A distinguished conduct medal from World War One.
A distinguished conduct medal from World War One. Contributed

Bangalow boy earns his medal 100 years ago

AT THE beginning of 1918 the world was emerging from the effects of the Great War.

For the first time in a number of years, people could look to the future and hope for brighter things.

The Northern Star reported that a new dictionary post-war would need to be written as new "war words" had made their way into the English language.

"the very meaning of many pre-war terms has entirely altered," it reported.

During this week a century ago, there is also the story of Sapper James O'Connell of Bangalow in The Northern Star who was awarded a distinguished conduct medal.

The story goes he was in the company cookhouse near the front line when the enemy attacked.

O'Connell realised there were many of them and he was isolated so he started to retreat in the direction of the nearby canal.

Knowing where there was a dump of bombs, he managed to get his hands on some and started throwing them at the enemy.

When he got to the canal, he was shot in the head, although not seriously and fell into the water.

Not only did he manage to get himself out of the canal, but he obtained more bombs and made another stand against the enemy who continued to attack.

They bombarded him with 'flammenwerfer' or flamethrowers which severely burned him, causing him to fall back into the canal, where this time he remained for half an hour, the enemy believing he had died.

He again managed to struggle out of the canal where he found a fellow officer who dressed his wounds.

By this stage the situation was if O'Connell remained where he was he would be taken a prisoner of war or he could escape by swimming the canal.

So for a third time he found himself in the water, swimming easily across the canal as he was a strong swimmer.

However, he heard cries for help from the middle of the canal from a fellow soldier who couldn't swim and was trying to escape the enemy on a piece of wood.

Despite his wounds and enemy gunfire overhead he dived a fourth time into the canal and managed to rescue his comrade.

He was recommended for a Victoria Cross but received the DCM instead.

Reference

  • 'A New Dictionary - After the war', The Northern Star, Friday, January 4, 1918. Page 4.
  • 'Brave Bangalow Boy', The Northern Star, Friday, January 4, 1918. Page 4.


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