Military Medal : Lance Corporal T L Axford, 16 Battalion, AIF

Unit 16th Australian Infantry Battalion
Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Hebuterne
Accession Number REL/13178
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver
Location Main Bld: Hall of Valour: Main Hall: Defence to Offensive
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Description

Military Medal (Geo V). Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

History / Summary

This Military Medal was awarded to Lance Corporal Thomas Leslie 'Jack' Axford. Jack was born on 18 June 1894 in Carrieton, South Australia, the son of Walter Richard and Margaret Ann (nee McQuillan) Axford. When he was still an infant the family moved to Ballarat in Victoria, then to Coolgardie in Western Australia. He was working as a labourer when he enlisted at Kalgoorlie in the First AIF on 19 July 1915. On 30 October 1915, he was posted as a private (service number 3399) to the 11th reinforcements for 16 Battalion (16Bn), part of 4 Brigade (4Bde).

Following training in Egypt, Axford moved with the battalion to France in June 1916. He saw action at Mouquet Farm in August where he was taken off the line suffering from shell shock. In April 1917, 16Bn took part in the disastrous First Battle of Bullecourt. On 10 August, Axford was severely wounded in fighting near Messines and evacuated to England, not returning to his unit until 26 January 1918. He was promoted to lance corporal the following month.

On 26 March the battalion was moved to a position near the town of Huberterne to counter a fresh push by the Germans, part of General Ludendorff's German Spring Offensive. Rumour had spread that the Germans had broken through at Huberterne, however, this turned out to be false. That evening 4Bde moved into the village with little resistance though German units still held heavily defended trenches in the cemetery at the edge of town. By the 28th the German pockets of resistance were overcome and the entire town was captured.

In retaliation, the Germans began a massive shell barrage onto the town. They had captured a huge ammunition supply from the allied Fifth Army and used it on the allied troops with impunity, as most of 4Bde's artillery had not yet arrived to counter the bombardment. As March was drawing to a close the allied artillery finally arrived and began returning fire. On 20 April 16Bn was pulled from the line. Although the recommendation has not survived, it is considered that it was for actions during this battle that Axford was awarded his Military Medal (MM). He was presented with the MM by the commander of the Australian Imperial Forces, General Sir William Riddell Birdwood, on 26 May.

For his actions during the Battle of Hamel on 4 July, Axford was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was promoted to corporal on 14 July and on 14 September was transferred to AIF headquarters in London for return to Australia. Leaving England the following month on HMAT Sardinia, he arrived in Fremantle on 16 December. Following his discharge from the AIF, Axford returned to labouring. He married Lily Maud Foster in Perth on 27 November 1926.

Later, Jack worked as a clerk for the Hugh McKay Sunshine Harvester Company. He and Maude lived at Mount Hawthorn, Perth where they raised their five children. In June 1941 he enlisted again in the Australian Military Forces ( service number W18283) and was posted to the Western Australian Echelon and Records Office, rising to the rank of sergeant. He was discharged in April 1947. In 1956, he attended the VC Centenary Celebrations in London.

Axford died while returning to Australia following a reunion of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association held in London in 1983. He was buried with Military Honours at Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth. His VC and MM came into the Memorial's National Collection in 1985.