[AWM PR89-56 Item 2]
[Oil on Canvas, 76.4 x 61 cm. AWM ART27532]
In a way this great honour seems futile.
Like thousands of her countrymen and women, the well-known Australian poet Dame Mary Gilmore was affected by Corporal John (Jack) Edmondsonís brave actions and tragic death at Tobruk. Although her verse praises the young soldierís gallantry, her words highlight the loss suffered by his family, and particularly the anguish of his mother.
Jack and his mother appear to have had a particularly close relationship and, according to newspaper reports at the time, she educated him at home for the first years of his school life. Before he left for overseas she had promised Jack that she would keep Ďnotesí of her day-to-day home life while he was away and he was to do the same.
A copy of Mrs Edmondsonís diary is in the Australian War Memorial together with a large scrapbook filled with Jackís childhood photographs and the many newspaper accounts of her sonís death at Tobruk on the night of 13-14 April 1941.
In her diary she not only kept detailed accounts of her day-to-day activities but she also noted details of the radio and newspaper reports of the battles being fought by Jackís division, the 9th Division, in North Africa.
Mrs Edmondsonís earlier entries during the first months of 1941 finish with the news of her sonís death and the entries after 26 April are sparse.
[Garrie Hutchinson, 2003]
April 26th 41
July 4th 1941
4th Sept 1941
September 27th 1941
18th Dec 1941
25th October 1941
Nov 16th 1941
Dec 21st 1941
June 27th 1942
Jackís mother didnít mention all the other requests she received. People everywhere wished to commemorate her sonís actions. She was asked to give her permission for numerous streets around Australia to be named after her son and he was to be commemorated by a new clock tower in Liverpool, New South Wales.
Jack Edmondsonís heroism was widely acclaimed. Newspapers around Australia featured articles and stories of his bravery together with accounts of the battle in which he was injured. Officers and men from his unit, the 2/17th Battalion, wrote to his parents praising John. Many of the letters are in the collection at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. There are also numerous press accounts and photographs of his parents attending his posthumous investiture at Government House, Sydney, and other services to commemorate their son.
Pasted on one page of the scrapbook, among the newspaper reports applauding her sonís heroism, is a small cutting in which his mother is quoted:
Of course I am proud of him. I have always been proud of him. In a way this great honour seems futile. I would rather have my son.
[An uncited report of an interview with Mrs Edmondson: press cutting, Edmondson scrapbook, PR 86/56 AWM]