John Gardiner was born near Glasgow, Scotland in 1894.1 At age 17 he enlisted in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) as part of the Territorial Forces. With the start of WWI, he was called up for compulsory service and within two months had been promoted to Lance Corporal.
John was sent to France where he fought in major skirmishes and was “fast tracked” to 2nd Lieutenant due to his loyalty, courage and good conduct. After recovering from a mustard gas attack in 1917 he was selected to be part of the final ‘push’ against the Germans in Belgium. During operations on 25 October 1918, near Ingooigem, Belgium, platoon officers of an attacking company all became casualties so John, under heavy fire, took command of the platoon and led them forward with great gallantry.2 For “his grasp on the situation and fine personal example at a critical time” he was awarded the Military Cross.3 Five soldiers from John’s battalion were killed that day and are buried in the little military cemetery at Ingooigem.4
In 1920, John emigrated to Australia and worked as a sawyer for the Chambers family who were friends from Scotland. He then worked for Machin’s Sawmills at Elands before moving to Wingham as manager when Machin’s amalgamated with Duncan’s Holdings.5 During WWII John was Officer in Charge of the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) Wingham with the rank of Captain.6 In 1954, he was one of three men who established the Welfare Committee at the Wingham RSL to help members in need.7
Each year John led the ANZAC Day Parade. Being a humble man he did not let people know that he had won a Military Cross. One year his daughter asked him why he walked at the front and he replied “That’s because I know the way”.
John Gardiner died 5 January 1971 and was laid to rest under a cypress tree at The Bight Cemetery.
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Birth Certificate of John Gardiner, held by daughter Catherine Potts.
2 Tom Tulloch-Marshall, World War One Research Services, Surrey, England. Based on records held at The National Archives, Kew, UK.
3 Certificate and Citation of the Military Cross awarded 5 December 1918. Records held by Catherine Potts.
4 Ingoyghem Military Cemetery, Commonwealth War Graves, https://www.cwgc.org/visit-us/find-cemeteries-memorials/cemetery-details/2023731/Ingoyghem%20Military%20Cemetery/
5 Ancestry.com.au, UK and Ireland Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. London, Departure 24 March 1920, “Berrima”; Machin’s Sawmill, Wingham, https://www.machinssawmill.com.au/our-history/
6 WWII Military Service Record of John Gardiner provided by President Terry Gould at Wingham RSL Sub-branch.
7 Sandra M Williams, Wingham District Memorial Service Club Ltd: Celebrating 50 years 1947-1997. SunBird Publications, p, 61.