Biography

Birth date: 23 February 1885
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Geelong
Death date: 1970
Death place: Australia: Victoria, Highton
Final rank: Captain
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Units:
  • 1st Australian Divisional Engineers
  • 2nd Field Company, Australian Engineers

Alexander Jackson Cunningham was born at Geelong, Victoria, on 23 February 1885. He was educated at Geelong Grammar School in Victoria and Eastbourne College in England. Before the First World War broke out he was a member of the army cadets and trained as a mechanical engineer. He enlisted at 29 with the Australian Imperial Force on 11 September 1914, and departed Melbourne with the 1st Divisional Train of the Army Service Corps aboard HMAT Orvieto on 21 October 1914.

The following year Cunningham was deployed to Gallipoli, where his engineering skills would be put to use designing and constructing trenches and fortifications. It was here that he started producing detailed plans of fortifications such as Leane's Trench and recording his experiences in his diary. After his evacuation from Gallipoli he was transferred to the 2nd Field Company Engineers of the 1st Infantry Division. Cunningham was then deployed to the Western Front, where he continued to diarise meticulous technical diagrams, sketches, and notebooks of the fortifications he and his unit constructed. As an engineer of the 1st Division he would see a significant amount of action throughout 1916 and 1917. He was involved in various capacities at the battles of Pozières, Lagnicourt, Passchendaele, Menin Road Ridge, Polygon Wood, and Broodseinde Ridge. In April 1917 Cunningham was promoted to captain and the next month was transferred to the 1st Division Engineers HQ, where he became adjutant. He was later awarded the Military Cross for his service in France and Belgium.

In January 1918, in response to requests from his brother Andrew back home, Cunningham applied for six months of personal leave to return to Australia. His mother was of ill health and there was a need to sort out family business and financial matters. Since the war began Cunningham's father had died and his brother Trevor had been killed at Pozières. He embarked for Australia in March but, sadly, Cunningham's mother died in November that year and his brother Andrew passed away three years later. Alexander Cunningham died at Highton, Victoria, in 1970.

Rolls and Awards

First World War Embarkation Roll

  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Date of embarkation: 21 October 1914
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne

Honours and Awards (Recommendation)

  • Unit: 2nd Field Company, Australian Engineers
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Military Cross

  • Unit: 1st Australian Divisional Engineers
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Military Cross

  • Unit: 1st Australian Divisional Engineers
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Military Cross

  • Unit: 1st Australian Divisional Engineers
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Military Cross

  • Unit: 1st Australian Divisional Engineers
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Collection Items

Digitised Collection

Transcript of diaries of Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 1914-1918

Transcript of diaries relating to the First World War service of Captain Alexander Jackson Cunningham 2nd Field Company Engineers. The transcripts cover of all four diaries, from 19 October 1914 to 17 May 1918, and provide detailed descriptions of his First World War service. The diaries serve as...

RCDIG0000916

Diary of Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 1914-1916

Diary relating to the First World War service of Captain Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 2nd Field Company Engineers. In this diary, kept between 17 October 1914 and 4 July 1916, Cunningham describes his journey to Egypt and subsequent deployment to the Gallipoli peninsula. As an accompaniment to his...

RCDIG0000917

Diary of Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 1916

Diary relating to the First World War service of Captain Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 2nd Field Company Engineers. In this diary, kept between 4 July 1916 and 1 October 1916, Cunningham describes many locations on the Western Front, in particular those of Pozieres and the Ypres salient, and...

RCDIG0000918

Diary of Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 1916-1917

Diary relating to the First World War service of Captain Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 2nd Field Company Engineers. In this diary, kept between October 1916 and 27 April 1917, Cunningham describes many locations on the Western Front, in particular those of Pozieres and the Ypres salient, and...

RCDIG0000919

Diary of Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 1917-1918

Diary relating to the First World War service of Captain Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 2nd Field Company Engineers. In this diary, kept between 28 April 1917 and 18 May 1918, Cunningham recalls the First and Second Battles of Passchendaele, the Battle of Menin Road Ridge, the Battle of Polygon...

RCDIG0000920

Field message book of Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 1915-1916

Field message book relating to the First World War service of Captain Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 2nd Field Company Engineers. In this field message book, kept between 4 December 1915 and 20 March 1916, Cunningham provides hand drawn designs and sketches of various fortifications and...

RCDIG0000921

Correspondence book of Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 1916-1917

Correspondence book relating to the First World War of Captain Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 2nd Field Company Engineers. In this correspondence book, kept between 3 June 1916 and 21 August 1917, Cunningham depicts his work and experiences along with those of the engineers of 2 Field Company (1...

RCDIG0000922

Notebook of Alexander Jackson Cunningham, [date unknown]

Notebook relating to the First World War service of Captain Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 2nd Field Company Engineers. In this notebook, Cunningham provides notes and hand drawn designs and sketches of the various works of the engineers of 2 Field Company (1 Division). Among the many designs and...

RCDIG0000923

Engineering plans and documents of Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 1915-1916

Original plans and documents relating to the First World War service of Captain Alexander Jackson Cunningham, 2nd Field Company Engineers. In this collection of material Cunningham has produced detailed original sketches and designs of various structures and fortifications built at Gallipoli and on...

RCDIG0000924

Private Record

Cunningham, Alexander Jackson MC (Captain)

Engineering plans. Field message book. Correspondence book making recommendations and notes in the field. Notebook containing engineering notes. Four diaries - regular brief entries. Two typescript copies of diaries. Maker: Cunningham, Alexander Jackson

3DRL/3070 (With records)

Timeline

Date of birth 1885-02-23
Date of embarkation 1914-10-21
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-04
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918-03-08
Date of death 1970