John Harbinger (Jack) GIBBS

Poppy

GIBBS, John Harbinger

Service Numbers: 1951, 154
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 5th Infantry Battalion
Born: Sale, Victoria, Australia, 1897
Home Town: Colac, Colac-Otway, Victoria
Schooling: Caulfield Grammar School
Occupation: Student
Died: Died of Illness, "Glenora", Colac, Victoria, Australia, 13 October 1917
Cemetery: Colac General Cemetery
C.E. 25. 2. (GRM/3*).
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Colac St Andrew's Presbyterian Church Honor Roll
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World War 1 Service

17 Apr 1915: Involvement Private, SN 1951, 5th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
17 Apr 1915: Embarked Private, SN 1951, 5th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Melbourne
13 Oct 1917: Involvement Corporal, SN 154, Third Ypres

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Biography contributed by Stephen Brooks

Brother

2nd Lieutenant Richard Horace Maconochie (Mac) Gibbs MC, 6th Battalion AIF, from Colac Victoria, enlisted in May 1915. Richard Gibbs embarked from Melbourne during January 1916, at 23 years of age. He was a university medical student prior to enlistment, was later transferred to the 59th Battalion and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. Lieutenant Gibbs was also killed in action on 19th July 1916, at the Battle of Fromelles, a terrible day for the Victorians of the 57th, 59th and 60th Battalions. He has no known grave and is commemorated at VC Corner Australian Cemetery Memorial, Fromelles, France. A witness stated that “He was killed over towards the German line in the charge on the night of July 19th at Fleurbaix. I saw him go down hit either by shrapnel or a bullet. I was quite near him at the time. I don't know if his body was recovered.” Another soldier said “I saw Lieut. Gibbs when I was coming back from trenches between the two lines at Fleurbaix, he was dead, and I was lying beside him for a long time.”

Lt Gibbs was posthumously awarded a Military Cross, for his actions in the battle shortly before his death. “At Petillon on the 19th/20th July 1916, when his Company Commander was seriously wounded immediately prior to the order to charge Lieut. Gibbs took charge and led his men over the parapet. By his example the men were spurred on, and although advancing under a galling machine gun and rifle fire he kept his men moving steadily forward in perfect line and order. Lieut. Gibb's calm and collected manner gave his men the impulse necessary to carry them as far as it was possible to go”. 

His younger brother, also a student, 1951 Private John Harbinger Gibbs, 5th Battalion AIF, had enlisted just prior to his older brother and he became very ill with enteritis while serving at Gallipoli during August 1915 and was evacuated to Egypt. John Gibbs was later attached to Administration Headquarters in London, but caught a severe cold in early 1917. He never really recovered and was very weak and had lost considerable weight when he was repatriated to Australia in July 1917, where his father, Ronald H. Gibbs, a doctor of some renown in Colac, took over his medical care. Despite having his son shifted to Colac and placed under his personal care, the boy died of illness at his father’s home in Colac on the 13th October 1917, still only 20 years of age. He was sent home with what was called “phthisis” a medical term for wasting away which is no longer in technical use, but was commonly used to describe tuberculosis of the lungs. 

The two brothers’ father, Major Richard Horace Gibbs, did not serve overseas, but at the outbreak of the First World War, Doctor Gibbs was residing and working as a practitioner and surgeon at Colac Victoria. As a civilian he became involved in securing recruits for active service in the AIF and conducting medical examinations of volunteers. Following the loss of his two sons Richard Horace Gibbs gave up his practice and devoted his work to the medical care of sick and wounded soldiers who had returned to Australia. He was gazetted a Major in the AIF and appointed Senior Surgeon at No 16 Australian General Hospital at MacLeod in Victoria. Major Gibbs was killed in a tram accident in Melbourne in July 1919. Major Gibbs is thought to have just enlisted into the Medical Corps of the AIF for overseas service as he was on the way to a Military Hospital in Melbourne on 13th July 1919, and when he attempted to alight from a tram, he slipped and died of injuries as a result. He was 56 years of age. The death of this very fine Australian doctor was a great loss to Australia, the sadness compounded by the death of his two young sons, both of whom had promised so much during their studies in the medical profession.

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