Joseph (also known as James) Todd

First Name: 
James, known as Joseph/ Joe
Last Name: 
Date of Birth: 
Monday, December 21, 1896
Mother's Name: 
Elizabeth Ann Todd nee Stephenson
Father's Name: 
William Todd
Date Enlisted: 
Monday, January 10, 1916
Rank at Enlistment: 
Rank at Discharge: 
Lance Sergeant
2nd Pioneer Battalion
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Date of Death: 
Sunday, February 15, 1942
Place of Death: 

Joseph Todd (Service No 4276) was born at Leichardt, Sydney, N.S.W. on 21 December 1896 to William Todd and Elizabeth Ann Todd nee Stephenson.  His family moved to Austinmer, N.S.W. in 1909 and resided on the corner of Austinmer and Allen Streets, in what is now known as the 'Austinmer Coach House'.

Joseph attended Austinmer Public School and was known as Joe by his family and locals alike. Joe and his elder brother Frank were members of the Austinmer Surf Lifesaving Club in its formative years and were presented with their bronze medallions on 1 May 1915 at Langdon's kiosk along with W. Cahill, Sam Bradbury, William Stewart, Norm Strachan, Neil Strachan and 'Jack" Spiers, the latter two also enlisting in WW1.

Joe enlisted on 10 January 1916 shortly after his 19th birthday stating he was 22 years and 1 month using the name James Todd. He had no formal trade but worked as a labourer and helped his father William, who was a bricklayer and builder as was Frank, in working on the family home.

William was 66 years old when WW1 broke out and consequently, Frank, who was needed to assist his father did not enlist.

After initial training at the 5th Training Battalion and attending Signal School Joe was posted to A Company, 10th Reinforcements, 17th Battalion and embarked from Sydney on HMAT Star of England on 8 March 1916.

Following further training in Egypt he embarked at Alexandria on HMAT Corsican on 28 May 1916 and disembarked at Plymouth on 11 June 1916. From there the troops left by train at 8 pm for Parkhouse Camp near Tidworth, arriving at 5am on 12 June 1916. The following day whilst on sick parade he met up with Private William Daniel Hardy (Service No 13790) who had been a junior railway porter from Thirroul, N.S.W. and who later served in France as a stretcher bearer with A Section 4th Field Ambulance.

The State Library has two diaries of William Daniel Hardy online in both transcript and digitized formats. These contain a wealth of information on locals from the Thirroul and Austinmer area, and mention other servicemen he knew. He too had embarked HMAT Corsican with Joe and his diary provides a wonderful insight into what life on board the transports was like for the troops travelling between Sydney and Suez and from Alexandria to Plymouth.

Whilst at Parkhouse Joe sent a photo to his parents,with the inscription; From Your Loving Son, Joe 24-6-1916.

On the 12 July 1916 Joe proceeded overseas to France marching in to Etaples on 14 July 1916 and on 22 July 1916 he joined B Company, 2nd Pioneers 'in the field' who were in training for the attack on Pozziers, which they entered on 28 July 1916.  Pioneer Battalions were mainly used in the construction and repair of roads, tramways, bridges, huts, dugouts and most importantly trenches. During an attack their role was to follow up behind the Infantry Battalions and construct communication trenches to the newly established front line to facilitate the bringing up of men, ammunition and supplies and the evacuation of the wounded. This often necessitated their working in the open and as the German Artillery knew the co-ordinates of their old front line trenches they subjected these and the area behind to intense shell-fire resulting in many casualties. The 2nd Pioneers saw service on all sectors of the Western Front in Belgium and France including Bullecourt where on 3 May 1917 between 2pm and 9pm under heavy shell-fire they constructed a total of 1400 yards of vital communication trenches which was noted upon by the Official Historian Charles Bean as "one of the finest achievements by the Australian Pioneers" page 485.

On 20 September 1917 Joe was detatched to Anti-Aircraft duty with 2nd Division Artillery and two days later was promoted to Lance Corporal. He re-joined the 2nd Pioneers on 2 October 1917. At this time they were involved in the Third Battle of Ypres better known as Passchendaele.

On 17 July 1918 he was promoted to Corporal and was sent to the Australian Corps School on 27 July and re-joined the 2nd Pioneers on 17 August. In October 1918 in one of the last 'pushes' of the war the 2nd Pioneers fought as an Infantry Battalion alongside the 21st and 24th Infantry Battalions at the Battle of Montbrehain. During this battle they sustained 29 men killed and over 80 injured. On 5 November 1918 Joe was promoted to the now defunct rank of Lance Sergeant. The 2nd Pioneers remained in France following the Armistice of 11 November 1918 and were engaged in vital post-war reconstruction, burial and memorial projects.

Joe left France for England on 31 March 1919 and embarked for 'Return to Australia' on 5 July 1919.

On Thursday 21 August 1919 Joe returned home to Austinmer, arriving on the 8.20 pm train to be greeted by a great crowd including his mother. His father had passed away in 1918 aged 70. He and his mother were then conveyed in a decorated sulky to their home by members of the Surf Club and following a supper at which was officially welcomed home, the evening concluded with a dance in the Surf Club Hall.

Joe was finally discharged on 13 October 1919.

On his return Joe once more took up his activities with the Surf Club and on Sunday 18 January 1920 he and 'Jack' Spiers rescued two young ladies, Miss Kelleher and Miss Collis, when they got into difficulties. In August 1923 he signed for his two medals at Austinmer using his correct name and signature and the card is in his WW1 Service Records.

On 1 November 1941 with the threat of war with Japan looking ever more likely, Joe enlisted again (Service No NX50008) stating he was 39 years and 10 months when in fact he was soon to turn 45. He was posted to Infantry as a Private. On 10 November 1941 he wrote to the OC Base Records, Canberra enquiring as to whether he was entitled to any unclaimed medals, again using his correct name and signature. This letter was also placed on his WW1 Service Records.

Joe was posted to the 6th Reinforcements 2/19th Infantry Battalion and arrived at Singapore on 26 January 1942. The Japanese commenced shelling, bombing and strafing Singapore on the 3 February as a prelude to their amphibious assult across the Johore Strait late on the night of 8 February 1942. The main thrust of the Japanese force of about 13,000 was concentrated against the Australian 22nd Brigade's three battalions, the 2/18th, 2/19th and 2/20th totalling about 3,000 in all. A further 10,000 Japanese landed the next morning. The Australians continued to fight heroically against this overwhelming and numerically superior force in fierce hand-to-hand battles, during which men often became separated from their units, only to fall back and re-join their units or make up composite ones to re-enter the fray. In the end however sheer weight of numbers told and on the 15 February 1942 the British surrendered and all the troops on Singapore passed into captivity. Joe was listed as missing and like many others who were unaccounted for during the fighting of 8-15 February he was given a presumed date of death as 15 February 1942.



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