Sapper John Crosby

Sapper John Crosby


376 – Aust Electrical & Mechanical Mining & Boring Company

John Crosby was the son of John and Mary Ann Crosby and born in 1894 at Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales. His military training started with one year in the Senior Cadets and was still serving with the 22nd Infantry. He was an apprentice Motor Mechanic for five years at the Government Workshops in Randwick.

On February 7, 1916 the twenty-one year old applied to enlist for active service abroad at the Sydney Recruiting Depot and passed the medical examination. Details on enlistment were no previous illness and stood 166cms (5ft 5½ins) tall, weighed 53.6kgs (118lbs) with a chest expansion of 84-89cms (33-35½ins). Fair was his complexion with blue eyes that tested to good vision and had brown hair. Roman Catholic was his religion. Next-of-kin was his mother Mrs Mary Crosby of Dolphin Street, Randwick. He was sworn in at Casula camp, near Liverpool on February 10, 1916.

He was assigned to the No.1 Company of the Mining Corps in the rank of Sapper with the regimental number 376.

At a civic parade in the Domain, Sydney on Saturday February 19, 1916, a large crowd of relations and friends of the departing Miners lined the four sides of the parade ground. Sixty police and 100 Garrison Military Police were on hand to keep the crowds within bounds. The scene was an inspiriting one. On the extreme right flank, facing the saluting base, were companies of the Rifle Club School; next came a detachment of the 4th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, then the bands of the Light Horse, Liverpool Depot, and the Miners’ on the left, rank upon rank, the Miners’ Battalion.

The Corps boarded HMAT A38 Ulysses in Sydney, NSW on February 20 and sailed for the European theatre. Arriving in Melbourne, Victoria on February 22 the Miners camped at Broadmeadows for a stay of 7 days while further cargo was loaded.

Another parade was held at the Broadmeadows camp on March 1, the Miners’ Corps being inspected by the Governor-General, as Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth military forces.

Leaving Melbourne on March 1, Ulysses arrived at Fremantle, Western Australia on March 7 where a further 53 members were taken on board.

On Wednesday March 8, 1916 the whole force, with their band and equipment, paraded at Fremantle prior to leaving Victoria Quay at 9.30 o’clock.

The ship hit a reef when leaving Fremantle harbour, stripping the plates for 40 feet and, although there was a gap in the outside plate, the inner bilge plates were not punctured. The men on board nicknamed her ‘Useless’. The Miners were off-loaded and sent to the Blackboy Hill Camp where further training was conducted.

The Mining Corps comprised 1303 members at the time they embarked with a Headquarters of 40; No.1 Company – 390; No.2 Company – 380; No.3 Company – 392, and 101 members of the 1st Reinforcements.

Finally departing Fremantle on April 1, Ulysses voyaged via Suez, Port Said and Alexandria in Egypt. The Captain of the shipwas reluctantto take Ulysses out of the Suez Canal because he felt the weight of the ship made it impossible to manoeuvre in the situation of a submarine attack. The troops were transhipped to HM Transport B.1 Ansonia, then on to Valetta, Malta before disembarking at Marseilles, France on May 5, 1916. As a unit they entrained at Marseilles on May 7 and detrained on May 11 at Hazebrouck.

A ‘Mining Corps’ did not fit in the British Expeditionary Force, and the Corps was disbanded and three Australian Tunnelling Companies were formed. The Technical Staff of the Corps Headquarters, plus some technically qualified men from the individual companies, was formed into the entirely new Australian Electrical and Mechanical Mining and Boring Company (AEMMBC), better known as the ‘Alphabetical Company’.

His civil career of motor mechanic was important to the work of the Alphabetical Company therefore was transferred on September 7, 1916 and taken on strength.

Service continued with the company until October 9, 1917 when he went sick to the 1st Casualty Clearing Station with P.U.O. (Pyrexia (Fever) uncertain origin) and on October 13 was admitted to the 59th General Hospital at Boulogne with P.U.O. A transfer to the 7th Convalescent Depot on October 19 for a few days to recover then on October 22 went to the No. 3 Rest Camp. On October 25 he was released from hospital to the Aust General Base Depot in Rouelles and marched out to join his unit on October 28 and rejoined two days later.

He received Blue Chevrons to wear on his uniform for serving twelve months abroad.

Proceeded on leave to England on September 11, 1918 and rejoined his unit on September 25, 1918. He was with his unit when Peace was declared and the company remained on the front continuing to generate electricity and supply and service small engines and pumps for water supplies.

He went sick on February 8, 1919 to the 3/2 West Lancashire Field Ambulance with I.C.T (contusions) to his right knee and was discharged to duty on February 17.

After recall to the Base Depot to prepare to return to England they crossed the English Channel and arrived at the Reserve Brigade Aust Artillery camp at Heytesbury. While there disciplinary action was taken for the following:

Crime:Heytesbury 18/5/19 A.W.L. from 23.59 hours 17/5/19 to 23.00 hours


Award:7 days C.B. [Confined to Barracks] with forfeiture of 4 day’s pay by

Major V.F. Dixon 21/5/1

Total forfeiture:6 day’s pay

After demobilisation Sapper Crosby embarked for Australia on June 16, 1919 on the transport H.T. Ormonde. Base Records advised his mother on July 18 that he was on his way home. The ship docked in Sydney, NSW (2nd M.D.) on August 4, 1919. News of their arrival was printed in the:

His Military Discharge was issued in Sydney (2nd M.D.) on September 26, 1919 on termination of his period of enlistment.

The British War Medal (36003) and the Victory Medal (35487) were issued to Sapper 376 Aust Electrical & Mechanical Mining & Boring Company for service for his country.

He married in 1927 to Annie Gunner at Randwick. Their residence in 1930 was 33 Battery Road, Clovelly and he worked as a fitter. In 1943 their address was Cooee, Central Street, Beverly Hills with his occupation as fitter. Later their house was numbered as 49 Central Street.

John Crosby passed away on October 28, 1976 aged 82 years. Family announcement was printed in the:


John Crosby was a member of the (Alphabet Company) Aust Electrical & Mechanical Mining & Boring Company and Tunnellers’ Anzac Day Reunion and his name and address is listed in their Roll Registers for newsletters of their annual function after the Anzac Day March in Sydney, NSW:

1928 J. Crosby Randwick Tramway Workshop Tramway per Shop changed to 70 Regent St, Sydney

1934 J. Crosby Tramway per Shop, Randwick 57 Central Street, Beverly Hills 5/3/35 letter returned

unknown Randwick Shop

1960-68 J. Crosby 49 Central Road, Beverly Hills Marked 1968 Reunion.

He did not attend the 1974 Alphabets & Tunnellers’ Anzac Day March and luncheon to commemorate the 58th Anniversary of their departure on Ulysses, although he did reply by letter to the notice sent to members and attached $1 toward the event.

© Donna Baldey 2013