Victorian Association of Jewish Ex & Servicemen & Women Australia Incorporated

Founding Member General Sir John Monash GCMG KCB VD

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First names
John "Jack"
Lance Corporal
Service No.
Date of Death
Hebrew Date
10 Adar 5677
Hebrew Date
י׳ בַּאֲדָר תרע״ז
Age at Death
How Died
Killed in Action
Where Died
Warlencourt British Cemetery, France
Service Details
24th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF
Western Front
Diamond cutter and setter
Age at Enlistment
Place of Enlistment
Melbourne, Victoria
Locality on Enlistment
110 Wilson Street, Princes Hill, Victoria
Date of Enlistment
Date of Discharge
Country of Enlistment
John Cohen was born in Melbourne on 19th July 1894 Reg No 22553 as Jack WESTLEY. He was the son of Olive WESTLEY. Olive Caroline WESTLEY was born in 1872 Reg No 25720 in Richmond, Victoria. Her father was Edward Josiah WESTLEY and mother Mary JEFFS. John Cohen’s maternal grandmother was Carol EILES. Olive married Jacob SOLOMON in 29th August 1896 Reg No 5667 at Drummond Street, Carlton. They were married by John Glennon, Registrar of Marriages. Jacob Solomon died 6th September 1897 Reg No 8391 age 35 and he is interred in the Jewish Section of Melbourne General Cemetery. On 16th May 1900 Reg No 3929 at 427 Rathdowne Street, Carlton, Victoria, Jack’s widowed mother married Joseph COHEN. They were married by Archibald Turnbull, Holy Padre, Minister of Our Father’s Church. Joseph COHEN died 15th September 1930 Reg No 11809 age 51. He is interred at Brighton Cemetery Church of England Section W Grave 19A and was the son of Philip COHEN and Leah née LAZARUS. Olive Cohen died 5th October 1961 Reg No 19344 age 90 at Caulfield Convalescent Hospital. Her usual address was 74 Ormond Road, Elwood. The informant of her death was her nephew J Montgomery, 3 Kingsley Street, Elwood. She is interred at Brighton Cemetery Church of England Section W Grave 19A on top of her second husband and had no other children after John. Rabbi’s decision: Ruled that John (Jack) is probably not Jewish, however he attested as Jewish and is on the Historic Obelisk. Therefore he is to be included on future memorials. Jack’s story... He enlisted in the Army on 9th September 1915 at Melbourne. He was no stranger to military life having served in the militia with 60th Infantry Brigade for five years and having obtained the rank of Colour Sargent. At the time of his enlistment, Jack was working as a Diamond Cutter & Setter at Webster & Cohen in Melbourne. He was described as 5 feet 4 ½ inches tall, weighed 10 stone, with brown eyes, dark brown hair & a fresh complexion. Jack listed his religion as Jewish. With his background in the military, Jack was immediately posted to 23rd Battalion depot at Royal Park & was promoted to Corporal on 23rd September & then to Sargent on 23rd October 1915. On 9th November 1915 he was sent to join 5th Battalion at Seymour where he undertook further training before being transferred to Broadmeadows Camp on 2nd December & was assigned to 23rd Battalion’s 8 reinforcements as Acting Sargent. Just over a month later, Jack & his unit embarked on board A19 HMTS “Afric” leaving Port Melbourne on 5th January 1916. The A19 arrived in Egypt berthing in Alexandria. After disembarking, Jack & his unit took the train to Cairo & then on to the AIF camp at Mena, where they joined 6th Training Battalion & underwent intensive training in preparation for their move to France to join the war in Europe. On 14th March, Jack was allotted to 24th Battalion which he joined four days later at their camp at Moascar. On 18th March, the Battalion was inspected by the Prince of Wales, the Brigade marched pass the Prince & later the Prince inspected troops lines. Two days later on 20th March 1916, 24th Battalion caught the troop train to Alexandria where they boarded the troopships “Lake Michigan”, “Magdalena” & “City of Edinburgh.” With the serious threat of submarines likely to attack the troopships, officers & other ranks were required to wear lifebelts for the duration of the voyage to France. Two days into the voyage, HMTS “Minneapolis” was torpedoed and was reported sinking. Jack disembarked at Marseilles at 7pm on 26th March 1916. At 11.45 that night, they boarded a train heading north towards the fighting on the western front. On 10th April 1916, they eventually arrived at their billets near Fleurbaix, France. The Battalion moved around “nursery area” near Armentières, France throughout April & May 1916 undertaking further training. In June 1916, the troops moved into the trenches but it remained very quiet. On 9th July, they marched to Hazelbrouk, France before entraining at Arques for Amiens, they later marched to Albert, Somme, France. On 26th July the Battalion moved to  Pozières where they took up positions in “K” & “Cemetery” trenches. They were immediately under machine gun fire & shelling by heavy German artillery. The German attack was relentless, the shelling continued day & night & anyone showing above the trench parapet was killed instantly by machine gun fire. The Battalion was relieved on 30th March & moved to a reserve area in Sausage Valley. The Battalion suffered heavy casualties 53 dead, 156 wounded. Jack was amongst the wounded. On 28th July 1916, Jack was evacuated to 1st Field Ambulance and then to 3rd Causality Clearing Station & then 22nd General Hospital suffering from gunshot wound to the leg that was classed as severe. Two days later he embarked for England on board HS “Dieppe” via Calais, France. Jack was admitted to the Northern General Hospital in Leeds on 29th July where he underwent treatment for the wound to his leg. He was transferred on 5th August to 2nd Northern General Hospital to continue his recovery. As Jack was no longer on the strength of 24th Battalion, his rank reverted to Lance Corporal. Jack recovered from his wounds & after he had fully convalesced, Jack reported back on 30th October, to No 4 Command Depot to recommence his training & rebuild his strength before returning to his unit at the front. Two months later on 11th December 1916, Jack travelled to Folkestone, England where he boarded the SS “Golden Eagle” bound for France. Jack marched in to 2nd Australian Depot at Étaples, France before he rejoined his unit who were now in Adelaide Camp near Montauban, France on 30th December 1916. Throughout January & February 1917, the Battalion was in & out of the line on rotation around Ribemont; the weather had turned bitterly cold & many men were suffering from the effects. Towards the end of February 1917, the Battalion moved to “C” Camp near Fricourt. On 3rd March 1917, Jack & the Battalion moved back into the front line relieving 21st Battalion. The next day, 4th March, A & B companies under the command of Major James, were involved in vigorous patrolling & probing the enemy lines. They sustained 1 killed and 1 wounded. Jack Cohen was the soldier killed that day during this patrol. Jack was buried in an isolated grave ¾ miles north west of Ligny-Thilloy, France and 2 miles west of Bapaume. In 1921 his body was exhumed by the Graves Registration Unit & he was reinterred in the Warlencourt British War Cemetery, France. He now lies in Section VI Row J Grave number 24. The epitaph on his grave reads “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. God rest his soul”. For his service in World War I, Jack Cohen was awarded the British War Medal & Victory Medal.
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