Jul 23, 2014

John Russell Patterson [1895 -1916]

John Russell Patterson was born at Boolara, a small rural village in Victoria, Australia on 25th October 1895 to William John Daniel McPherson Patterson and his wife, Mary Ann Russell.

John - or Jock as he was known - was the fourth of their six children.

Isabella Ann                  [1889 – 1946]
William Reid                  [1890 – 1957]
Elsie May                      [1892 – 1893]
John Russell                 [1895 – 1916]
Robert William              [1898 – 1899]
Donald McPherson       [1902 – 1977]

His mother – Mary Ann Russell – was born in 1866 at “Holcombe Hill”, Porcupine Ridge near Daylesford and his father – William John Daniel McPherson Patterson was born in 1857 at Portobello, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He came out to Australia around 1883.

William had been working in the Daylesford area and probably met Mary Ann there. But after selecting land in Mirboo South and building a hut, he began to court Mary Ann Russell and they wed at the Russell home at Fairbank, in Leongatha, Victoria in December 1887.

William was a carpenter and soon had the 4 roomed house ready for his prospective bride. It was built from the timber of the great tree's that abounded the farm. He named it "Burn Bank" after his native home in Scotland.


This is NOT the home he built, but this would be very similar being in the same time frame with its shingle roof and timber walls. It is here only as an example.

This is an image of 'Bartram's Hut' in the Dandenongs, taken by A.J. Campbell in the 1890s. Part of a large collection of images depicting mainly aspects of the natural environment of south-eastern Australia,  created by Archibald James Campbell between 1890 and 1915.

A small timber hut with a shingle roof. It is situated in a bush clearing. 
A man, by the door, bends to pick up a bucket. He holds a long handled implement in his left hand.

There were no roads, just muddy tracks through the bush which was extremely dense with scrub, bracken, tree ferns and very tall gumtrees. No water could be collected from the shingle roof so a well was sunk. There was a creek on the property but it constantly dried up in the summer heat, so one marvels at the efforts of Mary Ann through these times.  A cow shed was built on the flatter part of the farm and an orchard planted.

It would have been a very difficult time for the family as two of the children died as infants, leaving just three sons to help with the farm.  Then in 1906 William Patterson died at the age of 49 years from stomach cancer leaving Mary Ann to manage the farm and raise the children. At that stage Isabella was 17 years of age and little Donald just 5 years.

In 1912, Mary Ann's eldest daughter (Isabella Ann) married John Norman Smith and moved out of the family home, leaving Mary Ann with the last of her children, William (22) John (17) and Donald (10).

As a young boy, "Jock" attended the *Riverview State School  in Mirboo and in 1914 was playing football for the Tarwin Lower Football Club. Then at the age of 20 years, Jock (John Russell Patterson) enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne. This was the 25th November 1915.

He was allocated to the 11th Reinforcements and was given the service number 4494.

Jock declared he was born near the town of Mirboo, Victoria, was a natural born British subject aged 20 years and one month. His previous occupation was that of a Farmer. He was unmarried and advised that his father was dead and nominated his mother, Mrs Mary Ann Patterson of Burn Bank, Mirboo, Victoria, as his next of kin. That address was later changed to 82 Spring St, Preston, Victoria.

In December 1915 he was transferred to the Base Hospital with a severe case of Measles and discharged a month later, but he soon found himself back in hospital, this time with influenza! 


On Tuesday 21st March 1916 John embarked Melbourne on board HMAT MALWA to join his Battalion in France and was taken on strength at Etaples and joined the 24th Battalion on Saturday 5th August 1916 when it was located at Sausage Valley. 

The 24th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Originally raised in 1915 for service during World War I as part of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, it was attached to the 6th Brigade, 2nd Division and served during the Gallipoli campaign and in the trenches of the Western Front in France and Belgium.

The 24th Battalion was reunited in Egypt in early 1916 and proceeded to France in March. It took part in its first major offensive around Pozières and Mouquet Farm in July and August 1916.

.... at 3.30pm on Tuesday 22nd August members of the 24th Battalion were ordered to move back to Sausage Valley arriving at 5.30pm..... soon after, the order came through for them to proceed on to Pozieres to relieve the 9th and 12th Battalions who were holding trenches, a distance of just three

To emphasise the bloody destruction and the pain of war, but in particular the 24th Battalion at Pozieres, the following is written in Chapter 12 in The Red and White Diamond:

An officer, (Lieut. E.V. Smythe) passing along that trench in the afternoon, sickened by the sight of the dead and wounded, saw the body of a sergeant which had been lifted out of the trench above the spot where the four men were dealing their cards. 

“You’ve lost your sergeant, I see,” remarked the officer to the group. 

“Yes,” replied one of the men with a voice which failed in its attempt to conceal the speaker’s emotion: “he was playing cards here with us a few minutes ago when he was hit.” 

