b. 15/07/1914 Crow's Nest, Queensland, Australia. d. 04/09/1942 Milne Bay, New Guinea.
French was born on 15 July 1914 in Crow's Nest, north of Toowoomba in Queensland, Australia. His father, Albert French, was a barber originally from Tenterfield and his mother, Lucy, settled in Crow's Nest with her family after moving from Charleville.
He attended the Crow's Nest State Primary School from 1920 to 1928. In May 1928, he sat for and successfully passed a demanding State scholarship examination. As a boy, Jack excelled at sports, and in rugby league he was known as "The Flying Winger".
He was renowned for his sense of fair play and protected those who were weaker. One childhood friend, Alf Blinco, remembers a time when he was accused of stealing and unjustly punished, John found the real culprits and brought them to justice thus exonerating his friend.
French enrolled as a State scholarship holder at the Toowoomba State High School and Technical College for his secondary schooling. He was popular and well regarded by his peers and the teachers. After completing his studies in 1929, he returned to Crow's Nest and commenced an apprenticeship with his father. When World War II broke out, French was the first in Crow's Nest to enlist. He was posted to the 2/9th Battalion and left home on 23 October 1939. This was the first battalion raised in Queensland in World War II.
At Milne Bay New Guinea, on the afternoon of 4 September 1942, a company of Australian Infantry battalion attacked a Japanese position where it encountered terrific rifle and machine-gun fire. The advance of the section, of which Corporal French was in command, was held up by fire from three enemy machine-gun posts, whereupon Corporal French, ordering his section to take cover, advanced and silenced one of the posts with grenades. He returned to his section for more grenades and again advanced and silenced the second post. Armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun, he then attacked the third post, firing from the hip as he went forward. He was seen to be badly wounded by fire from this post, but he continued to advance. Enemy guns then ceased fire and his section pushed on to find that all the members of the three enemy gun crews had been killed, and that Corporal French had died in front of the third gun pit. By his cool courage and disregard of his own personal safety, this non-commissioned officer saved members of his section from heavy casualties and was responsible for the successful conclusion of the attack.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: HELD BY HIS NIECE FAYE LOWIEN.
BURIAL PLACE: BOMANA WAR CEMETERY, PORT MORESBY, NEW GUINEA.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT A-2, ROW E, GRAVE 16
Picture courtesy of Jason Daniels
Anzac Memorial Park, Townsville, Queensland
Anzac Square, Brisbane, Queensland
John French Memorial Library, Crow's Nest, Queensland
(the bust is shown below)