James Park WOODS VC

WOODS, James Park

Service Number: 2344A
Enlisted: 29 September 1916, Perth, Western Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Two Wells, South Australia, 4 January 1891
Home Town: Gawler, Gawler, South Australia
Schooling: Gawler, South Australia
Occupation: Vigneron
Died: Natural Causes, Nedlands, Western Australia, 18 January 1963, aged 72 years
Cemetery: Karrakatta Cemetery & Crematorium
Wesleyan, Section HA, Plot 0001
Memorials: Adelaide 150 Jubilee Commemorative Pavement Plaques - WW1 VC Recipients, Adelaide Torrens Training Depot, Caversham and Districts Roll of Honour, Gawler Council Gawler Men Who Answered the Call WW1 Roll of Honor, Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, North Bondi War Memorial, West Swan, Caversham, Beechboro Honour Roll, Winchelsea WWI Memorial
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World War 1 Service

29 Sep 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2344A, 48th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
29 Sep 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Perth, Western Australia
23 Dec 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, HMAT A35 Berrima
12 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2344A, 48th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
8 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2344A, 48th Infantry Battalion, "The Last Hundred Days"
10 Sep 1919: Discharged AIF WW1
Date unknown: Involvement 48th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières


The details provided are taken from the book "Stealth Raiders - a few daring men in 1918" written by Lucas Jordan, published 2017, refer to pages 209 and 278. Prior to the war he was a vigneron of Caversham WA. He enlisted 30th Oct 1916 aged 25 years. He served with the 48th Infantry Battalion, remaining as a Private and earning a Victoria Cross for his actions. He survived the war, departing the UK for home 21st June 1919.

James Park Woods

James Park Woods written by Ivy Shaw

If we struggled what he struggled through, if we saw what he saw, continuing would feel impossible, yet he did.

My Great, Great Uncle James Park Woods was one of the many heroic recipients of the Victoria Cross, which is the highest award you can receive for bravery in the face of the enemy in the British and Commonwealth forces. (AWM)
James ‘Jimmy’ Park Woods was born on the 4th of January 1886 to James Woods and his wife Ester nee Johnson at Gawler in South Australia. After his mother’s untimely death when he was aged seven he was left in the care of his stepsister and upon finishing school worked in a vineyard with his brothers. (Australian Dictionary of Biography)

James first tried to enlist in 1914 in Adelaide but was rejected due to height restrictions, he was a little under 5 ft 3”. He then travelled to Western Australia with his brother Will and carted timber and erected fences before becoming a vigneron at Caversham, Western Australia. After many unsuccessful attempts, Woods was finally accepted to enlist into the Australian Imperial Force on the 29th of September 1916, when the height restrictions were lowered. He was embarked from Australia as reinforcement for the 48th Battalion, which was a South-Western Australian unit. (NAA, VWM, Australian Dictionary of Biography)

After two months of training at Blackboy Hill in Western Australia, Woods embarked with the rest of his reinforcement draft on HMAS Berrima at Fremantle on the 23rd of December 1916. He disembarked at Devonport in the United Kingdom (UK) on 16th of February 1917, and joined the 12th Training Battalion at Codford on Salisbury Plain, UK. Although, all throughout his training, James was hospitalised multiple times with mumps, bronchitis and pneumonia. After finally recovering, James was able to join the 48th Battalion at Southampton, France, on the 12th of September 1917. (Australian Dictionary of Biography)

When James joined his Battalion, it was undergoing much of its training and gaining reinforcements in Zuytpeene, which is a small commune in northern France. On the 21st of September, the 48th Battalion were transported by buses via Steenvoorde, to the vicinity of Ypres in Belgium. There they relieved the units that had participated in the Battle of Polygon Wood, as well as taking up support positions. During the time that the Battalion stayed there, their main jobs were battlefield salvage and digging graves for the many killed Germans and Australians. The 48th Battalion was finally relieved from the position on the 1st of October and stayed overnight in the trenches at Westhoek Ridge before returning to Steenvoorde. (Australian Dictionary of Biography, VWM)

After staying a week in Steenvoorde, on the 10th of October James’ Battalion marched to Abeele and boarded a train for Ypres. That evening they marched to the trenches on Westhoek Ridge, where they received orders for a large-scale attack by the division. On the 12th of October, the First Battle of Passchendaele was fought. They initially captured 200 Germans, but the main attack failed, exposing the left flank of the Battalion. They managed to beat off the first German counter-attack, but the second counter-attack pushed the 48th Battalion all the way back to its starting line. The unit suffered around 370 casualties, more than half of the soldiers that were in the battle at the time. Woods and his Battalion were eventually withdrawn from the line and re-united with the nucleus troops. Now reinforced, the Battalion briefly filled a support position on Anzac Ridge on the 19th of October, before being relieved and marching away for time of rest and recuperation. (NAA, Australian Dictionary of Biography)

