Awarded the Victoria Cross for “Conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty “ during an attack on Herleville Wood, near Peronne, France.
William ( known as Donovan ) JOYNT was born at Elsternwick, Victoria on 19 March, 1889, to Irish born father Edward and Victorian born mother Alice ( nee WOOLCOTT ). He completed his Secondary Schooling at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, before trying his hand at a few office jobs and studying Accountancy.
In 1909, Donovan sailed to North Queensland, where he found work in a number of locations as a farm labourer. He harboured a burning ambition to be a successful farmer, and pursued the following farming practices:-
– Wheat farming in the Mallee District of Victoria,
– Potato growing at Yarloop, Western Australia,
– Dairying and Potato growing at Flinders Island, Tasmania.
Donovan JOYNT completed two years of Military Service with the Victorian Rifles Militia from 1911, attaining the rank of Corporal. Whilst farming at Flinders Island in May 1915, he committed to enlistment for service in the First World War. He was allocated to the 8th Battalion at Broadmeadows, Victoria, before attending Officer’s Training School. Subsequently, he was appointed to the rank of Second Lieutenant on 24 December, 1915.
Second Lieutenant JOYNT sailed from Melbourne on 7 March, 1916 aboard the “ Wiltshire “, bound for Alexandria, Egypt. He spent five weeks at the Overseas Training Base in Egypt before embarking for Marseilles, France on 9 May, 1916. Almost ten weeks were spent at the Australian Division Base Depot at Etaples, France before JOYNT joined the 8th Battalion in the field.
On 30 September, 1916, JOYNT was shot in the right shoulder at The Bluff, in the Ypres Sector, Belgium, during a raid on the German trenches. He was admitted to the 7th Stationary Hospital in Boulogne, France, then evacuated to the 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester, England for further specialist treatment , to aid recovery. JOYNT was commended in Divisional Orders ( Mentioned in Despatches ), for his actions, which led up to his wounding. He was discharged from Hospital in mid-December 1916, and whilst still in England , was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 31 December 1916.
In mid January 1917, Lieutenant JOYNT rejoined the 8th Battalion in the field in France. His unit was heavily involved in the Third Battle of Ypres at Polygon Wood in September, 1917. On 10 November, 1917, he was detached for five weeks training at the Second Army School in France. He rejoined the 8th Battalion in the field for three weeks, before being granted leave to the United Kingdom. Near the end of January, 1918 he returned to his unit in the field in France.
Lieut. JOYNT served with his unit on the Western Front through the intense battles of Bullecourt, Menin Road and Broodseinde, remaining unscathed. During the German advances of April 1918, JOYNT came to the fore as a leader of men , particularly at the vital defence of Hazebrouck. His actions played a large part in saving the Channel Ports of Northern France. On 23 August, 1918, Lieut. JOYNT displayed incredible personal bravery by leading from the front and was recognized with the award of a Victoria Cross. The Recommendation was dated 1 September, 1918 :-
“ For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the attack on Herleville Wood, near Chuignes, near Peronne on 23 August 1918. Early in the advance, Lieut. JOYNT’s Company Commander was killed; he immediately took charge of the Company and led them with courage and skill. A great deal of the success of the operation in this portion of the sector was directly due to his magnificent work. When the advance was commenced, the Battalion was moving in to support another Battalion. On approaching Herleville Wood, the troops of the leading Battalion lost all their Officers and became disorganized. Under very heavy fire and having no leader, they appeared certain to be annihilated. Lieut. JOYNT grasped the situation and rushed forward in the teeth of very heavy machine gun and artillery fire over the open. He got the remaining men under control and worked them into a piece of dead ground until he could reform them. He manoeuvred his own men forward and linked them up with the men of the other Battalion. He then made a personal reconnaissance and found that the fire from the Wood was holding the whole advance up, the troops on his flanks suffering very heavy casualties. Dashing out in front of his men he called them on and by sheer force of example inspired them into a magnificent frontal Bayonet attack on the Wood. The audacity of the move over the open, staggered the enemy and Lieut. JOYNT succeeded in penetrating the Wood and working through it. By his leadership and courage a very critical situation was saved, and on this Officer rests to the greatest extent, the success of the Brigade’s attack. When the Battalion on their left was held up on Plateau Wood and was suffering severe casualties, Lieut. JOYNT, with a small party of volunteers, worked right forward against heavy opposition, and by means of hand to hand fighting, forced his way round the rear of the Wood, penetrating it from that side and demoralizing the enemy to such an extent that a very stubborn and victorious defensive was changed into an abject surrender. He was always in the hardest pressed parts of the line and seemed to bear a charmed life. He was constantly ready to run any personal risk and to assist flank units. He continuously showed magnificent leadership and his example to his men had a wonderful effect on them to follow him, cheerfully to his most daring exploits. He continued to do magnificent work until he was badly wounded by shell-fire in the legs “.
