Historical information

John Alexander Spence was born in Fremantle 2nd July 1893. In 1912 he joined the Australian Navy as a Stoker and was posted to H.M.A.S. Australia. He was on this ship when it sailed at the head of the convoy into Sydney Harbour in 1913. At the outbreak of WW1, his ship was sent to German New Guinea where he saw conflict with the enemy and received a gunshot wound to his hand. This required him to be returned to Australia and the Naval doctors considered him unfit for further Naval service.
When his hand healed Spence joined the AIF on the 2 August 1915 and was posted to the 52nd Battalion and embarked on the “Benalla” on the 1 November 1915. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 1 June 1916 on 9 September was promoted to Corporal and the next day to Sergeant. At Messines Ridge he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. At Dernancourt, a village near Villers he was awarded the Military Medal on 6 April 1918.
Subsequently he was badly injured. He had captured four German soldiers and one Officer. While marching them back to the Allied lines the Officer grabbed one of the patrol member’s gun and fired three shots at Sergeant Spence which smashed his hip. Despite his injuries Spence managed to bring the Officer down with a revolver shot. On the 30th April he was repatriated to England and admitted to the Alexandria Hospital at Cosham. He did not return to the western front as his injuries were too severe. He returned to Australia on board the Somalia arriving home on the 21st December 1919.
Before joining the forces he was a prominent amateur boxer, a pupil of the renowned heavyweight Bill Doherty. During WW1 he won the Army lightweight championship, competing against professionals as well as amateurs. He defended the title successfully for three successive years. On his discharge from the Army he fought under the name of Sonny Kidson. He also turned to coaching and had remarkable success having coached the Army and Navy boxing teams. John Spence died on the 20 November 1962 at Hollywood Repatriation Hospital aged 69.

Physical description

Post card sized photo of 3400 Sergeant John Alexander Spence DCM, MM, 52 Battalion AIF. Photo shows medal ribbons of Distinguished Conduct Medal (awarded June 1917) and Military Medal (awarded April 1918), 2 wound stripes, 5 service stripes, 52 Battalion AIF colour patch and soft style forage cap.