Distinguished Conduct Medal : Company Sergeant Major J Maxwell, 18 Battalion, AIF

Unit 18th Australian Infantry Battalion
Accession Number OL00413.003
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 1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Distinguished Conduct Medal (Geo V). Engraved around edge with recipient's details. This medal is an official replacement, issued in 1949 for the lost original, which still exists.

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.

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 citation for the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal reads: 'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This W.O. took command of a platoon and led it forward with great dash. On one of our strong points being heavily barraged he went forward on his own initiative and moved the men forward clear of the barrage, during which operation only one casualty was sustained. The action of this W.O. undoubtedly saved many lives. Throughout the operations he carried out his duties with great skill, and was a source of great inspiration by his splendid example.'