On 26 August, 1918, Lieut JOYNT received severe gunshot wounds to the legs, causing him to be admitted to the 2nd General Hospital in France. The severity of the wounds necessitated his swift evacuation to the 3rd London General Hospital in England. Whilst continuing to undergo recovery and recuperation in England on 29 October, 1918, JOYNT was promoted to the rank of CAPTAIN. He was finally discharged from the Convalescent Depot in England on 31 December, 1918.
Capt. JOYNT was transferred to the Overseas Training Brigade at Perham Downs, England until secondment to A.I.F. Headquarters in London on 1 March, 1919. Subsequently, on 31 July, 1919, JOYNT was granted extended leave to undertake Non-Military Employment at Bransford, Worcester in the Agriculture and Sheep Breeding industries. He embarked from England on 22 December, 1919, aboard the “ Themistocles “, bound for Melbourne. He disembarked on 11 February, 1920, being discharged from the Term of his Period of Enlistment, on 11 June, 1920.
SERVICE MEDALS AWARDED
- Victoria Cross ( held at Melbourne Grammar School )
- British War Medal – No. 15435
- Victory Medal – No. on service record indecipherable
Yarloop War Memorial, Western Australia.
Donovan JOYNT continued to pursue his elusive dream of agricultural success , when shortly after discharge, he established himself as a Soldier Settler on a property at Berwick, Victoria. He planned to use his pre-war farming experiences and his newly gained knowledge from his Post War Agricultural Study Program in England, to establish a Dairy Farm. However, he soon after moved to Melbourne, where he established Queen City Printers Pty Ltd and later, Colarts Studios Pty Ltd, where he was a pioneer of colour printing in Australia.
In 1923, JOYNT was a founding member of Melbourne Legacy, then in December 1925, put forward a motion that Legacy broaden its Charter – “ that the welfare of the dependants of the departed comrades, was to be its principal task “. This Charter was adopted Nationally and JOYNT remained a loyal, life-long member of Legacy.
In 1926/1927, JOYNT was tireless in lobbying efforts to gain Government support/recognition for the establishment and location of the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance. He also remained active in the Militia from 1926 – 1933, being promoted to the rank of Major in 1930.
On the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Donovan JOYNT was mobilized to command the 3rd Garrison Battalion at Queenscliff, Victoria ( Service No. V80044 ). He later took command of Puckapunyal Camp in March, 1941 until June, 1942. He then was appointed Camp Staff Officer and Quartermaster at Seymour Camp. He retired from Military Service as an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel on 10 October, 1944.
SECOND WORLD WAR – SERVICE MEDALS AWARDED/OTHER DISTINCTIONS
- War Medal 1939-1945
– Australia Services Medal 1939 – 1945
– King George VI Coronation Medal
– Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal
– Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal
Donovan JOYNT authored three books during his retirement, as follows :-
1. To Russia and back through Communist countries (1971),
2. Saving the Channel Ports 1918 (1975),
3. Breaking the Road for the Rest (1979).
He remained a committed/dedicated advocate of Returned Soldier causes up until his death on 5 May, 1986, at the age of 97 years. He has the honour of being the last surviving Australian Victoria Cross Winner from the First World War.
William Donovan JOYNT VC, was buried in the Brighton General Cemetery, Melbourne with Full Military Honours.