John Lawrence WHITHAM CMG, DSO, MiD

WHITHAM, John Lawrence

Service Numbers: 2038, V375024
Enlisted: 26 August 1914, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Lieutenant General
Last Unit: HQ Southern Command (AMF)
Born: Jamalpur, India, 7 October 1881
Home Town: Queenstown, West Coast, Tasmania
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Clerk/Soldier
Died: Natural causes (cancer), Concord, New South Wales, 12 May 1952, aged 70 years
Cemetery: Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park, NSW
Tree Plaque: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Lindisfarne Officers of the 12th Battalion Pictorial Honour Roll
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Boer War Service

1 Jan 1902: Involvement Australian and Colonial Military Forces (Boer War / Boxer Rebellion), Company Quartermaster Sergeant, SN 2038, 3rd Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse

World War 1 Service

26 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Captain, Melbourne, Victoria
20 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Captain, 12th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Hobart
20 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 12th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 12th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
26 Apr 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Major, 12th Infantry Battalion
9 May 1915: Wounded AIF WW1, Major, 12th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
10 Jul 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant Colonel, 52nd Infantry Battalion
18 Sep 1918: Transferred AIF WW1, Lieutenant Colonel, 49th Infantry Battalion
21 Mar 1920: Discharged AIF WW1, Lieutenant Colonel, Department of Repatriation and Demobilization

World War 2 Service

2 Mar 1940: Enlisted Volunteer Defence Corps (WW2), SN V375024, Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC), Melbourne, Victoria
1 Nov 1944: Discharged Citizen Military Forces (CMF) / Militia - WW2, Lieutenant General, SN V375024, HQ Southern Command (AMF)

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Biography contributed by John Edwards

"John Lawrence Whitham (1881-1952), soldier, was born on 7 October 1881 at Jamalpur, Bengal, India, son of Lawrence Yates Whitham, a major in the Indian Army who brought his wife Ellen and family to Hobart in 1886 and joined the local police force. John worked as a clerk and in his spare time served in the volunteers from 1898.In 1902 he went to the South African War as quartermaster sergeant of the Tasmanian company of the 3rd Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse. At the war's end he transferred to the South African Constabulary with whom he remained until 1904. He then served with the Tasmanian Senior Cadets and was commissioned lieutenant in 1908. In 1910 he embarked upon his full-time military career: commissioned lieutenant in the Administrative and Instructional Staff in July, he was posted to South Australia; in 1912 he was selected for duty on the staff of the inspector general; he was a captain when World War I began.

With the formation of the Australian Imperial Force, Whitham was given command of a company of the 12th Battalion. He embarked on 20 October 1914 and, after training in Egypt, landed with the battalion at Anzac on 25 April 1915. He led his company throughout the first day until he was wounded and evacuated. He rejoined the battalion in May, as a major and its second-in-command. In August he briefly commanded the battalion, but next month was invalided ill and did not return to Anzac.

In Egypt in February 1916 he was appointed deputy assistant adjutant and quartermaster general for the 2nd Australian Division. After crossing to France and following the Pozières operations, he was transferred to A.I.F. Headquarters staff as a lieutenant-colonel. In May 1917 he was given command of the 52nd Battalion, a unit formed partly from his old 12th Battalion. Several weeks later he led his battalion throughout the bloody fighting beyond Ypres, Belgium. Whitham's battalion was billeted near Locre, France, when the German 1918 offensive commenced. He assisted in having the brigade rushed south and on 3 April placed his men in a defensive position near Dernancourt. During the month the 52nd Battalion played a vital role in two of the most critical actions in which the Australians were engaged on the Western Front. He commanded the battalion when the Germans attacked at Dernancourt on 5 April and, twenty days later, led it in the counter-attack which recaptured Villers-Bretonneux. The repulse at these two points blunted the enemy's offensive and saved the city of Amiens..." - READ MORE LINK (


The latest Military Orders contain particulars of the deeds tor which a number of Tasmanians have been awarded special distinctions. The particulars given are as follows:


Lieutenant-Colonel John Lawrence Whitham, C.M.G., 22nd Battalion. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This officer commanded his battalion in a difficult night operation with great ability. Following an enemy advance, in which a village was lost, the battalion, which had already marched six miles, took part in a counter attack. The ground was strange, and there was no time for reconnaissance, but the approach march and deployment was carried out without a hitch, and the attack was a brilliant success. He moved about, encouraging and directing this troops, and established his headquarters well forward in an open trench, from which, though under heavy fire, he was able to control his battalion..." - from the Burnie Advocate 21 Feb 1919 (