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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lihou, James Victor (1895–1918)

by R. C. H. Courtney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

James Victor Lihou (1895-1918), bushman and soldier, was born on 6 February 1895 at Dubbo, New South Wales, eldest of seven children of Stephen Henry Lihou, cook and station-hand, from Guernsey, Channel Islands, and his Irish-born wife Eliza, née Kennedy. Educated at Wongarbon Public School, he was a popular and keen student. He left school at 15 to help support the family by trapping and selling rabbits. Before World War I he worked mainly as a roustabout on sheep stations and in the wheat-harvesting season helped on local properties.

On 15 January 1916 Lihou enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, embarking for France with the 18th Reinforcements for the 13th Battalion on 3 May and joining it on 4 October. He was wounded at Stormy Trench, north-east of Gueudecourt, on 5 February 1917 and rejoined his unit on 20 March but was wounded again at the 1st battle of Bullecourt. Lihou was promoted lance corporal on 1 October and corporal on 26 March 1918. He took part in the attack on Hébuterne at the beginning of April when the battalion assaulted enemy trenches twelve times and succeeded in capturing its objective, as well as the field beyond. For his part in this action Lihou was awarded the Military Medal; he was promoted sergeant on 27 August.

At Vaire Wood, east of Corbie, on 4 July 1918 Lihou won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was in charge of a Lewis-gun section in the leading wave of an attack and throughout the advance fired his gun from the hip with great effect. When an enemy post threatened to hold up the line he 'engaged it so effectually' that a bombing section was enabled to approach it from a flank, killing all the occupants.

During the 13th Battalion's attack of 18 September near Le Verguier, Sergeant Lihou and his party of seven got ahead of their company but kept moving forward; a machine-gun opened fire on them from behind. Lihou immediately rushed the machine-gun post and threw a bomb, killing three of the crew and taking the survivors prisoner. When his party reached the first objective they met with opposition from several machine-guns and Lihou again charged ahead to bomb and capture one crew, thus enabling his section to get into the enemy trench. He then led his men along it and saw a post that was holding up another battalion. He climbed out of the trench on his own and charged the post of twenty Germans but before he could reach it was fatally wounded. He died on his way back to a dressing-station and was posthumously awarded a Bar to his D.C.M. The battalion history states that 'his cheerful, careless gallantry was such that he was regarded as a certainty for a V.C. had he been spared'. Sergeant Lihou has no known grave and is commemorated at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France.

Select Bibliography

  • T. A. White, The Fighting Thirteenth, (Syd, 1924)
  • war diary, 13th Battalion, AIF, 1916-18 (Australian War Memorial)
  • records (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

R. C. H. Courtney, 'Lihou, James Victor (1895–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 14 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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