Private John Thomas Navin, 49th Battalion, AIF

Posted on 3 August 2021
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John Navin was born in 1891 in Lismore, New South Wales, to the large family of Edward and Bridget Navin. He grew up in Lismore and attended the local public school, then worked as a surveyor’s labourer.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Navin enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in Lismore on 10 September 1915. After initial training, he was allotted to the 9th reinforcements to the 25th Battalion.

He embarked from Brisbane on 31 January 1916 aboard the transport ship Wandilla for Egypt. In early April, Navin was transferred to the 49th Battalion as part of the expansion and re-organisation of the AIF.

The 49th Battalion departed Egypt in June and sailed to Marseilles, France. They spent a period in what was known as the “Nursery Sector” near Armentières, a relatively quiet area where troops were introduced to trench warfare. Then the Battalion was sent south to take part in the battle of the Somme.

The 49th’s first major battle was at Mouquet Farm in September. Navin and several other men were detailed as a working party. They carried ammunition, food, and water up the line, often under extremely heavy shell-fire.

Even when relieved, Navin and his comrades volunteered to keep going until sheer exhaustion stopped them. Brigadier Thomas Glasgow awarded each man in the party a Commander in Chief’s congratulatory card for their unstinting efforts.

After Mouquet Farm, the 49th Battalion was sent to the quieter Ypres Sector. But in October, they went south again and endured the bitter winter of 1916-1917 while rotating in and out of the front line.

In February 1917, the German army made a strategic withdraw to the Hindenburg Line. This was the last and strongest of their defence positions. The 49th Battalion was among the Allied forces that followed them up.

In order to delay the Allied advance, and prepare their Hindenburg Line defences, the Germans fortified numerous nearby villages and towns. Noreuil was one of them.

On 2 April, the 50th and 51st Battalions attacked Noreuil with the 49th Battalion providing support.

During this action, Navin received a gunshot wound to his head. He was taken to the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station where he died the following day.

John Navin was laid to rest in the Pozieres British Cemetery. He was 26 years old.

Michael Kelly, Historian, Military History Section