John Clement (Jack) ROHAN

Poppy

ROHAN, John Clement

Service Number: 6083
Enlisted: 14 April 1916, Liverpool, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 3rd Infantry Battalion
Born: Redfern, New South Wales, 8 June 1898
Home Town: Newtown, Inner West, New South Wales
Schooling: St Joseph's Christian Brothers, Newtown
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed in Action, France, 14 April 1918, aged 19 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
No known grave
Memorials: Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

14 Apr 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 6083, 3rd Infantry Battalion, Liverpool, New South Wales
22 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 6083, 3rd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
22 Aug 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 6083, 3rd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Wiltshire, Sydney
5 May 1917: Wounded Private, SN 6083, 3rd Infantry Battalion, Bullecourt (Second), Shell wound (left arm)
4 Oct 1917: Wounded Private, SN 6083, 3rd Infantry Battalion, Broodseinde Ridge, 2nd occasion - GSW (chest)
14 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 6083, 3rd Infantry Battalion, Villers-Bretonneux

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Biography

John Clement Rohan was born at Redfern NSW on 8th June 1898 to Patrick and Jane Rohan. He had six living brothers and one sister, Eileen. Another sister, Eva, was born in 1901. John (aka Jack) attended St Joseph’s Christian Brothers’ School, Newtown and joined the cadets while he was still at school. When he turned 16, he became a Senior Cadet with 34th Battalion Militia. After leaving school, he worked as a Labourer.

John’s older brother, Thomas, had enlisted in the army in November, 1915 and John was keen to follow his example but his Irish born father was reluctant to give consent for his youngest son to enlist, saying he would just be cannon fodder. Patrick eventually consented and John, who was not yet 18, put his age up by a year to ensure he would be accepted, when he went to Liverpool camp and enlisted in the AIF, on 14th April, 1916. The fourteenth of April proved to be a fateful date for him.

After a few months training at Liverpool, he embarked on the troopship “Wiltshire” for England, arriving 13th October, 1916. After two more months training, he proceeded overseas for France, aboard SS “Arundel”.  A few days before Christmas 1916, he was taken on strength of 3rd Battalion, B Company.

In early 1917, the 3rd Battalion was engaged in heavy fighting to the north and east of the Somme. On 5th May, 1917, the battalion was in action near Bullecourt, when Private Rohan was wounded by a bomb and gunshot to his left arm/leg. He was evacuated to hospital, recovered and re-joined the battalion on 29 May, 1917.

In late September - early October of 1917, the battalion was engaged in fighting near Ypres, Flanders (Belgium) when Private Rohan was again wounded; this time, by a gunshot wound to the chest. He was evacuated to England and recovered in hospital there, before being granted two weeks furlough.

In November, he was classified as fit for duty and again proceeded overseas for France. He re-joined the 3rd Battalion on 5th December, 1917, just as the troops were voting in the second Conscription Referendum. However, John was still too young to vote.

In late March - early April, 1918, the battalion was stationed near Ypres, when the Germans began their Spring Offensive. British and Portuguese forces were being overwhelmed by the huge rolling assault in the Lys River valley. As part of the First Australian Division, the battalion was rushed south to defend the important rail hub of Hazebrouck and the village of Strazeele, which lay between Hazebrouck and the German lines. These two towns were targeted by the Germans.

By the morning of 13th April, the battalion had moved into positions in and around Strazeele. B Coy was positioned in trenches east of Strazeele, on Mont de Merris, just North-West of Gutzer Farm. A Defence Organization Order was issued that day, which stated, “The present battalion front line is the line of resistance and will be held at all costs.”

By dawn on the 14th April, 1918, the 3rd Battalion held the front line in the system of outposts defending Strazeele. Their artillery fired on to selected targets and with a few exceptions, good results were obtained and a goodly number of casualties were inflicted on the enemy, who at this stage, were massing, preparatory to an attack. At 6:40am, the enemy, under cover of a heavy bombardment placed on the battalion line, attacked. He moved forward in a succession of waves. The advancing German forces were engaged by fire from the battalion companies A, D and B. At some point during the morning, under severe rifle and machine gun fire from the enemy, Private Rohan had his head above the parapet, when he was struck by a single German bullet, killing him instantly. He was only 19. Most of his platoon were also killed.

Later that day, the remaining members of the platoon were ordered to evacuate the outpost and fall back to the main line. As the enemy was almost upon them, they were forced to leave their dead where they fell.

Private John Clement Rohan has no known grave. His name is listed on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux and at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

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