b. 24/01/1896 Orange, NSW, Australia. d. 27/02/1961 Concord, NSW, Australia.
John Patrick Hamilton (1896-1961) was the only member of the 3rd Battalion to be awarded the VC during the First World War. He was born in Orange, New South Wales on 24th January 1896. He was the son of William Hamilton and his wife Catherine (nee Fox).
His educational history is not known, but Hamilton went on to work as a teenager for his father, who had a butcher’s business in Penshurst. He served in the militia before enlisting as a private in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 15th September 1914. Posted to the 3rd Battalion, he sailed for Egypt the following month.
Hamilton took part in the landing on 25th April 1915 and went through the early fighting before being evacuated suffering from a bout of influenza at the end of May. He rejoined the 3rd Battalion on 2nd June and remained with the unit throughout the August battles before being hospitalised with dysentery on 16th September.
On the 9th August 1915, during the Battle of Lone Pine, Gallipoli, a heavy bombing attack by the enemy on the newly captured position was taking place. Private Hamilton, with utter disregard to personal safety, exposed himself under heavy fire on the parados, in order to secure a better fire position against the enemy's bomb throwers. His coolness and daring example had an immediate effect. The defence was encouraged, and the enemy driven off with heavy loss.
After a spell in England, his VC was gazetted on 15th October 1915, and he was invested with his medal on 4th December 1915 at Buckingham Palace by King George V. He then returned to his unit in France, though not before falling into trouble with authority. In early 1916, he was involved in a series of misdemeanours. He was reported as “absent from camp” between 8th and 22nd January, and was also charged with using insubordinate language to a superior officer for which he was given 168 hours detention and docked 22 days’ pay. Two months later, he went absent without leave for three days and was further punished with 96 hours’ detention and the forfeiture of 8 days’ pay.
Things did take an upturn for Hamilton soon afterwards, and he was promoted to Corporal on 3rd May 1916, and he fought on the Somme and his services were further recognised with promotion to Sergeant on 13th May 1917, and a recommendation for a commission. Following a spell in hospital with influenza in the spring of 1918, he joined the No 5 Officers Cadet Battalion in Cambridge on 5th July 1918. This ended his active war service. Incredibly, in three years of frontline duty there is no record of him ever being wounded. He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant and allotted to general infantry reinforcements on 2nd January 1919 and rejoined the 3rd Battalion as a Lieutenant on 2nd April. He returned to Australia on 26th August 1919, and was demobilised on 12th September 1919.
He settled in Tempe, Sydney and took a job as a docker. He continued to work in the port for thirty years, shipping clerk, storeman and packer. An active member of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, he was a Labour nominee for the post of Sydney branch secretary in 1952.
The outbreak of World War II had seen him back in uniform. He was given a commissioned rank back and served with the 16th Garrison Battalion in Australia from June 1940 to September 1942. Hamilton served overseas with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion in New Guinea, before transferring to the Australian Labour Companies. In 1944, he joined the Army Labour Service, being promoted to Captain in October. With his unit, he supported the Australian forces who landed at Bougainville in July 1945. Hamilton returned to Sydney in April 1946 and four months later his second spell of military service was officially terminated.
Hamilton, the last survivor of the seven Australians to be awarded the VC at Lone Pine, died of cerebro-vascular disease in the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, Sydney, on 27th February 1961. After a private funeral, he was buried in Woronara Cemetery, Sydney. His wife Myrtle died in 1975 and ten years later, on the 70th anniversary of his VC action, his only son Alwyn presented his father’s medals to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA.
BURIAL PLACE: WORONARA CEMETERY, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. COFE SECTION 8, GRAVE 518
John Patrick Hamilton's medals - Memorials to Valour
National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas
War Illustrated, 4th December 1915