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Mayor's Speech Recognises Local VC Hero's Courage

Mayor Brett Pollock's Speech - ANZAC Day 2019

Welcome to distinguished guests, local and visiting RSL members, other veterans and their families, residents of Mosman Park and visitors. It’s particularly great to see such a large gathering, here today.

Today we and many others throughout Australia are attending memorial services for those men and women in the services, who gave their lives defending our great country, and its way of life. We also remember those who served and survived, many who suffered from the physical and mental trauma.

The increase in numbers attending this service in recent years indicates how precious this Memorial Park and our annual memorial service are to residents of Mosman Park, and the many visitors. Not only on ANZAC day, but also throughout the year. We especially welcome members of the family of James Park Woods VC.

Today I would like to share with you the stirring example of dedication and courage showed by former Mosman Park resident James Park Woods VC.

In 1962 the three Memorial Ponds [Red white and Blue], and the entrance to Memorial Park from Bayview Terrace were constructed. It includes walls which contain 121 plaques remembering individuals who served in World War 1, and 43 persons killed in action in World War 2.  I encourage you to view and reflect on them before you leave today.

 A plaque of great significance relates to Private James [Jimmy] Park Woods VC who served in World War 1, and for some time before his death in 1963 lived in York Terrace with his family, a few hundred metres from where we are today.

This is his inspirational story.

‘Jimmy’ Woods was born in South Australia in 1886. When war broke out in 1914 he tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial force, but was rejected because he was only 5 feet 4 inches [163 cm] tall.  Jimmy then moved to WA, where he carted timber and fenced at Katanning before becoming a vigneron in the Swan Valley. In September 1916 as Army height requirements were reduced, he enlisted in the AIF, and was posted to the 48th Battalion in France in September 1917.

After serving in France and Belgium in the front line trenches during 1917/18 Jimmy became ill and was evacuated to England. He returned to his battalion in 24 May 1918.However his poor health continued.

By September 1918, the Allies were in the midst of the Hundred Day’s Offensive. Jimmy Woods was part of a four man patrol near St Quentin when it identified a strongly defended German position with good fields of fire. While an attack force was being organised, Jimmy decided to lead his patrol against the German defenders. This was successful, but then the Australians had to defend against a number of counterattacks. For his work Jimmy Woods was recommended for the Victoria Cross. The Citation reads :

“On 18 September 1918 when with a weak patrol he attacked and captured a very formidable enemy post and subsequently with two comrades held the same against heavy enemy counterattacks. Although exposed to heavy fire of all descriptions he fearlessly jumped on the parapet and opened fire on the attacking enemy inflicting severe casualties. He kept up his fire and held up the enemy until help arrived and throughout the operations he displayed a splendid example of valour determination and initiative.”

Jimmy Woods returned to Western Australia in 1919, and married Olive Wilson in 1921, the couple had six children. Three sons and three daughters. Two of their sons Norman and Gordon served in the RAAF in World War 2; Gordon was killed in a training accident.

Jimmy Woods had to give up work, because he was gassed during the war and suffered chronic lung damage. He also suffered nightmares about the war. He died age 77, and was buried with military honours at Karrakatta. His VC is held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Although Jimmy Woods was an Australian hero, he was a modest man. The following excerpt from a letter he wrote to his sister on the 22 October 1918 demonstrates this [It has been provided to us by the Australian War Memorial]. Jimmy describes the action in which he won the Victoria Cross

One morning we went over in an almost impenetrable mist of fog and smoke before the dawning hours of morn, and in which we could only see a few yards ahead. This of course made us almost invisible to the enemy. They did not know where we were till we were upon them. There was plenty of wire entanglements to get through and we got our legs caught at times especially with the sand bags puttees to save our clothes from being torn. I got mine caught often enough till I got disgusted and ripped them off with the bayonet. One chap got caught in some barb close to me and was jumping around trying to get someone to free him. One of the cheer up sort called to him.   He’d better get out of there quick, as the wire was mined. Needless to say he did not wait for help to get free then, but it will cost the military another pair of breeches as he left most of his there. We reached our objective alright that morning and took plenty of Huns prisoners and guns.”

Then later we did another stint, rather a small one, but remarkable for the results of the successful finish we put to it. Once I got into a tight place, didn’t have time to think about that at the time.”

There was plenty of Huns close to me that I had to shoot at, while the officer who had lead of the two of us into that machine gun nest of Huns, went back and brought up some more of our lads to hold the position, while I did all I could to bluff them [that is these Huns who had got away] when we had two cartridges left when the others came up.”

You will I suppose be pleased to hear I might get some decoration out of it so I thought I tell you a little bit about it. The Officer met me tonight, and said the Colonel was highly recommending me for the bit I did that morn for the highest Dec.”

“Well it wasn’t much, but that Officer I was with was one of the gamest men I met and how he acted in that critical time, and how he dashed at those first Huns in the trench, and while I fixed one up from using his gun, he dashed down after the others who were bolting. Later when we occupied that nest we got 14 machine guns out of the nest, so you see it was a strong position and a vital one to the Huns. We were remarkably lucky getting it thus with only one slight casualty. I suppose.”                                                                                    

I would like to conclude with Jimmy Woods own patriotic and  inspirational  words from the horror of the trenches in France;

There is no place over here like Aussie. This war as indeed taught us what a country we have and how to appreciate it as God's free country.”

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