The period of rest was spent first at Cuhem, then Friancourt before the Battalion occupied a few weeks at a camp near Péronne, where Woods and the rest of the unit celebrated Christmas Day. (Devine, 1919)

On the 8th of January 1918, the 48th Battalion marched to Péronne and arrived in Belgium where they entered the trenches near Hollebeke on the 11th of January. The Battalion remained in these trenches for ten days before being relieved. On the day after the Battalion was relieved and began to move, Woods reported sick. He was diagnosed with what was either bronchitis or pericarditis, and had to be admitted to a hospital in Birmingham, UK. He was unable to return to his Battalion until 30th of May, at this time the 48th Battalion was in a rest area at Rivery. On the 2nd of June they moved forward again. Two weeks later, the 48th Battalion moved into the front line near Sailly-le-Sec, and was relieved on 4th of July. The Battalion then went back into a rest area near Allonville with the rest of the 4th Division. This rest continued to the end of the month, but on July 23rd, Woods was reported sick again with dysentery. He had to be quickly evacuated and admitted to a casualty clearing station, he did not return to his unit until 16th of August. At this time, the Battalion was in the front line near Lihons, until relieved on 24th of August. The unit was then withdrawn to a rest area at Saint-Vaast-en-Chaussée where it remained for around two weeks. (Devine, 1919, NAA)

By September 1918, the Allies were in the midst of the Hundred Days Offensive, which were a series of attacks in France. On the 18th of September 1818, James as a part of the 48th Battalion attacked the Hindenburg outpost line, capturing 480 Germans, they then were followed by the 45th and 46th Battalions. This attack was near Le Verguier, north-west of St. Quentin. While on a patrol to contact the British during the attack, James as a part of a three-man party came across a German post holding six machine-guns and over thirty troops. Although there were forces being organised to attack and take down the post, Woods lead himself and the men against it. One of the Germans were wounded, another captured, and the rest fled. (Australian Dictionary of Biography)

The Germans however counter-attacked, despite the heavy fire that was being continuously shot at James and his party he was able to climb onto the paraphet and hold off the constant attacks by throwing grenades that were handed to him by the two men he was with. This defence was so incredibly effective that when reinforcements finally arrived they were able to secure the German post very successfully. This crucial role in the capture gave him the highest honour of the Victoria Cross and was the time that he displayed the Anzac Spirit to its true extent. (Devine, 1919)

The Legend of Anzac was born on the 25th of April 1915 during the Gallipoli campaign. The Anzac Spirit is the ideology that Australian and New Zealand Soldiers and Nurses possessed certain qualities as a nation during World War One. These qualities generally included, endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour, and mateship. The Anzac Spirit was said have been born out of egalitarianism and a support of one another. The Anzacs were willing to sacrifice not only their own lives but everything they had for their country, the war although horrific seemed to bring out the absolute best in these people. (AWM)

James showed courage and endurance that I cannot even begin to comprehend, the horrors that he saw every day and endured I cannot even imagine in my wildest dreams, the friends he saw die, the families he saw ripped apart. I will never understand how he kept on going. I will never understand how he looked danger in the eye and kept on walking. I will never understand how he could endanger his life to save my future.

I will never forget what he endured so I could be here today, may we all never forget.

James returned to Australia in August 1919, he then took up a vineyard and orchard in the Swan Valley. James although returning a hero was still affected by the great war, he was often in ill health due to gassing and infections in the trenches, as well as the change and strain it had caused him mentally. Although on the 30th of April 1921 barely two years after returning from war, James married the love of his life, Olive Adeline Wilson in Caversham. In 1937 it was believed he only had only a few years left to live so he was granted a full pension, but against the odds he lived in quiet retirement for the following twenty-six years. (Australian Dictionary of Biography)

James’ sons Gordon and Norman both followed in their father’s footsteps, both serving in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War Two, but Gordon his eldest child was sadly killed in a flying accident during flight training near Newcastle, New South Wales in October 1943. (Australian Dictionary of Biography)

Woods continued later to live in Claremont, Perth with his wife, three sons and three daughters. He eventually passed away on the 18th of January 1963 in Hollywood Repatriation Hospital, aged 77 (Australian Dictionary of Biography). A ward at the hospital is now named in his honour. (Hollywood Private Hospital)
May he rest in internal peace.

Lest we Forget.

