British War Medal 1914-20 : Lieutenant J C Ewen, 4th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF

Place Europe: Western Front
Accession Number REL44211.004
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Medal
Physical description Silver
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1920
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

British War Medal 1914-20. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

History / Summary

John Carr Ewen was born at Didsbury near Manchester, England in 1892, and was working with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and serving with the Territorial Army when he emigrated to Australia in 1912.

He owned a share of a horse and dairy property on the Bellinger River in northern New South Wales, and was working there when he enlisted in the AIF on 21 October 1915. After initial training Ewen was assigned to 2 Divisional Ammunition Column as a gunner with the service number 11615. He embarked with his unit at Sydney, on 15 January 1916, aboard RMS Osterley. After completing further training in Egypt he was posted to 22 Howitzer Battery, sailing for France and service on the Western Front in March. In May he was transferred to 105 Howitzer Battery, part of 5 Artillery Brigade. Ewen served at the battle of Pozieres during August where he was awarded the Military Medal. He was subsequently promoted to bombardier.

In a letter to Gladys Hamson dated 18 October 1916, Ewen discussed his award: 'I won my medal at the beginning of August and I haven't told them at home about it yet for I suppose it would give them an idea I was in a bit of danger sometimes and I tell them yarns I'm never in any, in fact, they think I'm having a good holiday so they don't worry too much.'

Ewen was promoted to corporal November 1916, then to sergeant in March 1917. He served at Bullecourt on 30 April 1917 and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions.

In June 1917 he was sent to the Royal Artillery Cadet School in London for officer training, and commissioned as a second lieutenant on 30 November. Ewen returned to France in December and was posted to 11 Battery of 4 Field Artillery Brigade. He was promoted to lieutenant at the end of February 1918.

Ewen was serving with his unit when the Germans launched their Spring Offensive in March 1918, and when the Australian counter offensive began in August. His brigade supported the infantry during this period as I Australia Corps moved through areas east of Amiens, where Ewen was awarded the Military Cross at Herleville.

On 3 October he sustained a gunshot wound to his left hip, which saw him evacuated to England. Ewen was convalescing when the armistice was signed, and did not rejoin his unit until March 1919. He embarked for return to Australia on 10 April and was discharged from the army on 24 July.

Ewen married Gladys Hamson in October 1919. He established a pest control business, which expanded into building during the interwar years. When the Second World War broke out he volunteered for service, and was appointed to the militia field artillery in June 1941 as a temporary captain.

He transferred to the AIF in 1942 and was posted to 17 Australian Field Regiment. Ewen was promoted to captain in September. After repeated requests for an operational posting he was sent to New Guinea, where he commanded 53 Battery with the rank of major, returning to Australia in 1943. His work with this unit was acknowledged by the battery sergeant major in a letter to Ewen on his departure; '[s]ince coming under your direct command I have found in you, a man to whom my devotion in action or otherwise would be have unselfishly imparted.. a wealth of knowledge. May we sir fulfil the high standard of efficiency for which you so hard endeavoured to attain within the Battery.'

On his return to Australia Ewen fulfilled several training roles in Queensland. He remained in service after the war ended and retired from the army in August 1951.

Ewen returned to his building business before acquiring a farming property near Moss Vale, New South Wales. Declining health in 1951 meant that he was unable to attend the Anzac Day march in Sydney, so the next day the men from his unit visited him, one of whom stated 'If John Ewen cannot come to us we will go to him'. He died later the same year.