Edwin Joseph (Ted) CANNON

CANNON, Edwin Joseph

Service Number: 3701
Enlisted: 8 July 1916
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 6th Infantry Battalion
Born: Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, 30 July 1895
Home Town: Ballarat, Central Highlands, Victoria
Schooling: Skipton Street Christian Brothers School, Ballarat, Victoria and Ballarat Technical Art School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Student
Died: Died of wounds, Belgium, 14 September 1916, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
Plot X, Row B, Grave No. 1A,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

23 Nov 1915: Involvement Private, 3701, 6th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '8' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Ceramic embarkation_ship_number: A40 public_note: ''
23 Nov 1915: Embarked Private, 3701, 6th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ceramic, Melbourne
8 Jul 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 3701, 6th Infantry Battalion
6 Sep 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 6th Infantry Battalion
14 Sep 1916: Involvement Corporal, 3701, 6th Infantry Battalion, --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 3701 awm_unit: 6th Australian Infantry Battalion awm_rank: Corporal awm_died_date: 1916-09-14

Help us honour Edwin Joseph Cannon's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Ballarat & District in the Great War

Ballarat’s Forgotten War Artist: LCpl Edwin Joseph Cannon

On Saturday evening, 16 September 2006, 90 years after his death, a young soldier was specially commemorated in the solemn Last Post Ceremony beneath the walls of Belgium’s famous Menin Gate. The soldier was Lance Corporal Ted Cannon, a 21 year-old cartoonist – Ballarat’s forgotten war artist.

Edwin Joseph Cannon was born at Ballarat on 30 July 1895. He was the son of E. J. Cannon, who was employed as the reader for the Ballarat Courier for nearly fifty years. From an early age Ted had displayed a precocious talent for cartooning and black and white work. He went on to study under Mr H. H. Smith at the Ballarat Art School (Ballarat School of Mines).

Ted soon became known all over Ballarat as the cartoonist for the Ballarat Star newspaper and his good humoured lampooning of the Ballarat councillors and Water Commissioners made him a very popular public figure. At the age of 19 Ted had already become a local celebrity and a successful artistic career was assured. His work was easily comparable to the best of the Bulletin cartoonists and was inspired by his hero the great black and white artist Phil May.

His contemporaries included Harold Herbert and Amalie Feild (later Colquhoun), who was also his friend and classmate at the Art School.

In February 1915 it was announced the Ted was to be awarded a senior technical school scholarship by the Education Department of Victoria, which entitled him to a five year course of study free of cost and with a yearly allowance of £30. However, World War I was to intervene. It was inevitable that Ted would enlist as he was also an enthusiastic soldier with the 71st Infantry City of Ballarat Rifles. He volunteered on 8 June 1915 and was posted to the 6th Infantry Battalion.

Following a period of training in Egypt Ted sailed for France on 26 March 1916. It was not long before Ted’s special abilities were noticed by his Battalion commanders, as he noted when he wrote home to his parents in May 1916.

‘…Did I tell you in the last letter that I was a scout? If I didn't do so then I do so now. It’s a good game too. Just suits me right down to the ground. All through our tour of duty in the trenches I have had a sort of roving commission - observing the enemy’s doings, etc., from the tops of trees, battered buildings, and all sorts of funny places. It’s a bit awkward at times if a sniper gets on you when you're about 30 or 40 feet above the ground in a tree - you often ‘miss the step’ on the way down so hastily.

If you happen to have left your telescope or your compass up top in the excitement, it further complicates matters. I got in that fix the other day. Hurried down and left my compass behind. I sat down behind the tree and viewed the surroundings for about half an hour, and then made at least three attempts to get up, but before I'd get near half-way the sniper would spot me and put up a quick-firing record. I beat him in the end, though, by sitting behind the tree and writing a few letters. By the time I had finished writing he’d ‘chucked it up’ as a bad job and turned his attentions elsewhere…’

Despite his light-hearted description, scouting was seriously dangerous work and Ted was often exposed to perilous situations. It was Ted’s ever-cheerful, happy nature that kept him going, as he would often say to his mother, he was ‘still staking all on the good old thoroughbred Optimist…’ His attitude was infectious and he was one of the most popular members of his Battalion.

His artistic talent also enabled him to entertain his comrades and he was bemused by numerous requests for sketches that other soldiers would then send to their sweethearts, wives and mothers. But it was Ted’s ability to accurately draw the enemy trenches under extreme pressure that made him most valuable to the Battalion. His work in the frontline at Pozieres during July and August earned him a reputation for coolness and bravery.

Following the heavy fighting at Pozieres the Battalion was moved to Ypres in Belgium into what was, during September 1916, a comparatively quiet sector.

On the 13th September 1916 Ted Cannon was sent out to the remains of the Old Mill at Verbrandenmolen, in the notorious Ypres Salient, to sketch the German gun emplacements. The panorama drawing was to include areas such as Hill 60, The Caterpillar and The Bluff and was especially commissioned for General Brudenell White of the 1st Anzac Corps.

The German machine-gunners in the area had a reputation for being dangerously accurate and Ted was warned to be careful, but, as Official Historian C. E. W. Bean noted, he was a ‘keen soldier’ and eager to undertake the task.

During the course of his task Ted Cannon was shot by a German sniper. Suffering from severe abdominal wounds he was carried back behind the lines where doctors attempted to save his life, performing what was remarkably dangerous surgery to remove the bullets. The damage was too great, however, and Ted Cannon died early in the morning of 14 September.

His body was buried in the large military cemetery at Lijssenthoek – one of the earliest Australian deaths in the region that would later become infamous throughout the world for the hell known as Passchendaele.

As a mark of respect the Scout’s Platoon, under the direction of Lieutenant Jack Rogers, erected a new observation post in the area where Ted was shot, which they named “Cannon’s Post.”

Ted Cannon was a remarkably gifted artist – sophisticated beyond his years, with a future that had beckoned brightly. His loss was our loss. The war robbed us of another Will Dyson, or another Norman Lindsay. Sadly, as the years have passed, so to has the memory of this bright young cartoonist from Ballarat.