Another man had taken the sergeant’s hand of cards, and the brave men played on, hardly knowing what cards they dealt, but struggling against their feelings and trying by a display of apparent coolness, to steady the nerves of others around them.

And when the officer came back the four had played their last hand, and had lost. Death had won. 

Oh, Pozieres, resting place of heroes.

above image:
troops marching from Sausage Valley to Mouquet Farm, a distance of approx 3.5 klms.

above image:
24th Battalion resting in the trenches.

On 23rd, 24th and 25th August - according to the Battalion Diary - they were at Mouquet Farm with heavy shelling through out each day. 

... and where John Russell Patterson was killed in action on Friday 25th August 1916.

Mouquet Farm was the site of nine separate attacks by three Australian divisions between 8 August and 3 September 1916. The farm stood in a dominating position on a ridge that extended north-west from the ruined, and much fought over, village of Pozières. 


Although the farm buildings themselves were reduced to rubble, strong stone cellars remained below ground which were incorporated into the German defences. The attacks mounted against Mouquet Farm cost the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions over 11,000 casualties, and not one succeeded in capturing and holding it. The British advance eventually bypassed Mouquet Farm leaving it an isolated outpost. It fell, inevitably, on 27 September 1916.

above image:
24th Battalion Memorial at Mouquet Farm

One of 44 black and white photographs in an album bound in green suede, believed to have been taken by Sergeant Major Gilbert Payne Mulcahy during World War I.
It documents his military service in Egypt, France, Belgium and his return to Australia via Capetown and the Quarantine Station, Point Nepean, 1916-1919.

Image depicting servicemen surrounding the memorial to the 24th Battalion at Mouquet Farm, France. Mouquet Farm was part of the Battle of the Somme, the farm was eventually captured in late September 1916. This image is therefore likely to have been taken after this date.

(with grateful thanks to Museum Victoria)

above image:
the 1916 Somme Battlefield as it is today.

From August the Australians attacked the Mouquet farm (Mow-Cow farm as the Australians called it) and the mill located near it.

To capture the mill the Australians lost *23,000 men in six weeks.
23,000 men to capture a piece of ground of circa 200 by 300 metres.      

John Russell Patterson was killed at the Battle of Mouquet Farm on Friday 25th August 1916.

Unfortunately the body of John (Jock) Russell Patterson was never recovered and his memorial stands for all time at Villers Bretonneux in France.

Jock wrote reassuring letters to his mother and more detailed letters to his Brother Will........

His Mother on writing to her sister states:

"Poor Jock, we can't think he is dead. I got two letters since from France, one from the Sergeant and one from another, very nice letters"

The Sergeant said Jock received the full force of shell fire and was killed instantaneously. He buried him as well as he could on the field of battle and marked his grave so that it could be done up later on. They gave him great praise and said he was a very good soldier when put to the severe test of shell fire and that if spared would have made a name for himself in the military career and that he was well thought of by his comrades, so that is comforting to know that "he died nobly doing his duty."

Soon after the end of World War 1, Mary Ann received a letter from the Department of Defence requesting information for the Roll of Honour for the Australian War Memorial.

and so the memory of John Russell Patterson remains in France at Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and in the hearts of his extended family members.

         May he - and his comrades - forever Rest in Peace.      


*A state (primary) school, registered no. 2678, was opened as Mirboo Central in 1885 and closed in 1895. A further school, under the name Mirboo, registered no. 3012, opened in 1890 and closed in 1899. A school opened in 1902 under the name Burnside, and changed its name in 1906 to Riverview, and later relocated and was known as Mirboo. It closed in 1967.

*Mt Isa in Queensland has a population of 23,000

For further reading on the 24th Battalion, refer to the following link in Chapter 12 in The Red and White Diamond.

I would also like to acknowledge the help and support received from Beryl Martin and for passing on images, information and documentation of the above family, all of which is appreciated.

Also grateful thanks to the AWM (Australian War Memorial) and the NAA (National Archives of Australia). Without their huge database of information and images, I certainly would not have nearly as much information on John Russell Patterson and the 24th Battalion.

This website will be of interest to those with any family member that fought at Pozieres:

Pozieres Memorial Park

UPDATE: July 2014
John Russell Patterson's name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the AWM in Canberra on:

  • Tue 12 August, 2014 at 8:15 pm
  • Thu 25 September, 2014 at 10:49 pm
  • Mon 17 November, 2014 at 2:39 am
  • Sun 11 January, 2015 at 1:22 am
  • Wed 4 March, 2015 at 10:07 pm
  • Mon 20 April, 2015 at 5:15 am
  • Mon 1 June, 2015 at 3:00 am
  • Wed 8 July, 2015 at 8:42 pm

These dates and times are estimates. The actual time of projection could change as a result of weather and other factors, so it is advisable to check closer to the date. In the rare event of a temporary loss of electrical power, the names scheduled for display in that period will not appear until the next time listed.


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