John Swainson (Tug) WILSON


WILSON, John Swainson

Service Number: 2032
Enlisted: 3 July 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 17th Infantry Battalion
Born: Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, 23 July 1891
Home Town: Lidcombe, Auburn, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Stoker
Died: Killed in action, Belgium, 19 September 1917, aged 26 years
Cemetery: Hooge Crater Cemetery
Plot III, Row J, Grave No. 11
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

3 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2032, 17th Infantry Battalion
9 Aug 1915: Involvement Private, SN 2032, 17th Infantry Battalion
9 Aug 1915: Embarked Private, SN 2032, 17th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Runic, Sydney

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Biography contributed by Stephen Brooks

Brother Stoker Percy Lawrence Wilson HMAS AE1 was lost when the submarine sank off the New Guinea coast 14 August 1914.

John Swanson Wilson, joined the Australian Naval Force before the War.  He enlisted in July 1913 for a period of five years.  He was 5’5 (1.65m) tall, and had a brown complexion with brown hair and grey eyes.  He served originally as a Stoker on the Cerberus – a training ship – for four months before transferring to the Encounter.  The cruiser Encounter was part of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force which captured German New Guinea, but would spend the rest of the War patrolling Pacific and Australian waters.

Deserted in July 1915, to join the AIF.  In fact, he enlisted on the same day that he jumped ship.  Gave his name as just John Wilson. He put his trade as a Labourer and that he had spent three years in the Naval Reserve.

He arrived in Gallipoli in mid-October, 1915, and served there until the Evacuation in December.  He spent a couple of days in hospital in February and, in March, the AIF sailed over to France. He transferred to the 5th Machine Gun Company during May 1916.

He was promoted to Temp/Corporal in November 1916, which was confirmed in December.  In January 1917, he was promoted to Sergeant.  During February 1917, he did work that would later result in a Mentioned in Dispatches. 

The recommendation stated “For continuous good work for several months showing great coolness under fire. During an attack on the communication trench from Malt Trench to Grevillers Trench on 28 February 1917, he kept his gun action during the whole attack, though the position was very heavily shelled.”

The 5th Machine Gun Company was involved in the attack on Westhoek Ridge, near Ypres, on the 19 September 1917. Wilson was reported by an eye witness to have been killed by a shell just to the left of Anzac Redoubt.

After receiving notification of his death, one of his sisters wrote to Base Records in Melbourne asking,

“Could you give any information as to his last Will when leaving, or any particulars as to what my best action is to take to gain information as to how, and in what Battle my brother fell.  Trusting you will bear with me in troubling you and give this matter your careful consideration, as it seems very hard to only just receive a brief line acquainting me of his death and no other particulars to be obtained.”