John Alexander (Jack) FRENCH VC

FRENCH, John Alexander

Service Number: QX1071
Enlisted: 22 October 1939, Toowoomba, Queensland
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion
Born: Crows Nest, Queensland, 15 July 1914
Home Town: Crows Nest, Toowoomba, Queensland
Schooling: Crows Nest State School and Toowoomba Technical College
Occupation: Barber/Hairdresser
Died: Killed in Action, Milne Bay, New Guinea, Papua, 4 September 1942, aged 28 years
Cemetery: Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea
Section. A Plot. 2 Row. E Grave. 16, Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, Bomana, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Corporal John French V.C. Memorial Bridge, Crows Nest (Qld) War Memorial, Greenslopes Private Hospital "The John French Wing", Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, Newtown State School Honour Roll, North Bondi War Memorial, Toowoomba Roll of Honour WW2, Toowoomba WW2 Roll of Honour Book, Toowoomba War Memorial (Mothers' Memorial), Yarra Corporal John French VC Memorial Rest Area
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World War 2 Service

22 Oct 1939: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Corporal, QX1071, 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion
22 Oct 1939: Enlisted Private, QX1071, Toowoomba, Queensland
23 Oct 1939: Involvement Private, QX1071
15 May 1940: Embarked QX1071, 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion, Embarked Sydney (for Middle East)
17 Mar 1941: Involvement Private, QX1071, 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion, Libya/North Africa
10 Apr 1941: Involvement Private, QX1071, 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion, Siege of Tobruk
10 Aug 1941: Promoted Lance Corporal, 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion
22 Dec 1941: Promoted Corporal, 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion
28 Mar 1942: Embarked Corporal, QX1071, 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion, Embarked Middle East (for Sydney)
7 Aug 1942: Embarked Corporal, QX1071, 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion, Embarked Brisbane (for New Guinea)
4 Sep 1942: Honoured Victoria Cross, Milne Bay - Papua New Guinea WW2, At Milne Bay, New Guinea, on September 4th 1942, during an attack by an Australian Infantry battalion on the Japanese position east of the Buna Mission, the section commanded by Corporal French was held up by terrific fire from three enemy machine-gun posts. Corporal French, ordering his men to take cover, himself advanced and silenced two with grenades. Then, armed with a sub-machine-gun, he attacked the third post. Although badly wounded by enemy fire he continued to advance until it, too, was silenced. His section pushed on, to find that the three enemy gun crews had been killed, and that Corporal French had died in front of the third gun pit. By his cool courage and disregard of his own safety, this non-commissioned officer saved his section from heavy casualties and was responsible for the successful conclusion of the attack.
4 Sep 1942: Involvement Corporal, QX1071, 2nd/9th Infantry Battalion, Milne Bay - Papua New Guinea WW2

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Biography contributed by Paul Trevor

French, John Alexander (Jack) (1914–1942)
by Anthony Staunton

John Alexander French (1914-1942), soldier and barber, was born on 15 July 1914 at Crows Nest, near Toowoomba, Queensland, third of five children of Albert French, hairdresser, and his wife Lucy Fanny May, née Donaldson, both native-born. Educated at Crows Nest State School and Toowoomba Technical College, Jack entered his father's barber-and-tobacconist business. On 22 October 1939 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 2nd/9th Battalion, then being formed at Redbank. Quiet, unassuming and of a serious disposition, French was a 'big fair chap', a good sportsman and well liked. He gave his religion as Presbyterian.

Sailing from Sydney in May 1940, he spent five months in Britain before reaching the Middle East in December. In March 1941 the 2nd/9th assaulted the Italian stronghold at Giarabub, Libya. From April to August the battalion took part in the defence of Tobruk before moving to Syria where it performed garrison duties. French became an excellent soldier. He was promoted acting corporal in December and his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel C. J. Cummings, saw him as a future officer. The 2nd/9th returned to Australia in early 1942 and left again in August, bound for Papua. By mid-month the unit was established at Milne Bay.

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