John Denis Fryer

Early life

Born in 1895 in Springsure, Central Queensland, Jack Fryer attended Rockhampton Grammar School and went on to win a scholarship to The University of Queensland in 1915, aged 19.

University and Military life

Soon after starting his first term at UQ, Fryer volunteered for military service in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He was commissioned in 1916 and served in France and Belgium in 1917. In August 1918 he was badly wounded in a German attack. Fryer returned home in July 1919 and started University again in March 1920, undertaking study towards a Classic Honours degree with commitment and enthusiasm. A popular and active figure on campus, Fryer was also editor of the student magazine, Galmahra, Vice-President of the Dramatic Society and representative rugby player.

However, by mid 1922, he had developed tuberculosis. Too sick to sit for his final honours examinations, Fryer returned home to Springsure and died in February 1923. The University senate awarded him the BA degree on 15 December 1922.

Fryer's Legacy

As a memorial to their former member and vice-president, members of the University Dramatic Society donated £10 to establish a collection of works in Australian literature. With this collection as its foundation, the Fryer Memorial Library of Australian Literature was established in 1927. 

The John Denis Fryer Collection

The John Denis Fryer Collection (UQFL23) features items from Fryer's life, which reveal a loving son and brother as well as a devoted student and soldier. Items include photographs of Fryer with his family and from his student days at UQ, letters and cards sent home to Springsure from the battlefields of France, military maps of Amiens and St Quentin as well as military medals. The obituaries in the collection, written following Fryer's death, show the high regard in which he was held. Although his life was cut short, his legacy continues in the research and cultural collections of the Fryer Memorial Library (The Fryer Library). A selection of Fryer’s photographs and correspondence is also available online.

J. D. Fryer: Student and soldier 

View our online exhibition featuring correspondence and photographs from Fryer's life, including his time as student at UQ and his service in the First World War.