John Joseph SCANLAN DSO+Bar, MiD

SCANLAN, John Joseph

Service Number: TX16307
Enlisted: 24 August 1914, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Last Unit: New Guinea Area (Lark Force)
Born: South Melbourne, Victoria, 19 October 1890
Home Town: Middle Park, Port Phillip, Victoria
Schooling: Christian Brothers' College (St Kilda)
Occupation: Shipping/Customs clerk
Died: Kingston, Tasmania, 6 December 1962, aged 72 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 1 Service

24 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, Melbourne, Victoria
19 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 7th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Melbourne
19 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 7th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
1 Feb 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 7th Infantry Battalion
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 7th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
8 May 1915: Wounded Lieutenant, 7th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli, GSW (right shoulder)
1 Aug 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 57th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Orsova, Melbourne
1 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 57th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
15 Oct 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 59th Infantry Battalion
1 Nov 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Captain, 59th Infantry Battalion
20 Feb 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Major, 59th Infantry Battalion
6 Feb 1918: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant Colonel, 59th Infantry Battalion
24 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant Colonel, 59th Infantry Battalion, Villers-Bretonneux
1 Aug 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Lieutenant Colonel, 59th Infantry Battalion

World War 2 Service

22 Sep 1939: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Lieutenant Colonel, SN TX16307, 6th Garrison Battalion, Hobart, Tasmania
22 Sep 1941: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Lieutenant Colonel, New Guinea Area (Lark Force), Australia's Northern Periphery
23 Jan 1942: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Lieutenant Colonel, New Guinea Area (Lark Force), Australia's Northern Periphery
25 Jan 1942: Imprisoned Australia's Northern Periphery, Lark Force Rabaul
23 Jan 1946: Discharged 2nd AIF WW 2, Lieutenant Colonel, SN TX16307, New Guinea Area (Lark Force), also T253518

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Also awarded the  French Legion of Honour

"John Joseph Scanlan (1890-1962), soldier and public servant, was born on 19 October 1890 in South Melbourne, son of Victorian-born John Andrew Scanlan, coachbuilder, and his Irish-born wife Mary Josephine, née McMahon. He was educated at the Christian Brothers' College, St Kilda, and having reached sub-matriculation standard, gained appointment to the Customs Department as a shipping clerk. In 1910 he joined the 5th Battalion (Victorian Scottish Regiment) (Volunteers) and after two years was promoted sergeant and transferred to the newly formed 60th Battalion. In July 1913 he was commissioned second lieutenant in the 58th Infantry (Essendon Rifles).

Scanlan volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914, joining the 7th Battalion as a second lieutenant, and embarked from Melbourne on 19 October. In Egypt he was promoted lieutenant on 1 February 1915 and that month was part of a back-up force in operations against the Turks advancing across the Sinai towards Suez. He was with the three leading platoons of the 7th Battalion at the Gallipoli landing on 25 April and was fortunate to survive. As the four boats carrying the Victorians approached the beach they came under withering enemy fire. Scanlan landed unscathed, but of 140 men only 3 officers and about 35 men were unhurt or lightly wounded. The rest lay in the boats, dead, dying or gravely wounded.

Scanlan himself was slightly wounded next day, but remained on duty. On 8 May, however, during the advance towards Krithia from Cape Helles, he received a bullet through the chest when advancing across open ground through a rain of fire. He spent more than a year convalescing in Egypt and Australia..." - READ MORE LINK (


Biography contributed by John Edwards

"...on the outbreak of World War II was called up for full-time duty as commanding officer of the 6th Garrison Battalion. In September 1941 he was promoted temporary colonel and appointed commander 'New Guinea Area' (or 'Lark Force'), as the garrison of Rabaul was known. Scanlan took over the force on 8 October. It comprised an A.I.F. battalion and some militia, totalling about 1400. After a series of punishing air raids, the Japanese attacked in overwhelming strength on 23 January 1942. There was some spirited resistance, but the defenders' task was hopeless. Scanlan had issued an order on New Year's Day exhorting his men to fight to the last and declaring that there was to be 'no withdrawal' (this order which had originated at Army Headquarters, Melbourne, was obviously unrealistic) but was obliged like the remaining survivors to flee along jungle tracks.

He reached the Tol area shortly after the Japanese had massacred about 160 Australians and received a Japanese message urging him to surrender and 'beg mercy' for his troops. Influenced by the massacre of his men, Scanlan gave himself up. He did so 'in a blaze of glory', wrote a survivor, 'complete with summer-weight uniform, collar and tie, red gorgets and red cap band. He was wearing new boots and had cut his hair and shaved his beard … He certainly looked every inch a colonel and the effect was in startling contrast to our ragged shorts and shirts, battered boots and scrubby beards'.

Jack Scanlan spent the remaining three-and-a-half years of the war as a prisoner at Rabaul and in Japan, where he was shipped with other officers and nurses in June 1942..." - READ MORE LINK (