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Despite almost five decades since federation, deep-seated loyalty towards the British Commonwealth and the Crown influenced many to join the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF). As WWII dawned, thousands of Sydney’s young men enlisted with patriotic and energetic ambition and in 1940, such a calibre of men included Corporal John Hurst Edmondson.
John Hurst Edmondson was born on the 8th October 1914, in Wagga Wagga, NSW. The only child of parents Joseph William Edmondson and wife Maude Elizabeth, nee Hurst; the family later moved to a farm in Liverpool, in Sydney’s west.[1] Growing up, and later working with his father in their family farm – John became an active citizen of his community, becoming a council member of Liverpool Agricultural society, acting as steward for various productions. [2]
In March 1939, John’s journey led to the armed forces, posting with the 4th Battalion, Militia. However, the outbreak of WWII later that year in September resulted in his enlistment to the AIF in May 20th, 1940 – and was posted with the 2nd/17th Battalion. Regarded as a ‘quiet but efficient soldier’[3], and after only month of his assignment to the 2nd/17th Battalion, John was promoted acting Corporal.[4]


Assigned to assist forces in the Middle East, the 2nd/17th Battalion trained in Palestine before joining components of the 9th Division in Libya in March 1941. Upon reaching Marsa Brega in early April, an enemy counter attack took allied forces by surprise, forcing them to retreat to the defences of Tobruk.[5] Here, John was a section leader in the 2nd/17th Battalion, No. 16 Platoon, whose responsibilities included defending a garrison, line west of the El Adem Road near Post R33. On the 11th of April, Axis powers began sieges on the Tobruk fortress, finally breaching its defences on the night of April 13th, with a German infantry probing the perimeter held by the 2nd/17th Battalion and establishing heavy artillery.[6]

During the defence, Corporal John Hurst Edmondson’s actions was recorded by his men, and later noted by the London Gazette:

"On the night of 13th-14th April, 1941, a party of German infantry broke through the wire defenses of Tobruk, and established themselves with numerous machine guns, mortars and field pieces. Led by an officer, Corporal Edmondson and five privates carried out a bayonet charge upon them under heavy fire. Although wounded in the neck and stomach Corporal Edmondson not only killed one of the enemy, but went to the assistance of his officer, who was attacked by a German from behind while bayoneting another who had seized him about the legs. Despite his wounds, from which he later died, Corporal Edmondson succeeded in killing these two Germans also, thus undoubtedly saving his officer's life. Throughout the operation he showed outstanding resolution and leadership, and conspicuous bravery."”[7]

Corporal Edmondson’s actions not only saved the life of his commander but also ultimately assisted in thwarting an armored Germany attack later that morning.[8] His bravery was well noted, and posthumously was to be the first recipient of the Victorian Cross Medal by a member of the Australian Armed Forces, in WWII[9] – the highest military honor in the Commonwealth military forces. His bravery was widely acclaimed in Australia, with newspapers and magazines featuring articles of his Bravery[10]. An amazing achievement for an individual who only 5 years prior was simply a farmer, of Sydney’s west.

Click the link below to hear excerpts from Mrs Edmondson's Diary:
http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/scrapiron/images/jack/diary_audio.pdf




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[1] Australian War Memorial, ‘Forever Young’, Australian Government Department of Veteran Affairs, http://www.australiansatwar.gov.au/stories/stories_war=W2_id=8.html. [1 April 2012]
[2] Ian Grant, ‘Edmondson, John Hurst (1914–1941)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, online edition, http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A140091b.htm. [1 April 2010]
[3] Ibid
[4] Australian War Memorial, ‘People Profiles: Corporal John Hurst Edmondson’ Australian Government Department of Veteran Affairs’, http://www.awm.gov.au/people/552.asp. [1 April 2012].
[5] Ibid.
[6]Ian Grant, ‘Edmondson, John Hurst (1914–1941)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, online edition, http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A140091b.htm. [1 April 2010]
[7] ‘Supplement to the London Gazette,’ London Gazette, no. 35207, 1 July 1941, pp. 3807–3808, viewed 9 April 2010, http://www.londongazette.co.uk/issues/35207/supplements/3807. [1 April 2012]
[8]Ian Grant, ‘Edmondson, John Hurst (1914–1941)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, online edition, http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A140091b.htm. [1 April 2010]
[9] Ibid
[10]Australian War Memorial, ‘Forever Young’, Australian Government Department of Veteran Affairs, http://www.australiansatwar.gov.au/stories/stories_war=W2_id=8.html. [1 April 2012]









Information researched by WalkerEditing, Images, Layout, Audio and title images done by Dominique