Private John Harry Lawton was twice wounded in action – at Broodseinde in 1917 and a year later at St Quentin Canal – in battles celebrated as successes for the Australian troops on the Western Front.
He was originally allotted to the 9th reinforcements of the 49th Battalion, then reallocated to the 7th reinforcements of the 41st Battalion, before leaving Sydney on the Wiltshire on February 7, 1917.
John arrived at Devonport, England, on April 11 and went to Durrington camp for further training. Like so many others during the war, John contracted mumps. He was admitted to Parkhouse Hospital on June 15 and did not return to duty until July 7.
John embarked for France via Southampton on July 30, joining his battalion in the field on August 18. The next entry in John’s service record shows him being wounded in action on October 4.
While some military historians maintain the 41st Battalion had a “relatively straightforward” time on the battlefields of Belgium in 1917, achieving its objectives at Broodseinde “with little difficulty” John Lawton was among the casualties, suffering a gunshot wound to the left arm.
With a compound fracture of the forearm, he was evacuated to England on October 21 and admitted to the Edmonton Military Hospital which specialised in orthopaedic cases.
At her home at Chambers Flat, John’s mother, Mrs Minnie Miller, received a telegram dated October 24 to say he had been wounded in action. This was followed by a second telegram on November 19 advising he had been admitted to hospital, and then another dated December 5 that he was ‘convalescent’.
After leaving hospital, John had two weeks’ furlough from January 4, 1918.
He went then to Hurdcott in Wiltshire where he continued his recovery before reporting to nearby Longbridge Deverill to prepare to return to France.
More than six months after being wounded in action, John left England from Folkestone on April 17, arriving in Rouelles the next day.
He returned to the front, rejoining his battalion on April 24, but a little more than a month later was admitted to hospital, suffering influenza, on May 30.
John rejoined his battalion on June 13, during a quieter time for the 41st in the lead-up to the Allied offensive which began on August 8. The 41st was not only part of the initial attack but also the long advance that continued into September to drive the German Army back.
On September 13, John was again on the casualty list – this time with a wasp bite that put him in hospital and out of action for two days.
He returned to the lines shortly before the 41st Battalion’s last major action of the war, from September 29 to October 2, as part of the joint Australian-American effort which broke through the formidable Hindenburg Line along the St Quentin Canal.
John was initially listed as missing in action on the first day, but was then reported as having suffered a gunshot wound to the left thigh.
On October 4, exactly one year after he had first been wounded in action, John was evacuated to England, where he was admitted to hospital in Reading the next day.
The day after the Armistice, he was transferred to the 1st Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford and was released on furlough from November 14 to 28.
John left England on the Delta on January 24, 1919, and after arriving in Melbourne on March 7 travelled by boat to Brisbane. He was discharged from the Army on April 23.
On May 1, 1930, John married Agnes Enkelmann and after many years of working as a teamster at Canungra turned his hand to dairy farming at Boyland.
In 1949, according to census records, John was working as a labourer at Archerfield and through the 1950s and 60s lived at Salisbury.
Agnes passed away in 1969 but John lived for another 10 years, passing away on ANZAC Day, April 25, 1979, three months before his 86th birthday.