Captain John William Axtens

Service number 37, 13, N76152, NX141462
Ranks Held Captain, Lieutenant, Private, Sergeant
Birth Date 1895-02-09
Birth Place Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Death Date 1980-04-25
Final Rank Captain
  • 30th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • 8th Australian Machine Gun Company
  • 8th Australian Machine Gun Company
  • Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force
  • 2nd Garrison Battalion
Place Sydney
  • First World War, 1914-1918
  • First World War, 1914-1918
  • Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Second World War, 1939-1945

John William Axtens was born at Annandale, New South Wales, on 9 February 1895, the youngest of three brothers. Axtens had served in the Junior and Senior Cadets of the Citizens Military Forces, as a Lieutenant of the 17th Infantry for 12 months, and as a Lieutenant in the 18th Infantry, Machine Gun Section, for 12 months before the First World War. The war service enlistment records identify Axtens as a draper and warehouseman.

Axtens enlisted in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF), 1st Tropical Unit at Sydney on 16 August 1914 and was attached to the Machine Gun Section. Axtens embarked with this unit from Sydney aboard the troopship Berrima on 19 August 1914. The ANMEF was a small volunteer force of one battalion, formed to seize and destroy German wireless stations based in the Caroline Islands, Nauru and New Guinea. Axtens was discharged on 4 March 1915, after 205 days of service.
Following his discharge, Axtens enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Liverpool, New South Wales, on 20 June 1915 and was attached to the 8th Brigade Machine Gun Section. His unit embarked from Sydney aboard the troopship Beltana on 9 November 1915 and arrived in Egypt during December 1915. In March 1916, Axtens was taken on strength with the 8th Brigade, Machine Gun Section, and promoted to lieutenant . His unit left Egypt and arrived in France during June 1916. Axtens received a serious gunshot wound to the elbow and forearm in July 1916, and was sent to the 3rd General Hospital at Wandsworth, England for treatment. In November 1916, Axtens returned to Australia aboard the troopship Wiltshire for 6 months’ rehabilitation.

After recovery in Australia, Axtens embarked from Sydney aboard the troopship Suevic on 21 June 1917. During the journey to Liverpool, England, on 7 August 1917, a concert was given by the officers on board. Axtens was one of the performers in this concert with solo renditions of the songs “The Trumpeter” and “A Perfect Day”, as well as appearing in quartets to perform “Another Little Drink” and “Sweet and Low”.

On arrival in England during August 1917, Axtens was taken on strength in the field in France in January 1918. In April 1918, Axtens was again wounded in action but remained on duty. During January 1919, he was appointed temporary captain. In April 1919, Axtens returned to England for demobilisation; in May 1919 he was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and became entitled to the rank of Honorary Captain. Axtens embarked to return to Australia aboard the troopship Port Melbourne on 9 July 1919 and his appointment was terminated on 13 October 1919.

After discharge from the AIF, Axtens appears to have returned to his former occupation as a warehouseman, at least up until the late 1930’s. He married Ella Doreen Sackett on 2 June 1926 at Lismore, New South Wales, his former home town, and there is no record of children. Axtens lived at Lane Cove, New South Wales, until about 1940 when he and his wife moved to Albury, New South Wales. From that time, he appears to have worked as an accountant until the 1970’s.

Axtens enlisted in the 2nd Garrison Battalion at Bonegilla, Victoria on 22 July 1942 during the Second World War, with the rank of Captain. This battalion undertook coastal defence activities in New South Wales.

John Axtens died on Anzac Day, 25 April 1980, in Albury, New South Wales, at the age of 85.



Date of birth 09 February 1895
Date of embarkation 19 August 1914
Date of enlistment 20 June 1915
Date of embarkation 09 November 1915
Date returned to Australia 05 July 1919
Date of death 25 April 1980