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John Turner WILSON

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Pte 3459 18y4m 20 Jul 1916 8 Aug 1916 KA 3 & 7

John Turner Wilson (1897 - 1916)

 Wilson Brothers Booklet 

Family background

William Alexander and Annie Wilson née Durward lived at Vernor near Lowood when two of their sons enlisted to serve in the Australian Imperial Force.


Their youngest boy, John, a storehand, was the first son to join.  He was born on 30 March 1897.  He volunteered for service abroad on 26 July 1915 at the Brisbane recruiting station, taking with him a handwritten note saying:

“I William Alexander Wilson of Vernor in the State of Queensland do hereby give my consent to my son John T. Wilson enabling him to enlist in the Expeditionary Forces in whatever unit is allotted to him as he is not of age. Dated at Vernor this nineteenth day of July 1915.”

The statement was signed by his father and mother. John was 18 years and 4 months old, 5 feet 9½ inches tall (176.5 cm) and weighed 152 lbs (68.9 kg).  He noted on his Attestation Paper that he had served in Training Area 10B (Lowood) in the Senior Cadets.


Private John Turner Wilson was allotted to the 15th Infantry Battalion based at Enoggera Camp for a short period of training before embarking from Brisbane on 21 October 1915 on board His Majesty’s Australian Transport, the ship Seang Bee.  While participating in training exercises in Egypt in the early months of 1916, John Wilson spent periods of time in hospital with influenza in February and with heart trouble in April.

On 1 June he sailed with his unit from Alexandria for France and the Western Front. Australians were involved in heavy fighting around the village of Pozières in July and August. Bean described the intense German barrage and heavy bombardment on Pozières on 6 August when the shelling of enemy artillery surrounded Australian soldiers: 

“The cost of all this fighting to the Australian infantry had been tremendous1.” 

Killed in action at Pozières 

Private Wilson was reported missing on 8 August and following a court of inquiry at Ribemont on 1 May 1917 was reported “killed in action on 8 August 1916”.

Before John Wilson died, his parents moved to Lyndfield, Lytton Road, via Morningside.  They wrote letters to military authorities expressing dissatisfaction over their son’s rank in the Australian Imperial Force.  Mrs Wilson wrote her letter on 31 July 1916:

“I wish to remind you that my son John had a commission as a Lieutenant at Lowood when he received a letter from Governor General signed by Senator Pearce. Telling my son to go and try for a higher rank. Then he said he thought his place was at the Front. Then he got disappointed when the military told him he was too young as he was just 18 years. Has my son’s commission been stopped or has it gone astray as I have not heard nothing (sic) of it since September of last year? I have another son now at the Front George Wilson somewhere abroad.

I am, yours sincerely,

Mrs Annie Wilson”

The Officer in charge of Base Records replied saying there was no record of her son receiving a commission. But Mr Wilson was not convinced.  His letter dated 21 August 1916, was written obviously before he knew of his son’s death:

“I am rather surprised on receiving your note of the 15th instant with reference to my son 3459 Private J. T. Wilson that you have no record of him having received a commission.  I hope that you are not thinking that it was in expeditionary force that he held the commission. It was in the Senior Cadets that he was Lieutenant and he received £3 per year.  When he had to get Lieutenant uniform which cost £5/10/- he was to get a reduction in the price of his clothes which he never got.  He was Lieutenant in Lowood ...By your misdoubting our application is the boy to be deprived of his commission because he joined the expeditionary forces?  If that is so that is not much encouragement for boys going to the war.

Trusting that you will see to this as I have two of my boys at the Front. The other one is sergeant.

Yours faithfully,

W.A. Wilson.”

Mr and Mrs Wilson would have been aware that experience in School Cadet Corps and the Senior Cadets scheme was taken into account for other young men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force.  They rightly expressed their support for their son’s achievements. There is no record of further correspondence about this matter.

Mr Wilson as next-of-kin acknowledged receipt of a small parcel containing John’s pocket book, a letter and photos in October 1917.  By then, more than a year since his son’s death, Mr Wilson’s sadness and hurt can be detected in another letter addressed to the Officer-in-charge, Department of Defence, Melbourne and dated 24 October 1917. He wrote: 

“Would you kindly explain to me the reason why a returning soldier to Queensland has got the same number 3459 as my son that is reported killed in action 3459 Pte J. T. Wilson?

I was never aware that two soldiers from the same State could have the same number.

The list of returning soldiers expected to arrive in Australia shortly was reported in the Telegraph on 22 October and this special soldier bearing this number is on the list. Explain kindly and oblige.

Yours faithfully,

W. A. Wilson”

The reply on 9th November 1917 suggested the soldier might have belonged to another unit as each unit has a separate sequence of numbers.

Private John Turner Wilson is remembered with honour at Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. He died on 8 August 1916, aged 19 years.

1.  Bean, Anzac to Amiens, page 257

Select Bibliography
• Bean C. E. W., Anzac to Amiens, Penguin Books, Melbourne, 2014
• Carlyon Les, The Great War, Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney, 2006
• Pedersen, ANZACS on the Western Front, John Wiley & Sons, Milton, 2012     
• National Archives of Australia, World War 1 military records, First World War Embarkation Rolls
• Commonwealth War Graves Commission
• Australian War memorial - Roll of Honour
The Courier-Mail, Tuesday 18 August 1942, page 8;  Friday 28 August 1942, page 8
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• State Library of Queensland – images as cited

Compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane, May 2015 ©



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