John (Jack) Scott
During the early days of July 1945, Lieutenant John 'Jack' Scott MC of the 2/16th Battalion was at Balikpapan on the island of Borneo fighting in a campaign that ended only when the war did.
Jack was born in Cottesloe, Western Australia, on 25 November 1914 to Robert and Elizabeth Scott. He grew up at Katanning, some 270km south-east of Perth, and took on many household responsibilities from a young age due to his father's injured ankle.
For his final 3 years of schooling, Jack boarded at Hale School in Perth, where he played in the First XVIII Australian Rules football team. He had a few agricultural jobs after school before running his own farm at 'Jarrawong', West Kojonup.
Jack enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in June 1940. He listed his mother as next of kin, care of the address Elder Smith & Co at Katanning. After training at Northam, Jack sailed for the Middle East in October 1940 as an original member of the 7th Division's 2/16th Infantry Battalion. He disembarked the troopship Aquitania in Kantara, Egypt, on his 26th birthday.
The 2/16th moved into Palestine, and in January 1941, Jack received his lance corporal's stripe. On 8 June, Allied troops invaded Syria and Lebanon, both ruled by the German aligned Vichy French. Jack fought from the first day and was in the campaign's toughest battle, at Litani River. He was badly wounded in Syria soon afterwards. In late November 1941, he was promoted to corporal.
On 29 January 1942, the 2/16th embarked for Australia to meet the increasing threat from Japan after it entered the war. The men joined the fighting in Papua in August. Jack was wounded at Ioribaiwa on the Kokoda Track. After returning to his unit, he was wounded again, this time at Gona.
In May 1943, Jack was commissioned and went into the campaign in the Ramu Valley and the Finisterre Mountains as a lieutenant. He was wounded twice in the capture of the forbidding and precipitous Shaggy Ridge, where he showed courageous leadership.
Jack was awarded the Military Cross (MC) on 24 March 1944, with his war service record showing:
In recognition of Brave Conduct and Distinguished services in New Guinea during Nov & Dec 1943
In his recommendation for Jack's MC, Captain Vivian Elliott Cooper Anderson QX6248 wrote:
Outstanding leadership and personal courage shown by this officer during a further attack along SHAGGY RIDGE on 28 Dec. 43 resulted in the successful completion of a task, difficult in the extreme.
Lieut. SCOTT moved around the flank to attack the THIRD PIMPLE of SHAGGY RIDGE - the only possible approach. This necessitated movement over open ground up the rock face of the RAZORBACK for a distance of 200 yards, under observation and fire from the enemy. Despite heavy machine gun fire and grenading from above, Lieut. SCOTT, with utter disregard for his personal safety, led his platoon up the cliff face, and although wounded, led them in an assault against well concealed and strongly defended enemy posts.
By his leadership in magnificent control during this action, Lieut. SCOTT gained the objective, inflicted casualties and successfully consolidated under continuous machine gun fire and sniping from the enemy positions further along the ridge.
Again on 29 Dec. 1943, he showed personal courage and devotion to duty far above that expected. During continued enemy shelling of his positions, and although again wounded, he inspired his men by his coolness and judgement under fire. Throughout, Lieut. SCOTT by his untiring effort, and remarkable leadership, was an inspiring example to his platoon.
Jack was deeply affected by the unnecessary deaths of many of his friends in the Buna, Gona and Sanananda offensive. War historian Bill Edgar wrote that, reflecting on US General Douglas MacArthur's command, Jack said:
Corporal Jack Scott saw many of his mates, with whom he had fought in the Middle East and on the Kokoda Track, die unnecessarily as they attacked over open ground against well-prepared positions - something that the Great War had shown should never occur again. Many years after those tragic weeks, he said quietly, 'I joined the army in 1940 to fight a madman (Hitler); I ended up in 1942 serving under one!'
On 9 February 1944, Jack married his fiancé, Joy Uren. They were married by Padre Burt at the Soldier's Chapel at St George's Cathedral, Perth. Joy was listed as his next of kin with the AIF, with an address in Mount Lawley.
Jack spent the rest of his time in 1944 and early 1945 doing training and manoeuvres. He served on headquarters staff as Transport Officer and was posted to the 3rd Mobile Training Unit in Queensland. During this period, Jack was evacuated to 2/2nd Army General Hospital (AGH) at Rocky Creek on the Atherton Tableland for treatment of accidental burns to his thigh and groin.
On 1 July 1945, Jacklanded at Balikpapan in Borneo. He served throughout the Borneo campaign until Japan surrendered to the Allies on 15 August 1945.
Jack disembarked at Fremantle in November 1945 and was discharged from the AIF on the 28th of that month. Described as tall, athletic and battle-scarred, he returned to farming in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. At first, he managed farms for the war settlement scheme. He helped women widowed during and after the war as a Legacy representative.
In 1948, Jack settled on a war settlement farm 'Boyalling', west of Wagin. He and Joy had two children, Tony and Diana. He passed away on 6 June 2007, aged 92. Jack is remembered in the district as an accomplished horseman and livestock producer.
- Dexter, David, The New Guinea Offensives, Australia in the War of 1939-1945, vol. VI, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1961, chapters 20 and 21
- Edgar WJ (Bill), Politics and the Military: Unhappy bedfellows in 1942, Una Voice 2002 No 3 https://pngaa.org/Members/J2002-09.pdf
- Johnston, Mark, The Markham and Ramu Valleys 1943-1944, Department of Veterans' Affairs, Canberra, 2005
- Kenny, Peter Francis, We Who Proudly Served, 2015
- NAA: B883, WX5607