John Carroll VC

33rd Battalion, AIF

John Carroll VC

John Carroll. (Based on AWM P01383.012)

Born: 16th August 1891 at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Died: 4th October 1971 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Perth, Western Australia.

Buried: Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia.

Parents: John and Catherine Carroll, both Irish-born immigrants.

John Carroll was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on 16th August 1881. He was a 23 year-old railway guard on the Kurrawang line when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a Private on 27th April 1916. He was assigned to the 2nd Reinforcements of the 44th Battalion and after his initial basic training was sent overseas sailing on the HMAT (A28) Miltiades from the Port of Fremantle on 9th August 1916. John Carroll arrived in England and disembarked at Plymouth, Devon on 1st October 1916.

HMAT (A28) Miltiades

The HMAT (A28) Miltiades.

On arriving in the UK, John Carroll was initially taken onto the strength of the 11th Training Battalion before being transferred to the 3rd Australian Division Training Battalion on 13th October 1916. One month later, he went sent to join the 44th Battalion, but was assigned to the 33rd Battalion instead; joining the Battalion at Lark Hill Camp on 14th November 1916.

A week later the 33rd Battalion entrained at Amesbury Station on 21st November 1916 bound for Southampton. There they embarked on the Hunslet and Mona's Queen bound for France disembarking at Le Havre on 22nd November 1916. The following day the bulk of the Battalion entrained bound for Bailleul and on 27th November 1916, just one week after leaving England, the 33rd Battalion AIF took over trenches in the vicinity of Chapelle d'Armentieres from the Northumberland Fusiliers.

The 33rd Battalion remained in the Armentieres area until April 1917 when they were assigned to the proposed Messines offensive and moved out of the line for training and preparation.

On 7th June 1917, during the Battle of Messines Ridge, Private John Carroll advanced as part of the 33rd Battalion. During the advance he rushed an enemy trench and bayoneted four men, and then rescued a comrade who was in difficulties. Later he charged a machine-gun, killing three of its crew and capturing the gun. Then, despite of heavy shelling and machine-gun fire, he exposed himself to danger again in order to dig out two of his comrades who had been buried by a shell explosion. During the battle the 33rd Battalion was in the line for ninety-six hours and throughout this time Private Carroll was fearless displaying the most wonderful courage. For his actions on 7th June 1917 Private John Carroll was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). His citation reads:1

"For most conspicuous bravery.

During an attack, immediately the barrage lifted, Pte John Carroll rushed the enemy's trench and bayoneted four of the enemy.

He then noticed a comrade in difficulties, and at once proceeded to his comrade's assistance and killed one of the enemy. He continued working ahead with great determination until he came across a machine gun and team of four men in a shell-hole. Single-handed he attacked the entire team, killing three of the men and capturing the gun.

Later on two of his comrades were buried by a shell, and, in spite of very heavy shelling and machine gun fire, he managed to extricate them.

During the 96 hours the battalion was in the line Pte Carroll displayed most wonderful courage and fearlessness.

His magnificent example of gallantry and devotion to duty inspired all ranks in his battalion."

On 18th September 1917 John Carroll was promoted to Lance Corporal. On 12th October 1917, in the Second Battle of Passchendaele, Lance Corporal Carroll was severely wounded having sustained a gunshot wound to his right buttock. He was evacuated via the medical chain and on 20th October 1917 was evacuated back to England on the St Andrew and sent onwards to the 2nd Birmingham War Hospital, Northfield where he was admitted as a patient on the 21st. On 28th November 1917 he was transferred from the 2nd Birmingham War Hospital to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital from where he was discharged and sent for recuperation and retraining at Sutton Veny on 15th December 1917.

Whilst at Sutton Veny Lance Corporal Carroll sprained his ankle and later sustained a fractured left fibula. A court of inquiry held on 11 March 1918 determined that: "This man was criminally assaulted and the injury was not due to his own act."

On 19th June 1918 Lance Corporal Carroll returned to France and rejoined the 33rd Battalion in the field on the 27th. However, on 28th July 1918 he was transferred to Australian Imperial Force Headquarters, London, and returned to England disembarking at Folkestone on 1st August 1918. Less than a month later, Lance Corporal John Carroll was on his way back to Australia on board HMAT D21 Medic embarking at Weymouth on 22nd August 1918. His record shows this as leave, but in reality it was to assist with recruitment following the failure of the conscription referenda. In early November 1918, John Carroll was back in Perth in the company of fellow VC winner Lieutenant Clifford William King Sadlier; they arrived to a rousing reception. He did not return to the Western Front and was discharged from the AIF on 1st January 1919 as time expired.

HMAT Medic

HMAT (A7/D21) Medic.

Following the war John Carroll resumed work as a guard on the Kurrawang line. He married Mary Brown in the Catholic Cathedral, Perth, on 23rd April 1923 and they had no children. In the mid-1920s he moved to the Yarloop district and in November 1927, while working as a railway truck examiner at Hoffman's Mill, John Carroll slipped while boarding a train during shunting operations. His right foot was crushed and had to be amputated, but he continued working for many years thereafter as a labourer and railway employee. In 1956 John Carroll returned to London for the Victoria Cross centenary celebrations.

John Carroll eventually retired to the suburb of Bedford in Perth, Western Australia and on 4th October 1971 he died at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood. John Carroll was buried with full military honours at the Karrakatta Cemetery.

John Carroll's Victoria Cross and medals

John Carroll's Victoria Cross and medals. (AWM REL/18460.001).

In 1989 John Carroll's Victoria Cross and medals became part of the Australian War Memorials collection.

1. The London Gazette, Supplement 30215, page 7906, dated 31st July 1917.8

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Last updated: 15th January 2019