Figure 1:
unknown (2019). James Park WOODS VC. [online] Vwma.org.au. Available at: https://vwma.org.au/explore/people/46905 [Accessed 4 May 2019].
Figure 2:
Australia's Western Front. (2019). What happened here?. [online] Available at: https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/conflicts/australians-western-front-19141918/australian-remembrance-trail/fourth-0 [Accessed 15 May 2019].
Figure 4:
Memorial, T. (n.d.). Victoria Cross : Private J P Woods, 48 Battalion, AIF. [online] Awm.gov.au. Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C243927 [Accessed 13 May 2019].
Figure 5:
Memorial, T. (n.d.). Victoria Cross : Private J P Woods, 48 Battalion, AIF. [online] Awm.gov.au. Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C243927 [Accessed 13 May 2019].
Figure 3, 6, 7:
The Australian Government (n.d.). NAA: B2455, WOODS J P. National Archives of Australia, pp. 1 - 35.

Memorial, T. (2019). 48th Australian Infantry Battalion. [online] Awm.gov.au. Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U51488 [Accessed 6 May 2019].
Memorial, T. (2019). Memorial Glossary beginning with A | The Australian War Memorial. [online] Awm.gov.au. Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/learn/glossary/a [Accessed 6 May 2019].
Higgins, M. (1990). Biography - James Park Woods - Australian Dictionary of Biography. [online] Adb.anu.edu.au. Available at: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/woods-james-park-9178 [Accessed 6 May 2019].
unknown (2019). James Park WOODS VC. [online] Vwma.org.au. Available at: https://vwma.org.au/explore/people/46905 [Accessed 4 May 2019].
Hospital, H. (n.d.). A History of Caring at Hollywood Private Hospital. [online] Hollywoodprivate.com.au. Available at: https://www.hollywoodprivate.com.au/About-Us/A-History-of-Caring [Accessed 13 May 2019].
The Australian Government (n.d.). NAA: B2455, WOODS J P. National Archives of Australia, pp. 1 - 35.
Memorial, T. (n.d.). Victoria Cross : Private J P Woods, 48 Battalion, AIF. [online] Awm.gov.au. Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C243927 [Accessed 13 May 2019].
Australia's Western Front. (2019). What happened here?. [online] Available at: https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/conflicts/australians-western-front-19141918/australian-remembrance-trail/fourth-0 [Accessed 15 May 2019].

Devine, W. (1919). The Story of a Battalion: Being a Record of the 48th Battalion, A.I.F. Melbourne, Victoria: Melville & Mullen.


Awarded the Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross Citation: For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty near Le Verguier, north-west of St. Quentin, on the 18th September, 1918, when, with a weak patrol, he attacked and captured a very formidable enemy post, and subsequently, with two comrades, held the same against heavy enemy counter-attacks.
Although exposed to heavy fire of all descriptions, he fearlessly jumped on the parapet and opened fire on the attacking enemy, inflicting severe casualties. He kept up his fire and held up the enemy until help arrived, and throughout the operations displayed a splendid example of valour, determination and initiative. [London Gazette issue 31082 dated 26 Dec 1918, published 24 December, 1918.]

Showing 3 of 3 stories

Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

Woods, James Park (1886–1963)
by Matthew Higgins

James Park Woods (1886-1963), soldier and orchardist, was born on 4 January 1886 at Two Wells, South Australia, son of James Woods, blacksmith, and his wife Ester, née Johnson. After his parents' death James was reared by a stepsister and, with his brothers, worked on a vineyard. Soon after war broke out in 1914 Woods tried to enlist in Adelaide, but was rejected because of his height (5 ft 4 ins, 163 cm).

He travelled to Western Australia with his brother Will, and carted timber and fenced in the Katanning area before becoming a vigneron at Caversham. Following further unsuccessful attempts, James eventually enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 29 September 1916 when the height requirements had been lowered. He left Australia in December as a reinforcement for the 48th Battalion.

Having spent two periods in hospital in Britain, he reached France in September 1917, only to be invalided on and off until August 1918. On 18 September the 48th Battalion attacked the Hindenburg outpost line near Le Verguier, north-west of St Quentin. It took its objective, but British troops on the Australian flank were held up and a company of the 48th was sent in support. Ordered on patrol, Woods and two companions discovered a German post comprising six machine-guns and over thirty troops. Without waiting for the force which was being organized to assault the strong-point, Woods led his small party against it. One German was wounded, another was captured and the rest of the garrison fled. The Germans then counter-attacked. Despite heavy fire, Woods climbed onto the parapet and, while lying there, held off successive attacks by throwing bombs handed to him by his companions. So effective was his defence that, when Australian reinforcements arrived, they were easily able to secure the post. Woods was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the action.

Read more - https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/woods-james-park-9178 (adb.anu.edu.au)