16 October 2012

Chinchilla Jones & the Legs of Doom

Brisbane man Charles Julius Jones, nicknamed ‘Chinchilla’ (or ‘Chiller’ for short), was born in 1885 with two healthy legs. As a young man in South Brisbane he put those legs to good use and became a promising amateur boxer and swimmer. Fate, however, seemed to have something else in store for those legs and over the next couple of decades Charles suffered a trifecta of injuries that beggar belief that one pair of legs could be so unlucky.*

View of Brisbane River from Highgate Hill, 1902 (John Oxley Library)
Brisbane River from Highgate Hill, 1902. (John Oxley Library)

As a boy he lived around South Brisbane, and in 1902, at the age of 16, Charles and his legs had their first brush with disaster. He was taking a summer dip with some friends in the Brisbane River near Highgate Hill when a bull shark gripped his legs. He cried out for help and his brother swam to his assistance and guided him 15 metres to shore. The flesh and sinews of Charles' left leg were badly torn, and there were also bite marks on his right leg. He was rushed to hospital where he eventually recovered, although at one point it was feared that he might lose his left leg.

Australian troops in a trench near Gueudecourt, France, 1916.

Charles grew up and married his wife Mary Ann in South Brisbane in 1915, just before he embarked for duty in World War 1. He was a member of the 15th Battalion, First A.I F., and in early 1917 he was at the Somme in France. He was in a group of 70 men advancing on a German post near the village of Gueudecourt when he was shot by a spray of 14 machine-gun bullets across both his legs. He fell wounded into a trench and was taken prisoner. It was only skilled medical attention at the P.O.W. hospital that saved his legs. He remained a prisoner until the war was over, and arrived back in Brisbane in 1919.

Worse was to come for Charles when, in October 1920, he was boarding a West End tram on the corner of Creek and Queen streets in Brisbane. He slipped and fell under the car, which passed over his legs. He was taken to hospital where his left leg was quickly amputated. He managed to hold on to his right leg a while longer but it was too badly broken and could not be saved.

Charles survived this traumatic experience to become a fruiterer, driving around South Brisbane with his horse and sulky. On more than occasion he appeared before the courts charged with being drunk in his vehicle.

Courier-Mail, 9 December 1927

Charles ‘Chinchilla’ Jones died at West End in March 1946 at the age of 60, and was buried in South Brisbane Cemetery. After his death an article in the Courier-Mail carried the tribute, “He had the heart of a lion. He never gave up, never failed to keep his chin up.”

Grave of CJ Jones in South Brisbane Cemetery (T Olivieri)
His grave in South Brisbane Cemetery (T Olivieri)

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