John Richard (Jack) GREEVES

GREEVES , John Richard

Service Number: 340
Enlisted: 9 October 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 31st Infantry Battalion
Born: Melbourne, Victoria, 23 April 1893
Home Town: Sydney, City of Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Kensington State School
Occupation: Stereotyper
Died: Natural causes, Sydney, New South Wales, 23 May 1973, aged 80 years
Cemetery: Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, NSW
Memorials: Kensington ANA Flemington Branch No69 Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

9 Oct 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 340, Melbourne, Victoria
9 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 340, 31st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Wandilla, Melbourne
9 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 340, 31st Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 340, 31st Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)
26 Jul 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 31st Infantry Battalion
6 Aug 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant, 31st Infantry Battalion
18 Nov 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 31st Infantry Battalion
21 Nov 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN 340, 31st Infantry Battalion, GSW (forehead)
2 May 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant
1 Nov 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 31st Infantry Battalion, 2nd Passchendaele , 2nd occasion - Gas
20 Aug 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 31st Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by Allan Ledger

Jack embarked Port Melbourne 9 November 1915 aboard HMAT Wandilla A62 arriving Port Suez, Egypt 6 December 1915. The Gallipoli evacuation was in progress. The Australian Government’s decision to restructure the A.I.F saw the 31st Battalion become part of the 8th Brigade, 5th Division.

 The Division garrisoned the Suez Canal against Turkish attack till mid June 1916 when it departed the northern port of Alexandria for France.

Arriving in Marseilles, the Division entrained for the French Flanders region in northern France. The 31st Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 July 1916, having only entered the front-line trenches 3 days previously. The attack was a disastrous introduction to battle for the 31st - it suffered 572 casualties, over half of its strength. The Division lost 5,533 men, including 1,700 dead or missing.  The bloodiest 24 hours in the history of the Australian Army.

Jack survived and on 6 August Jack was promoted to Sergeant, Machine Gun Section. The Division remained in the line in the vicinity of Armentieres for nearly three months after the Battle of Fromelles. The average casualties for the period were about 300 a month, the great majority of whom were wounded by artillery fire.

In the November the 31st Battalion moved to the Somme and prepared to relieve the British 1st Guards Division east of the village of Gueudecourt. The weather was intensely cold and the majority of men experienced their first snowfall. Jack was seriously wounded with a gunshot wound to the right forehead and right forearm. Two days earlier he had been promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. Jack was repatriated to England for treatment and admitted to the 2nd Southern Military Hospital, Bristol. After six weeks in hospital Jack was discharged.

Due to the sheer number of wounded soldiers in British hospitals, it was the practice for the wounded to convalesce in the private homes of volunteers. Jack moved across England to the south east and stayed at Cobham Hall in Kent. This was the home of Lord Darnley and his Australian wife Dame Florence. Lord Darnley was a former Captain of the England cricket team and Dame Florence had a role in the creation of the cricket trophy “The Ashes”.

In mid April 1917, five months after being wounded, Jack rejoined the 31st Battalion on the Somme. The Battalion was involved in the fighting around the village of Bapaume. Two weeks later Jack was promoted to Company Lieutenant and assigned as the company Lewis Machine Gun Officer. After Bapaume the 5th Division moved into the reserve area for rest, to re equip and train in preparation for a move north to Belgium.

Late July the 31st Battalion entrained to Belgium and marched into billets at Racquinghem, west of  the city of Ypres. The Battalion continued its training regime.

Early August and the Third Battle of Ypres commenced. However the offensive stalled when the weather broke and it rained for the entire month. The torrential rain turned the battlefield into a sea of mud. On the morning of 17 September the 31st commenced its march northwest to the front line.

The British Second and Fifth Armies attacked the German lines over a front of 8 miles in what was to become known as the Battle of Menin Road. The success of the advance led to the next stage of the offensive, Polygon Wood.  The 5th Division was tasked with seizing Polygon Wood.


For the 31st Battalion, The Battle of Polygon Wood lasted over three days. The Battalion achieved its objectives. The 31st casualties were fifteen officers and 418 men killed, wounded or captured. The 31st had completed its mission, but at a heavy cost and was withdrawn to a reserve area. The Battalion was left extremely under strength.

On 9 October the Battalion proceeded towards the forward line from their rest area. The Battalion deployed in positions on the western slope of Broodseinde Ridge.

2 November 1917. Jack was in a captured enemy pill box when he was gassed. His record notes;  Admitted 14 Gen Hosp Wimereux   Gunshot wound  Gassed 2nd occasion.

Further research into Jack’s service in France and Belgium continues. 10 May 1919 Jack returned to Australia, he was accompanied by his wife Edith “nee Richards.