John ‘Jack’ Maurice Cantwell

June 21, 2015

CANTWELL, John ‘Jack’ Maurice- – – SPC 1909-1911

DoB:- – – – – – – – – – – 1893, Donald, VIC

Father:- – – – – – – – Thomas William, a merchant

Mother:– – – – – – – – Elizabeth Helen -‘Ellen’, nee Kay

Jack Cantwell was a boarder at St Patrick’s from Donald, a small Victorian town situated north-west of Ballarat. In 1911 John sat the Junior Public Exam, attaining passes in Arithmetic (Distinction), Geometry, Geography, Algebra, French (D), English and History. He was also a member of the Senior Football Team which wone the premiership in 1911.

On leaving school, he joined the staff of the Commercial Bank in Warracknabeal. He was a keen athlete, and a prominent footballer in the Charlton and Warracknabeal clubs.

Service No:- – – – – 655

Rank:– – – – – – – – – – – Private

Unit:- – – – – – – – – – – 8th Battalion

Jack Cantwell was a 21 year old bank clerk in August 1914 when he enlisted at Broadmeadows. He was five feet six inches tall, had grey eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion.

Private Cantwell embarked from Australia on 21 October 1914 and proceeded via Alexandria to the Dardanelles. He was part of the first landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and on that day suffered a gun shot wound in his right arm. However he rejoined his unit the following day and continued in the push to claim the Peninsula.

By September 1915 Jack Cantwell was transferred out to Ghezireh hospital in Cairo with severe diarrhoea and febrile illness (a fever of unknown origin). He was ultimately transferred to England for respite until 10 September 1917 when he proceeded overseas to France. He was wounded in action in Belgium with the Second Garrison, suffering multiple gunshot wounds to the chest on 28 October 1917. He was again invalided out to England.

One can only imagine the emotional and physical trauma associated with sustaining wounds, being hospitalised so as to be ‘fit’ again for active duty, and then proceeding to battle knowing what one will face. Like so many other young men, Private Cantwell committed the offence of being AWL (Absent Without Leave) while in London. On the morning of 16 January 1918 he absconded from 11am to 3am the following day. He was formally ‘Admonished’ by Major C H Howard and had to forfeit two days’ pay.

Two weeks later, on 31 January 1918 Private Cantwell was returned to Australia on the Osterley, still suffering the effects of the wounds in his chest. He was discharged on 18 July 1918.

Jack never married. He died on 17 August 1951 at Mount St Evins private hospital in Fitzroy aged 58 years. He is buried at the Donald Cemetery, Victoria.