Saturday, September 24, 2022



The stories behind the names on the signs at the rest stops on the Remembrance Driveway, which goes from Sydney to Canberra.

The highway commemorates persons awarded the Victoria Cross by naming rest stops after them.


The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. The metal used to make every Victoria Cross medal has been made from cannons captured by the British at the siege of Sevastopol.



John Alexander French, VC (1914 – 1942), one of 20 Australians to receive the award for their actions during the Second World War.


Location of rest area:

Hume Highway, NSW, near Goulburn


  • Jack French was born in Queensland and joined his father's hairdressing business, commencing an apprenticeship.
  • After the outbreak of the Second World War, French enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force on 22 October 1939.
  • He was deployed overseas to the UK part of the Australian contingent to help defend against a possible invasion following the fall of France. When the invasion did not eventuate in late 1940, the Australian Battalion was transferred to the Middle East and became part of the 7th Division.
  • Part of the actions in which it took part included joining the garrison at Tobruk as it was surrounded by German forces, taking part in several actions before being withdrawn.
  • Sent to Syria, French was promoted to corporal in December.
  • In early 1942, in response to the growing threat posed by Japan's entry into the war following the attacks on Pearl Harbour and Malaya, the 2/9th Battalion, along with the rest of the 7th Division, was brought back to fight against the Japanese in New Guinea.

Victoria Cross:
  • In late August 1942, the 2/9th Battalion was deployed to the Milne Bay area of New Guinea. The Japanese were advancing south along the Kokoda Track and Allied intelligence had predicted an attack around Milne Bay.
  • In early September, the battalion took part in heavy fighting after the Japanese landed a force to capture the Allied airfields situated there.
  • It was during this fighting that French performed the deeds that led to him being awarded the Victoria Cross. The citation for French's VC award reads as follows:
At Milne Bay New Guinea, on the afternoon of 4 September 1942, a company of Australian Infantry battalion attacked a Japanese position where it encountered terrific rifle and machine-gun fire. The advance of the section, of which Corporal French was in command, was held up by fire from three enemy machine-gun posts, whereupon Corporal French, ordering his section to take cover, advanced and silenced one of the posts with grenades. He returned to his section for more grenades and again advanced and silenced the second post. Armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun, he then attacked the third post, firing from the hip as he went forward.

He was seen to be badly wounded by fire from this post, but he continued to advance. Enemy guns then ceased fire and his section pushed on to find that all the members of the three enemy gun crews had been killed, and that Corporal French had died in front of the third gun pit.

By his cool courage and disregard of his own personal safety, this non-commissioned officer saved members of his section from heavy casualties and was responsible for the successful conclusion of the attack.
  • The fighting around Milne Bay eventually resulted in Japanese withdrawal, and represented the first full-scale defeat of the Japanese on land during the war.
  • French is buried at the Bomana War Cemetery at Port Moresby.
John Alexander French's Grave at the Bomana War Cemetery, Port Moresby

The final resting place for Corporal John Alexander French VC, Port Moresby War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea

War-time grave of Corporal John Alexander French VC, 2/9th Infantry Battalion.
  • Two of his brothers also served during the war: Eric in the Army and Gordon, who was killed in action in August 1943 in Europe, in the Royal Australian Air Force.


Vc 44

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