John Joseph EDWARDS MC

EDWARDS, John Joseph

Service Number: SX9168
Enlisted: 3 September 1939, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion
Born: Gawler, South Australia, 31 December 1911
Home Town: Flinders Park, Charles Sturt, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Natural causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 18 April 1979, aged 67 years
Cemetery: Centennial Park - South Australian Garden of Remembrance
Memorial Location: Wall 32/Row Q.
Memorials: Gawler Council WW2 Honour Roll
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World War 2 Service

3 Sep 1939: Enlisted Lieutenant, SN SX9168, Adelaide, South Australia
8 Apr 1941: Embarked Lieutenant, SN SX9168, 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion
8 Apr 1941: Involvement Lieutenant, SN SX9168, 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW2
8 Jun 1941: Involvement Lieutenant, SN SX9168, 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, Syria - Operation Exporter
20 Jun 1941: Honoured Military Cross, Syria - Operation Exporter
1 Feb 1942: Involvement Captain, SN SX9168, Java Task Force, Australia's Northern Periphery
28 Feb 1942: Involvement Captain, SN SX9168, 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, Prisoners of War
28 Mar 1946: Discharged Captain, SN SX9168, 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion

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John Joseph Edwards served with the 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion in Syria. On the 20th of June 1941 near Damascus Lieutenant John Joseph Edwards showed "Great courage, skill & leadership". For his actions he was awarded the Military Cross. After the Vichy France surrendered in Syria the 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion stayed for a while as part of the occupation force.  

When the 7th Division was recalled to defend Australia from the Japanese, John Edwards and the rest of the 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion (under the command of the notable Lieutenant-Colonel Blackburn) were directed to Java. This was part of an argument between Curtin and Churchill about where Australia’s two returning Divisions were to be deployed to counter the Japanense threat. Churchill had tried to have the convoy diverted to Burma. Curtin, however, naturally enough looked to the defence of the nation first and foremost and refused Churchill's request. This became a turning point in Anglo-Australian relations as Australia looked to the US in its war with the Japanese.

In the meantime, the 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, on the transport ship 'Orcades', (the fastest ship in the convoy,) were re-directed as Singapore fell. They were to form "Blackforce" to join the futile penny packeting of Australian units through the Indonesian archipelago and in New Britain. It was also around this time that John Edwards was promoted to the rank of Captain.

"Blackforce" landed on the island of Java. They had no vehicles, weapons or ammunition - they were on other ships in the convoy that weren't been re-directed. Undaunted, however, Blackburn assembled his scratch Brigade - it included the 2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, a battery of American artillery and a squadron from the 3rd King’s Own Hussars and several other small units that had been on the Orcades. They were equipped with a shipload of American stores and equipment intended for the Dutch but fortuitously abandoned on the docks. Although promised extraction at a future date, they were effectively abandoned in one of several futile gestures that squandered men and equipment that would have been much more useful later in the defence of Australia against the Japanese. This included Captain Edwards who was promoted to the position of adjutant for Blackforce.

Blackforce conducted an amazing but little known delaying defence of the island. With the Dutch having effectively capitulated around them and without any hope of extraction, Blackforce under the command of Blackburn surrendered to the Japanese and became Prisoners of War. Captain John Edwards and a large other number of men from Blackforce were taken to Thailand where they languished in prision camps or worked on the Thai-Burma Railway Line for the next three years.