Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 25 November 1914
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: Medical Officers
Born: Glenelg, South Australia, 28 December 1883
Home Town: Gilberton, Walkerville, South Australia
Schooling: St. Peters College Adelaide, South Australia
Occupation: Medical Practitioner - M.B., B.S.
Died: Natural causes, North Adelaide, South Australia, 18 November 1932, aged 48 years
Cemetery: North Road Cemetery, Nailsworth, South Australia
Memorials: Adelaide University of Adelaide WW1 Honour Roll, Hackney St Peter's College Honour Board, Laura District Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

25 Nov 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Captain, Officer, 5th Field Ambulance
5 Feb 1915: Involvement Captain, Medical Officers
5 Feb 1915: Embarked Captain, Medical Officers, HMAT Hymettus, Sydney
11 Oct 1917: Wounded Major, Villers-Bretonneux
3 Jun 1919: Honoured Companion of the Distinguished Service Order
Date unknown: Wounded

Help us honour John Robb Muirhead's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by David Barlow

News (Adelaide) Friday 18 November 1932

(Death Notice) MUIRHEAD - on the 18th November at North Adelaide, John Robb Muirhead M.B., B.S., D.S.O - beloved husband of Kathleen Muirhead; aged 48 years

Biography contributed by Annette Summers



John Robb Muirhead was born at Glenelg on 28th December1883. He was the eldest son of Charles Mortimer Muirhead, a barrister, and his wife Margaret Sarah nee Robb.  Margaret's father, John Robb was an engineering contractor with extensive building projects in the eastern states and South Australia (including the railway from Kapunda to the river Murray and the Granite Island breakwater at Victor Harbour). Unfortunately his fortune turned and in 1894 he became bankrupt with debts over £680,000. Muirhead’s father Charles was to engage in 1908 in extended litigation with his wife’s family on his wife’s behalf who was suing for a seventh of her father’s estate. Charles’ investments had taken a hit in the 1890s and as a result of this, and the unsuccessful internecine legal action, went bankrupt in 1909. Notwithstanding these family troubles Muirhead was educated at St Peter’s College and studied medicine at the University of Adelaide where he graduated MB BS in 1908. After graduation he practised in Laura and Gilberton. He also served in the school cadets for 3 years prior to WW1.

Muirhead enlisted in the AIF in Adelaide on 23rd November 1914, he was single, 30 years old and living in Tyne Street, Gilberton.  He was 5ft 8½ins tall and weighed 15 stone 3 pounds. He initially served at the Oakland’s Camp. He was attached to the 2/3 reinforcements for 1 ASH and left Australia, from Sydney, on the Hymettus on 5th February 1915. He served in Egypt, on Lemnos and Gallipoli when 1 ASH moved there late in 1915.  He proceeded to join the BEF on the 11th March 1916 and attached to 2nd Div Engineers and travelled with them to France.  He remained with them until he was promoted major and posted as an RMO to 24 Bn in June 1917. He was wounded when blown up in Broodseinde in October 1917 and evacuated to England. He did not return to duty until April 1918 when he joined 1 AAH. He was posted, second in command, to 6 FdAmb in August 1918 and went with them to France.  He was Mentioned in Despatches with 6 FdAmb and for his courage and organisation during the October offensive awarded the DSO.  The citation reads: As second in command of 6 Aus FdAmb served throughout the big advance from Villers-Brettoneaux until the capture of the Hindenburg line. In the attack on Montebrehain north east of St Quentin on 3rd and 4th October he was in full charge of the evacuation of divisional casualties to the Advanced Dressing Station and it was due to his energy and careful arrangements that this evacuation was one of the most expeditious on record and as the enemy shelling on the evacuation route was very intense this rapid evacuation was the means of saving many lives". He was promoted temporary lieutenant colonel and returned to Australia in 1919 and his appointment terminated in February 1920. He was issued the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal with Oak leaves.  His three younger brothers, Henry Mortimer Muirhead (b 1885) had served as a private with 10Bn, Francis Charles Muirhead as a gunner and Gordon McKinnon Muirhead (b 1895) a gunner-Lt with 6 Fd Art Brigade.

Muirhead married whilst in England. After the war he returned to medicine in Adelaide and in 1925 was noted to be practising, as and ophthalmologist, in Verco Buildings on North Terrace, Adelaide. Muirhead was a keen yachtsman and in 1925 in Sydney won the Australian Dinghy Championship in White Cloud. John Robb Muirhead died in North Adelaide at the young age of 48 on 17th November 1932, predeceasing his father. He was survived by his wife Kathleen.


Blood, Sweat and Fears: Medical Practitioners and Medical Students of South Australia, who Served in World War 1. 

Verco, Summers, Swain, Jelly. Open Books Howden, Adelaide 2014. 

Uploaded by Annette Summers AO RFD