b. 04/01/1886 Two Wells, South Australia. d. 18/01/1963 Nedlands, Western Australia.
James Park Woods (1886-1963) was born on 4th January 1886 at Two Wells, South Australia, son of James Woods, blacksmith, and his wife Ester, née Johnson. After his parents' death James was reared by a stepsister and, with his brothers, worked on a vineyard. Soon after war broke out in 1914 Woods tried to enlist in Adelaide, but was rejected because of his height (5 ft 4 ins, 163 cm).
He travelled to Western Australia with his brother Will, and carted timber and fenced in the Katanning area before becoming a vigneron at Caversham. Following further unsuccessful attempts, James eventually enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 29th September 1916 when the height requirements had been lowered. He left Australia in December as a reinforcement for the 48th Battalion.
Having spent two periods in hospital in Britain, he reached France in September 1917, only to be invalided on and off until August 1918. On 18th September the 48th Battalion attacked the Hindenburg outpost line near Le Verguier, north-west of St Quentin. It took its objective, but British troops on the Australian flank were held up and a company of the 48th was sent in support. Ordered on patrol, Woods and two companions discovered a German post comprising six machine-guns and over thirty troops. Without waiting for the force which was being organized to assault the strong-point, Woods led his small party against it. One German was wounded, another was captured and the rest of the garrison fled. The Germans then counter-attacked. Despite heavy fire, Woods climbed onto the parapet and, while lying there, held off successive attacks by throwing bombs handed to him by his companions. So effective was his defence that, when Australian reinforcements arrived, they were easily able to secure the post. Woods was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the action.
Returning to Australia in August 1919, he took up a small vineyard and orchard in the Swan Valley. On 30th April 1921 at the Caversham Methodist Church, Perth, he married Olive Adeline Wilson. Like many veterans of the A.I.F., Woods did not return home unscathed: he was plagued with ill health as a result of gassing and chest infections in the trenches. In 1937 he was granted a full pension and, although given only a few years to live, enjoyed a quiet retirement for the next twenty-six years. A keen cricketer when younger, Woods now took up fishing as a hobby. For a time he was president of the Caversham sub-branch of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia. In 1956 he joined other Australian V.C. recipients in attending the V.C. centenary celebrations in Hyde Park, London.
His sons Gordon and Norman served in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II; Gordon (the first-born) was killed in October 1943. Late in life Woods lived at Claremont, Perth. Survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters, he died on 18th January 1963 in Hollywood Repatriation Hospital and was buried in Karrakatta Cemetery. His medals including the VC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 are held by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra and displayed in the Hall of Valour.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA.
BURIAL PLACE: KARRAKATTA CEMETERY, PERTH, AUSTRALIA.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
WESLEYAN SECTION H-A, PLOT 1.
Woods' medals courtesy of Memorials to Valour
Karrakatta Crematorium, Perth (Richard Yielding)