Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Carr Ewen (1892–1951)

by Chris Clark and Rex Clark

This article was published:

John Ewen, n.d.

John Ewen, n.d.

Australian War Memorial

John Carr Ewen (1892-1951), farmer, soldier and businessman, was born on 25 October 1892 at Didsbury, Manchester, England, son of Frederick William Ewen and his wife Marion Eastwood, née Carr. After attending Cheadle Hulme (Warehousemen and Clerks) School, he worked for the marine superintendent of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway at Fleetwood. He was a keen cricketer and served for six months with the Territorial Army. In 1912 he migrated to Australia and became a farmer at Bellingen, New South Wales.

Ewen enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 21 October 1915 and next January embarked for Egypt with reinforcements for the 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column. From there he went to France in March as a gunner in the 22nd Howitzer Battery. In May he transferred to the 105th Howitzer Battery of the 5th Field Artillery Brigade, and during the fighting at Pozières on 3 August displayed gallantry and self-sacrifice by mending and keeping open two lines of communications under constant enemy fire. For this action he was appointed bombardier on 23 August and awarded the Military Medal. Promoted corporal on 24 November 1916 and sergeant on 17 March 1917, Ewen won the Distinguished Conduct Medal at Bullecourt on 30 April for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. After heavy shell-fire had caused many casualties in his battery and wounded all the officers, he took command and completed the task of bringing the guns into position. In June he was sent to the Royal Artillery Cadet School at St John's Wood, London, and on 30 November was commissioned.

He arrived back in France in December 1917 and joined the 11th Battery of the 4th Field Artillery Brigade; he was promoted lieutenant on 28 February 1918. At Herleville in August he was in charge of the communications of an observation party when the forward observing officer was killed. Ewen immediately took his place, and for sending back valuable tactical information of enemy batteries engaging Australians holding a newly captured position, he received the Military Cross. The award of this honour made his combination of decorations for individual bravery extremely rare. Wounded on 3 October, he was evacuated to England and did not rejoin his unit until the end of March 1919. On 10 April he left for Australia and his A.I.F. appointment ended on 24 July.

On 30 October 1919 Ewen married Gladys Hamson at St Peter's Anglican Church, Neutral Bay, Sydney. He started a pest control business in Sydney about 1925 and later expanded into building renovations and contracting. He volunteered for service during World War II and in June 1941 was appointed to the militia field artillery in New South Wales as a temporary captain. He transferred to the A.I.F. in 1942 and was promoted captain in the 17th Australian Field Regiment in September. After great insistence he was sent to New Guinea, where he commanded the 53rd Battery with rank of major. He returned to Australia in 1943, serving in training appointments in Queensland, and was finally placed on the retired list in August 1951.

Ewen spent a period of time after the war re-establishing his building business, J. C. Ewen & Co., before returning to farming at Moss Vale. Survived by his wife, twin sons and two daughters, he died of cancer at the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, on 20 November 1951 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • London Gazette, 20 Oct 1916, 17 July 1917, 1 Feb 1919
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Nov 1951
  • records (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Chris Clark and Rex Clark, 'Ewen, John Carr (1892–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 12 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

John Ewen, n.d.

John Ewen, n.d.

Australian War Memorial

Life Summary [details]


25 October, 1892
Didsbury, Greater Manchester, England


20 November, 1951 (aged 59)
Concord, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.