John Edward Ahearn
Serial No. 2614
54th Battalion & 56th Battalion
John Edward Ahearn - Information
John Edward Ahearn belonged to a family from Luddenham, where he was born and raised. When the war began, John was still living in the area and working as a trapper and general labourer. Shortly after he turned 21, John decided to enlist in the AIF. He signed up at the Royal Showground Camp on the 29th of May 1916. Training at Dubbo and Bathurst Depots, he became a Private with the 54th Battalion. He then embarked Sydney on the HMAT Ceramic on the 7th of October 1916, sailing with fellow Luddenham resident Reginald Adams.
John landed in Plymouth, England on the 21st of November. He then proceeded to the Western Front via Folkestone four days before Christmas. In February 1917, John was taken on strength to the 54th Battalion in the Somme Valley. At the time, life in the trenches was horrible. The winter of 1916/17 was the worst of the war, and spirits were dampened by the bitter cold, mud, lice and cold rations on top of fighting old Fritz. While the Allies were unfolding their Arras Campaign, they were interrupted by a change in Germany’s tactics. Offensives were too costly, so German High Command decided to sit on the defensive. On the line predominately facing the British, they constructed a new fortified position known as the Hindenburg Line. Commencing a strategic withdrawal, they engaged the Allies while their men made it to safety. The 54th Battalion were involved in chasing them to their new line. While defending gains of the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt, John deserted his Majesty’s Forces on the 8th of May. He was captured, and brought before a Court Martial on the 12th of August 1917. He had been AWL from 1930 hrs on the 8th of May until 1300 hrs on the 25th of July. John pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to two years imprisonment at hard labour. However, throughout 1917 and 1918, volunteers from Australia were declining, straining unit strength. As a result, John’s sentence was suspended in order for him to return to the fighting on the 18th of August 1918. He rejoined his unit in the field four days later. However, once in the open he again went AWL, disappearing at 4pm on the 22nd of August. He was apprehended on the 15th of October 1918, charged and awarded a loss of pay. Surprisingly in late October, he was put back in the lines with the 56th Battalion. Once the war ended, John was locked back up in December. In late March 1919, he was taken to England under armed escort to Casmasthen Prison. On the 18th of June 1919, his sentence was again suspended, and he was marched out from Dorchester Prison to Details Camp. The following month, he was sent home to Australia on the 3rd of July.