The AIF Project

John Harold STERLING

Date of birth11 August 1887
Place of birthBundaberg, Queensland
Other trainingBA, LLB, University of Melbourne, Victoria
ReligionChurch of England
OccupationBarrister and solicitor
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation27.10
Height5' 8.5"
Weight154 lbs
Next of kinFather, John Gray Sterling, Wellington Street, Flemington, Melbourne, Victoria
Previous military serviceNil (attended Officers' School, Broadmeadows, Victoria, 17 May-15 June 1915)
Enlistment date22 April 1915
Place of enlistmentMelbourne, Victoria
Rank on enlistment2nd Lieutenant
Unit name8th Battalion, 21st Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/25/5
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A71 Nestor on 2 October 1916
Rank from Nominal Roll2nd Lieutenant
Unit from Nominal Roll60th Battalion
Recommendations (Medals and Awards)

Military Cross

'At PETILLON on 19th July 1916, Lieut. STERLING showed conspicuous bravery and coolness under most trying circumstances. Before attacking and whilst being most heavily bombarded, he handled his men with courage and judgement. Although wounded in the neck Lieut. STERLING led his men to the attack valiantly, till all were casualties.'
Recommendation date: 25 August 1916

FateKilled in Action 19 July 1916
Age at death from cemetery records29
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsV.C. Corner (Panel No 18), Australian Cemetery, Fromelles, France
Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: John Gray Sterling and Anne Wilkinson Sterling, 50 Elphin Grove, Glenferrie, Victoria

Military Cross

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in action. Although wounded in the neck, he continued to lead his men in the attack with great coolness under very heavy machine-gun fire, which caused severe casualties.'
Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette'
Date: 14 December 1916

Other details

War service: Egypt, Western Front

Transferred to 60th Bn, and taken on strength, Tel el Kebir, 15 March 1916.

Detached to Zeitoun School of Instruction for duty, 29 April 1916; rejoined Bn from detachment, Ferry Post, 21 May 1916.

Embarked Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 18 June 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 29 June 1916.

Reported Missing, 19 July 1916.

Court of Enquiry, held in the field, 4 August 1917, pronounced fate as 'Killed in Action, 19 July 1916'.

Note, Red Cross File No 2620406: 'No trace Germany[.] Cert. by Capt. Mills 10-10-19.'

Statement, 3368 Pte A.C. HORDEN, A Company, 60th Bn, 17 August 1916: 'I saw Lieut. Sterling go down in the attack at Fleurbaix on July 19th. He was leading us in No. 1. Platoon, A. Company, when he was shot. I am afraid he was killed. I had to go on, and get back to our lines at 11 a.m. next morning. Heavy machines gum [sic] and artillery fire was playing over the spot where he went doen [sic].'

Second statement, 3576 Pte E.L. NICHOLSON, 57th Bn (patient, 35th General Hospital, Calais), 6 October 1916: 'Informant's brother in the same Battalion (No. 2648 [Pte A.R. NICHOLSON]) saw his (Lieut Sterling's) grave at Fleur Bay [sic]. He was my own Lieutenant and I am quite sure.'

Third statement, Captain D.B. DOYLE, 60th Bn (patient, 4th London General Hospital, Denmark Hill, England): 'On July 19th Lieut Sterling, who was already wounded in the neck, with very great gallantry, went over. I was near him at the time. He was hit by a shell and nothing was found of him.'

Medals: Military Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, STERLING John Harold
Red Cross File No 2620406

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