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Corporal John Hurst Edmondson (Posthumous)

Tuesday 7 January, 2020

Corporal John Hurst Edmondson (Posthumous)

2/17th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force

13 April 1941, Tobruk, Libya


John Hurst ‘Jack’ Edmondson was born in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales on 8 October 1914.  He was the only child of Joseph and Maude Edmondson and was the light of their lives.  He was particularly close to his mother and they would often talk for hours and take leisurely walks around their property, ‘Forest Home’, in Liverpool.  His father was more reserved but cherished working the farm with his son.  Edmondson enjoyed farm life, played piano and excelled at shooting.

Edmondson joined the Militia in March 1939, parading part-time with the 4th Battalion (Australian Rifles) at Marylands, four months later, he was promoted to corporal.  He joined the AIF in May 1940 relinquishing his rank on joining the 2/17th Battalion.  In the October, he sailed for the Middle East. 

The battalion trained in Palestine and then spent time in Port Said in Egypt before moving on to Mersa Matruh with other elements of the 9th Australian Division.  An Axis counter-attack forced them to retreat to Tobruk, where a siege began on 11 April 1941.  Two days later, German troops probed the perimeter, beginning a series of battles referred to in Edmondson’s citation.

The Edmondsons were deeply affected by the loss of their only son.  Before leaving for the Middle East, John had asked his mother to keep a diary and he would do the same.  The entries Maude kept following her son’s death detail the anguish of life without her son, and the nightmares she endured afterwards.

Four days after her son’s death, Maude Edmondson read about the fighting in Tobruk in the newspaper.  The article referenced an unnamed corporal who had saved the life of a Marylands lieutenant.  Maude was convinced the unnamed corporal was her son, and her fears were confirmed on 26 April when a telegraph arrived advising of her son’s death.

After his death, a former school teacher wrote of Edmondson:

“In those young days he lived how he departed, helping the other lad.  He gave his lunch away each day, with a sandwich or a piece of cake and an apple which he had brought for his horse.”



His citation reads:

On the night of 13-14th April, 1941, a party of German infantry broke through the wire defences at Tobruk and established themselves with at least six machine-guns, mortars and two small field pieces.  It was decided to attack them with bayonets, and a party consisting of one officer, Corporal Edmondson and five privates, took part in the charge.  During the counter-attack, Corporal Edmondson was wounded in the neck and stomach but continued to advanced under heavy fire and killed one enemy with his bayonet.  Later, his officer had his bayonet in one of the enemy and was grasped about the legs by him, when another attacked him from behind.   He called for help, and Corporal Edmondson, who was some yards away, immediately came to his assistance and in spite of his wounds killed both of the enemy.  This action undoubtedly saved his officers life.  Shortly after returning from this successful counter-attack, Corporal Edmondson died of his wounds.  His actions throughout the operations were outstanding for resolution, leadership and conspicuous bravery.


The London Gazette

4 July 1941

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