Lieutenant Elliot on 1st July 1916. On 20th March 1916 he was involved in an unsuccessful escape attempt from here with Captain William Campbell.
In fact, Ian’s four-year incarceration included lengthy periods of solitary confinement as a result of repeated escape attempts, which apparently he used to good effect, improving his drawing and painting, and leaning Japanese.
He said of his escape attempts: “I even got onto the frontier once and saw freedom just a few hundred yards away, but I failed.” His “department” was map-making and stitching German uniforms from Russian overcoats, in which disguise he marched out of Freidberg Camp pretending to be part of a Drainage Commission.
His two fellow escapees, the Grinell-Milne brothers, have left us this image of Ian: “My brother and I watched him crawl – a strangely pathetic figure in spite of the brave uniform – into the centre of a dense patch of Indian corn growing alongside the path, and then we made off at our best pace.” (Source: ‘An Escaper’s Log‘ by Duncan Grinnell-Milne, January 1926) [N.B. Captain Douglas George Grinnell-Milne, and his younger brother, Wing-Commander Duncan William, M.C., D.F.C.*, both served as Officers in the 7/Royal Fusiliers and RAF. Both were shot down and served time as p-o-ws.]
Once on being recaptured, he was placed in solitary confinement in a “cage”. Three weeks without food. Only the smells of fresh bread from a bakery nearby to sustain him. His family believed this experience may have unhinged him. Ian saw it a different way: “I think perhaps those years I spent as a prisoner of war were some of the happiest of my life – no responsibility for practical things like money, food and shelter, endless time to devote to something I enjoyed doing.” Because in prison he had begun to draw. [Source: “Ian Fairweather – Britain’s Gauguin“]
On 29th December 1917 Ian arrived in Holland as an internee along with Captains A.J.L. Dyer, W.L.E.R. Dugmore, H.C. Randall, Lieutenants W.G. Elliot, G.S. Jacobs, R.H. Bolton, and Major B.H. Chetwynd-Stapylton. He finally arrived at Hull from Holland on the ‘S.S. Willochra’ on 17th November 1918 with Captain B.E. Massy (mentioned December 1918 Oak Tree Magazine)
Lieutenant (Captain) Fairweather was Mentioned in Despatches, along with Captain (Major) E.A. Jackson and Lieutenant (Captain) W.G.R. Elliot (London Gazette, 30 January 1920, p.1234) “… for gallant conduct and determination displayed in escaping or attempting to escape from captivity“.
Ian’s Medal Index Card states that he was “extracted from Officers Roll 6th July 1920“. After travelling extensively, he settled in Brisbane, Australia, eventually becoming “one of Australia’s most renowned artists.” (see above)
He was known known both for his dramatic paintings that combined Chinese and Aboriginal influences and for his eccentric lifestyle. Ian died in Brisbane on 20th May 1974.
Ian’s brother, Gnr. 836 Harold Fairweather, enlisted in the Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery on 15th October 1915. He was discharged after 96 days as he had a heart condition.