Joseph MAXWELL (VC, MC and Bar, DCM)

Joseph Maxwell was born in 1896 at Annandale, N.S.W., the son of John Maxwell, labourer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Stokes.

When Joseph enlisted in the AIF in February 195 he was employed as an apprentice boilermaker.

He was attached to the 18th Battalion, and they served at Gallipoli before proceeding with his battalion to France in March 1916.

Later that year Joseph was promoted to sergeant and in 1917 promoted to company sergeant major.

In September 1917, during the 3rd battle of Ypres, Maxwell took control of a platoon after its officer had been killed and he led it in the attack. He also safely extricated men from a newly captured position under intense enemy fire. For these actions, Maxwell received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was also promoted to second lieutenant and a few months later to lieutenant.

Maxwell received the Military Cross when, in March 1918, he led a scouting patrol to obtain information for a possible attack. He came across a large party of German soldiers and he organised and led a successful attack on the group.

Later in 1918, during another offensive, Maxwell took command of his company as all other officers were casualties, and led his men, along with a tank in front, on an attack on a group of German soldiers. The tank was hit, and Maxwell rescued the crew before the tank burst into flames. For these actions, he was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross.

In October 1918, Maxwell again took charge after his company commander was wounded. Upon reaching the enemy wire under intense enemy fire, he pushed through a narrow opening in the wire and captured a machine gun post, killing the crew. A short time later, again single-handed, he took out another machine gun post and captured the German soldiers. For these actions, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

In just over twelve months Maxwell was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Cross and Bar and the Victoria Cross, and he was only 22 when the war ended.

Upon returning to Australia in 1919 he worked in a variety of occupations in Sydney, Canberra and NSW country towns.

In 1921 Joseph Maxwell married Mabel Maxwell (not related) and they went on to have a daughter. They divorced in 1926.

Joseph Maxwell published his account of the war in 1932.

He attempted to enlist in the 2nd AIF but was unsuccessful. He moved to Queensland where he eventually succeeded under a false name. His identity was eventually discovered and was discharged.

In 1956 Joseph Maxwell married Anne Martin (nee Burton) in Sydney.

In July 1967 Maxwell collapsed and died of a heart attack in a street in Matraville, NSW. His funeral was given full military honours.

In 2003, Maxwell’s medals were presented to the Australian War Memorial on a permanent loan basis.

Source: TROVE, National Library of Australia Newspaper Collection
Source: AIF Project, Australian Defence Force Academy
Source: Australian Virtual War Memorial
Source: Australian War Memorial