Our Anzac Stories: Lieutenant Colonel John Farrell

John Farrell

John Farrell

In May 1916, my grandfather John Farrell was appointed second-in-command when the 42nd Battalion was formed, and reached Armentieres, France in November. 

In 1917 he fought at Ploegsteert Wood, the battle of Messines and at Warneton and in October commanded the battalion in its successful attack at Zonnebeke. 

He held command from December to 12 January 1918 at Bois Grenier and LeBiset. 

In February 1918 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and transferred to the 43rd Battalion as commanding officer, a post he held until the end of the war. 

Under his leadership the 43rd distinguished itself in actions at Saillly-le-Sec and Villers-Bretonneux, in the battle of Hamel in June and in the August offensive at the capture of Mericourt-sur-Somme and operations near Bray-sur-Somme. In September the battalion saw action near Mont St Quentin and captured Haut Allaines.

My grandfather was mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership in the capture of Hamel. 

It is said he was largely responsible for moulding the 42nd Battalion into an exceptional fighting unit. 

 His able administration and efficient leadership was recognised by his appointment as commander of the 43rd Battalion. 

He was a leader who took a strong personal interest in the welfare of his men and who understood and tolerated their exuberant spirits when out of the line. He never sought popularity but his fine example won him the respect of those he led.

This article was contributed by one of our readers. You can email your contributions to ian.jones@fairfaxmedia.com.au