John Peter Durnan
- Born: Jul 1884, Beechworth, Victoria, Australia
John joined the Australian Imperial Force on 20th August 1914 in Randwick, New South Wales. He was 30 years and 1 month old, a Labourer born in Beechworth, Victoria. John was reported as 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed 172 lbs. He had a dark complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. His religion was Roman Catholic. He had a scar near his right cheek from an accident. He was assigned to the "E" Company, 2nd Battallion, 1st Infantry Brigade as a Private.
John embarked in Sydney on the 18th October 1914 and disembarked in Alexandria, Egypt on the 8th December 1914. His Casualty Record states that he was "Wounded in Action (Dardanelles)" and that he rejoined his Unit from Hospital on the 17 June 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula. On the 2nd July 1915 he was admitted to hospital with an injury to his left eye and was transferred back to Base on the 14th July 1915. On the 20th July he was Disembarked from the Hospital Ship "Gloucester Castle" in Malta, and was admitted to hospital again, this time St. George's Hospital, suffering from Gun Shot Wounds to the eyes. He was transferred to St David's Hospital, Pembroke, also in Malta, on the 25th July and treated until discharged to duty on the 18th August 1915. On the 21st August he embarked on the H.T. "Southlands" for Egypt and on the 23rd August he was recorded as admitted to "Overseas Base Mustapha" in Alexandria, Egypt, ex Malta.
On the 5th July 1916 he was taken on strength with the Depot Stores. On the 3rd September 1916 he embarked overseas for transfer with Depot Stores from Alexandria on the H.T. "Royal George". He landed in England on the 18th September, 1916 and is recorded as "marched in from Egypt". He was at the No. 3 Camp, Park House, in Salisbury. On the 4th October he was transferred to Perham Downs, England.
Whilst at Perham Downs, John was recorded as being Absent Without Leave from midnight 19th November to 1.30pm 28th November 1916. For this offence he was punished with 48 hours detention and docked 12 days pay.
On the 13th December, 1916 he was on the move again, this time to France. He was Taken on Strength with the 1st A.D.B.D at Etaples, France the next day. He spent another 2 weeks sick in Hospital between 14th and 31st December 1916 suffering from Bronchitis, no doubt brought on by the harsh European winter. On the 12th March 1917 he was transferred to the 1st Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery. John was admonished by Capt. C.R. Cameron on the 6th July 1917, and docked 2 days pay, for being late back from leave by nearly a day on 4th July 1917. It is recorded that he "marched in From France" on the 11th July 1917.
Whilst serving in France in 1917 John sought leave to return to Australia to deal with some peronal matters. After receiving approval, he Embarked on the "Nestor" on 22nd July 1917, and was discharged from service in Melbourne on the 8th November 1917. His correspondence provides some further valuable insight into his years in service:
I herewith make application for three months furlough in Australia for the reasons herein stated.
Property in which I am interested in Viictoria is being offered for sale at what I consider a very low price. I wish to personally prevail on my people the necessity of raising the valuation or better still to retain same pending my return when I would be in a position to assume the management of this property.
I am also a legatee under my late Uncle's Will, viz. James Durnan of Victoria. I am desirous of obtaining this money and laying it out in improvements and stock on the said property. If you can see your way clear to consider this application I would be only too pleased to give you full details of the property etc. in question. I may state that I have previously applied for this leave, but for some reason or other it was rejected. Some time ago I saw in the Australian papers that a measure had been passed in Parliament allowing soldiers abroad to return to Australia for the purpose of transacting urgent business - men who were granted this privilege would receive half pay while on furlough.
Personally I would be willing to forego all pay and set in any capacity whatever during the journey to and from. I my state [sic] that I am a member of the 1st Australian Contingent having attested in the 2nd Battalion on the 22nd August 1914.
With regard to character, I have practically a clean sheet, and would welcome inquiries in that respect.
Trusting this application will receive consideration.
(Sgd) 501, Pte. J.P. Durnan
This letter was quickly followed by another:
With reference to my length of service etc with the 2nd Battallion, I wish to state that I attested in this Unit on the 22nd August, 1914 and left Sydney on the 18th October, 1914 with the exception of a few weeks in hospital at Mean, I was not away from the Battallion till I was wounded on the 2nd July, 1915. I left the Peninsula on the same date and proceeded to hospital in Malta. As my eyes were rather severely injured I was recommended for six months in Australia, as I did not care to go back to Australia at that stage I asked to be allowed to do base duty in Egypt. My application was granted I arrived in Alexandria about the end of November and was sen to the Australian Base Depot Stores at Mustapha as a storeman. Shortly afterwards the Depot was removed to Chezirah from there I applied to get back to my Battallion which was then at Serapeum. I was rejected as medically unfit.
The depot stores were transferred from Egypt about the end of September 1916, we were sent to Parkhouse Camp, England, from there I again asked to be transferred to my Battallion. I was sent to the 1st Training Battallion about the end of December. I was transferred to the 1st A.L.T.M.B. about the 1st of April last.
(Sgd.) 501, Pte J.P. Durnan
Although Brig.General W.B. Leslie, Commander of the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade, did not personally "consider that the exigencies of the service permit of such furlough" he sought advice from A.I.F. HQ. On the 22nd June 1917 they replied that the furlough was to be granted.
John was the recipient of the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.
On the 4th June 1935, during the Depression, John wrote to the Army seeking a duplicate copy of his discharge papers from the A.I.F as he had lost the originals. He needed a copy because the NSW Government was giving all unemployed, returned A.I.F. men 6 months work, and he was required to provide proof of his discharge. He included a Statutory Declaration with his letter, sworn in Paddington, Sydney.
Noted events in his life were:
• He had a residence on 4 Jun 1935 in "Ramsgate", 44 Jersey Rd, Woolahra, Sydney, , New South Wales, Australia.