NAME: John Archibald McFarlane MORISON
SERVICE NO: 1102
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1894
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hamilton
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 17 October 1914
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Broadmeadows
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 21
UNIT: 8th Battalion, E Company
EMBARKED: 19 October 1914 Transport A24 Benalla
FATE: Died of Wounds – 12 June 1915 – Malta
Born in 1894 at Hamilton to James Alexander Morison and Essie McKellar, John Archibald McFarlane Morison, better known as Jack, attended the Hamilton State School. After finishing school, Jack was apprenticed to Cornell & Naylor, carpenters of Hamilton. The family lived in North Hamilton and father James was a carrier, but sometime after 1912, the Morisons moved to Maroona were father James operated a shop.
Jack went to work for Mr Gilmour a carpenter from Willaura. He was also a good player for the Maroona and Willaura Football Clubs and secretary of the Maroona Football Club. Prior to enlisting, he was working as foreman carpenter with the railways on the new Maroona-Geringhap line. James Morison opened dining rooms to compliment his shop, taking advantage of the opening of the new rail line.
Just months after WW1 broke, Jack left Maroona and enlisted on 17 October 1914 at Broadmeadows, joining the 8th Battalion, E Company. His brother James, better known as “Dinnie”, had enlisted in August and was also with the 8th Battalion. Jack sailed for Egypt just two days after enlisting, on 19 October 1914, leaving no time to travel home to Maroona for goodbyes. He did, however, have “Dinnie” and he would reunite with some of his Hamilton mates.
The 8th Battalion was part of the second wave of troops that landed at Gallipoli. Around 5 May, the 8th Battalion moved to Cape Helles with a plan to take the village of Krithia. The attack started on 8 May, but it proved costly to the allies and the village remained in enemy hands. A letter home written by Thomas Skeyhill of Hamilton and published in the Hamilton Spectator on 26 October 1915, gives a good account of the events of 8 May at Cape Helles which was the turning point in not only his war experience, but also Jack Morison’s. With them in the trenches were “Dinnie” Morison, Gordon Torbet and Gus Lodge of Hamilton.
“At a given signal we leapt from out the dugouts and dashed for the firing line, but the Turks were ready for us, and a veritable hailstorm of bullets showered down on us, many of the boys dropping back in the dugouts never to rise again. It was here that Jack Morison…was just springing out of his dugout, when he suddenly shook his fingers and said “I’m hit”. A bullet had hit him in the fingers and then went in his thigh high up, but, brave fellow that he was, he pretended that it was nothing serious and wanted to take part in the charge, but on being forced to retire by his companions, he walked away with the exclamation “I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.”
Thomas Skeyhill continued with the charge but was blinded when a shell exploded in front of him. He met up with Jack again on the hospital ship,
“On returning to consciousness at the dressing station, I was swathed in bandages and placed on board the …………,(censored) and there, to my unbounded joy, I recognised Jack’s voice. He immediately came over to me and scarcely ever left my side until we reached Alexandria. Blinded, gassed, and my face scorched, and aching in every limb, I was placed in a first class cabin, and here Jack and another mate of mine scarcely ever left me. Brave fellow that he was, he made light of his wounds, and used to think nothing of going up two flights of stairs to the top deck to get things for me. So bright and cheery was he that I really believed that his wounds were very slight. (He was indeed a true replica of “The Spartan Boy and the Fox.”). During one of our many long talks together, I learned that he had been hit the first day, but when I told him that he only laughed and said “I wanted to see a bit of the peninsula first.”
On arrival at Alexandria, seventeen of the most serious cases were landed, the rest going on to Malta. I will never forget our goodbye that day. He assured me that he was alright, so you can judge my surprise when over two months later, while in No.1 General Hospital, Cairo, I was told by “Dinnie” Morison that Jack was dead. He did not know any details, and we could only conjecture that a weakened artery had burst, or that septic poisoning had set in. And no matter what his end may have been, I know better than words can tell, that he had died as he had lived, a fearless soldier and a big-hearted, loving comrade…I believe that I was the last Hamiltonian to speak to him previous to his sad end. Jack and I were always great friends. While on board the ……… (censored) during her three-week wait in Lemnos Harbour, prior to the landing, we were always together, and shared the same blankets every night, I often think of him now—his bright, honest face and happy-go-lucky demeanor endearing him to everyone.”
On 1 June, the Ararat Chronicle and Willaura and Lake Bolac Districts Recorder reported James Morison had received news that Jack was wounded but was progressing. On 8 June, the Hamilton Spectator reported that James had heard the day earlier that John was out of danger. But as “Dinnie” Morison and Tom Skeyhill speculated, his condition must have deteriorated quickly with Jack dying of his wounds on 12 June in Malta. The Ararat Chronicle and Willaura and Lake Bolac Districts Recorder reported the sad news on 18 June.
In early April 1917, Thomas Skeyhill spoke at the Rossbridge Hall near Maroona. Tickets were available for purchase at James Morison’s shop.
John “Jack” Morison was remembered with a tree planted along Hamilton’s Anzac Avenue.