CULLEN ( CONNOR ), Pte. John – 754A – 24th Battalion.
“Severely wounded on the Western Front in 1918 – Returned to Australia to a life of Gold Fossicking, living as a hermit and famously walked on foot from Darwin, Northern Territory to Melbourne, Victoria in 1954”.
Pte. John CULLEN ( Noted to be CONNOR ) stated on his Enlistment Form that he was born in Bunbury WA in December 1895, and had been working as a Laborer, prior to enlisting for War Service at Port Melbourne VIC, on 30 May 1917. He undertook initial training at the Machine Gun Depot at Seymour VIC, before embarking on the troop ship ” Aeneas ” from Melbourne on 30th October 1917. On arrival in Devonport England on 27 December, 1917, he was sent to the 6th Training Battalion at Fovant.
On 1 April, 1918, Pte. CULLEN embarked from Dover, bound for the Australian Base Depot at Calais, France. He subsequently joined the 24th Battalion in the field in France on 15 April, 1918. Whilst in the front line, Pte. CULLEN received severe gunshot wounds to the left thigh and right hip. He was collected by the 5th Australian Field Ambulance for transfer to the 61st Casualty Clearing Station for initial treatment, before admittance to the 3rd Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne France. Due to the severity of the wounds he was evacuated and admitted to the Exeter War Hospital in England. Recovery was slow, causing Pte. CULLEN to spend approximately 10 weeks in Hospital and a further 2 weeks in convalescence at the 1st Australian Auxillary Hospital at Harefield.
Pte. CULLEN was granted 2 weeks Leave in England on 17 August, 1918 , before reporting to the No. 4 Command Depot at Hurdcott England for the remainder of his overseas service. He embarked from England aboard the ” Orsova ‘ on 6 January 1919, disembarking in Colombo, Ceylon on 1 February, 1919. Pte. CULLEN was then trans-shipped from Colombo aboard the ” City of York ” on 7 February 1919. He disembarked in Australia on 27 February 1919, being discharged from Service on 22nd March 1919 ( Termination of his Period of Enlistment).
SERVICE MEDALS AWARDED
British War Medal – No. 69121
Victory Medal – No. 66240
29/03/1939- John Cullen signed a Commonwealth of Australia Statutory Declaration , stating he had lost his Discharge Certificate in a fire on the 4th March 1939. he confirmed that he was born in Bunbury WA, and his Mother, Bridget Cullen was his next of kin, living at Spencer Street Albany WA, on the date of his enlistment.
ITEMS OF INTEREST FOLLOWING JOHN CULLEN’S DISCHARGE
27/02/1945- Letter from Returned Sailors’ Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia ( South Australian Branch ) Incorporated written to Officer in Charge Base Records, Canberra, N.S.W. – ” A man, found in very poor circumstances , claims to be returned soldier. The League desires to help him, but would like confirmation as to his having been a member of the services. He states his name is John Cullen Connor, Reg. No. 754A, of 24th Battalion. Could you please inform us , as to whether you have any record of a man of this name having served, and if so could you please let us have a description of him “. ( The Army was able to confirm a positive identification ).
25/10/1954- Newspaper article in the ” Herald ” Melbourne states :- ” HUMPED HIS BLUEY FROM DARWIN TO MELBOURNE- John Connor, 59, Irish by Birth, but Australian by adoption, “lobbed ” in Melbourne today, after having “humped his bluey” over the 3000 Mile trek from Darwin. He had been 10 Months on the road, and over the whole journey carried a swag weighing between 40 and 50 lbs.
Bearded and sun-tanned , with blue eyes which 42 years spent in gold fossicking in the tropics have failed to dim, John Connor has come to Melbourne to settle down and spend the rest of his days. He gets his service pension in January- he enlisted for active service in Melbourne- and hopes to get some sort of a job to carry him on. On his last tramp from Darwin, John Connor is not particularly communicative. He just wanted to get to Melbourne, so he just “walked here”.
The saddest incident of the long journey was the loss of his cattle dog Brownie, an inseparable companion. Brownie took up a poison bait at Maree and died.
John Connor is one of the very few men who have done the overland trip from Darwin to Adelaide by foot in the wet months, but he says it was his only chance to get through as he would have perished in the dry season.
As it was, the longest stretch between wells was 140 Miles between Newcastle Waters and Powell’s Creek. Elsewhere there was a splendid supply of water along the track, following the monsoons.
He reached Adelaide on July 23, and after having spent five days there, set out for Melbourne. He dropped his swag out at Footscray early today, as he didn’t fancy tramping into the City with it.
This old bushman knows the North of Australia like a book, and has prospected all over the country from Wyndham to Cape York. He admits having made a few good gold finds, but adds with a shrug that, like most others he has put it back looking for more.
The Territory he describes as a dead letter so far as the gold mining industry is concerned. Lassiters Reef he describes as a myth.
As to the Aboriginal question, his philosophy is simple. ” Leave Jacky alone” is his solution to the problem “.