Military Cross and Bar : Lieutenant J Maxwell, 18 Battalion, AIF

Unit 18th Australian Infantry Battalion
Accession Number OL00413.002
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver
Location Main Bld: Hall of Valour: Main Hall: Hindenburg Line 1918
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Military Cross (Geo V) and Bar. Unnamed as issued. This medal and Bar are official replacements, issued in 1949 for the lost originals, which still exist.

History / Summary

Joseph Maxwell was born at Forest Lodge, Sydney, NSW, in 1896. A boiler-maker's apprentice before the war, he enlisted in the AIF in February 1915, and became an original member (No 607) of 18 Battalion. Maxwell served with the battalion at Gallipoli, and travelled with it to France in 1916, being promoted to Sergeant late in the year, and to Warrant Officer in mid 1917. His first decoration, the Distinguished Conduct Medal, came as a result of an attack near Westhoek, Belgium, in September 1917, and within a period of almost exactly 12 months, he was further decorated three times for gallantry. Commissioned in 18 Battalion as a 2nd Lieutenant, and soon promoted to Lieutenant, he was awarded the Military Cross in March 1918 for leadership of a patrol near Ploegsteert, Belgium, and a bar to the award in August, for taking command of his company during the great Allied offensive. At Beaurevoir in October 1918, for his bravery in one of the final Australian actions of the war, Joe Maxwell was awarded the Victoria Cross, which he received from the King at Buckingham Palace in March 1919.

Between the wars, he held a variety of jobs in the ACT and NSW, and in 1932 published his colourful and highly successful autobiography "Hell's Bells and Mademoiselles". During the Second World War, he several times attempted to enlist in the 2nd AIF under an assumed name, eventually being successful in Queensland, where he not so well known. His identity was soon revealed, however, and he was given a position in a training battalion. Maxwell died in Sydney in July 1967.

The citations for the Military Cross and Bar read as follows: Military Cross - ‘For great initiative and gallantry when in charge of a patrol in NO MANS LAND on the morning of 8th. March, 1918, at PONT ROUGE. He had ordered his patrol to return to our lines with himself and 3 others acting as covering party. The main body had moved off when the covering party noticed a party of about 30 Germans about 60 yards off. He immediately went after his main patrol and organised them for assault; the 3 Other Ranks remained on watch. By the time our patrol returned, the enemy had entered into an old trench and were at once attacked with rifles and bombs by our patrol, who then assaulted the position. The enemy did not wait for the assault, but cleared out, leaving 1 wounded and 3 dead Germans behind. The prisoner was brought in.’

Bar to Military Cross - ‘In the advance of 9th. August 1918 towards RAINECOURT, east of AMIENS, Lieutenant MAXWELL was, within 30 minutes of Zero, the only officer left with his company. He at once took command and although subjected to a hail of machine gun fire and later to severe fire at close range from an anti-tank gun and a Battery of 77mm’s kept his men well in hand until the objective was reached and during consolidation. As the objective was reached he was following closely in rear of a tank when a shell hit it and put it out of action. Although shaken by the explosion of the shell on the iron of the tank he at once rushed to the doors and opened them to allow the crew to escape. The tank during this time was a target for heavy fire and burst into flame as he opened the door. He assisted the Tank Commander back for some distance, then returned to his Company and directed them in their difficult task of consolidation under heavier machine gun fire than this unit has ever before met. Throughout, he inspired his men by his wonderful example and disregard of personal safety.’