Private John Hector Croft
Birth date: 1891-03-28
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Mittagong
Death date: 1916-07-27
Death place: At sea
John Hector Croft was born in Mittagong, New South Wales and grew up in Bulli. At the outbreak of the First World War he was working as a labourer, was 23 and unmarried. Enlisting on 3 November 1914, he joined one of the first Infantry units raised - the 3rd Infantry Battalion, embarking five months later on HMAT Derflinger, with the 2nd reinforcements. The 3rd Battalion was involved with the initial landings at Gallipoli on 25 April and it was at Gallipoli that Croft had an amazing escape. Croft recalled the incident in a letter home to a friend. Talking about the landing, he wrote of seeing his mates being shot and of being peppered with shrapnel. During the battle, Croft was shot - the bullet passing through his arm, which slowed it down. Fortunately for Croft the bullet was stopped by his pocket book - a gift from his friends - before reaching his heart. Croft noted he had been on the shore only seven hours before being hit. During his recovery in Egypt, Croft learned that his arm had been badly damaged and he was almost sent home to Australia. Before this could take place, Croft was moved to another hospital where he underwent surgery to fix his arm and was able to continue his service with the 3rd Battalion. After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt. In March 1916, it sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918 the battalion took part in operations against the German Army, principally in the Somme Valley in France and around Ypres in Belgium. The battalion's first major action in France was at Pozières on the Somme in July 1916. It was during this battle that Croft's luck ran out. He received a severe gunshot wound and was evacuated by ambulance train. This time, sadly, he did not recover and died on-board the hospital ship St George, crossing from France to England. It was 27 July 1916. He was 25 years old. While Croft was initially listed as being buried at sea, he was in fact taken ashore and buried at Netley Military Cemetery, Hampshire, United Kingdom. Mourned by his family, and friends, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.