Thursday, July 24, 2008

[Hero] NX15705 Cpl John Hurst Edmondson V.C.

2/17th Infantry Battalion, 20th Brigade, 9th Division

Cpl John Hurst "Jack" Edmondson was born in Wagga Wagga, NSW in 1914. He enlisted on 20th May 1940 at Paddington, NSW. Here he joined the newly formed 2/17th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Division. Due to his previous militia service he was quickly promoted to Corporal.

When the 7th Division embarked for Palestine in Oct 1940 little would they know that for some of them they would be arrive to be members of the newly formed 9th Division. As the divisions for WW2 were formed and numbered in the order of enlistment and began with the 6th Division (the 1st to 5th Divisions having been previously allocated for WW1) the members of the 7th Division were amongst the second wave of mass enlistments that occurred in early to mid 1940. The men of the former 7th Division were horrified to find themselves a part of the 9th Division. These men were often incorrectly labeled "The Long Thinkers" by the men of the 6th Division, a reference to the time it took for the men to decide to enlist.

With the 9th Division's deployment to Libya to relieve the 6th Division who were pulled out for the defence of Greece, Cpl Edmondson and his battalion (of whom my grandfather was a member) first engaged the German's in what was to be later known as "The Benghazi Handicap", the hasty retreat back to the shelter of the city of Tobruk.

Not long after arriving from this harrowing journey Cpl Edmondson's section was deployed on the outer perimeter of Tobruk's defences at post R33 in the Red Line. This was the area that was first attacked by Rommel's Panzer Division in what was to be known as "The Easter Battle".

Cpl. Edmondson's Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously (as too many are), for action during The Easter Battle of 13-14th April, 1941. The passage in the London Gazette of 1 July, 1941, gave the following details of Edmondson's deeds:

"On the night of 13th-14th April, 1941, a party of German infantry broke through the wire defences 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."

John Hurst Edmondson's Victoria Cross was the first of twenty received by Australian Forces in WW2. As a result it carried with it quite a bit of propaganda value for the Allies who were in need of good news. John Edmondson's V.C. is currently on display in the Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial. John Hurst Edmondson V.C. is buried in the Tobruk War Cemetery.


Allen Brady said...

My uncle was also in 2/17 Bn. He is Sargeant Henry Michael Brady,NX14388. He killed 14th April. My father would not talk about the war so we know very little about the events of his service or death. If you know of any details I would be happy to read them.
Allen Michael Brady

Anonymous said...

hertyearFor Allen Brady: According to the History of 2/17 Australian Infantry Battalion, your uncle was acting as platoon commander of 10 Platoon during the 'Easter Battle Tobruk 1941. Moving into an attack he was deceived into thinking that a group of Germans were 'friendly' and was shot through the head by an explosive bullet.

Irving Warren Association 17th Inf Bns

Liam O'Connor said...

Allen Brady, if you see this, please contact me. My father knew the Bradys when he was a teenager in Sydney during the war. Harry's uncle Dinny (Denis Browne) in particular was a friend of my fathers family.