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John Edward Fraser (1877–1934)

by Kevin J. Fewster

This article was published:

John Edward Fraser (1877-1934), clerk, soldier and company director, was born on 16 August 1877 in Sydney, son of Scottish-born Donald Fraser, accountant, and his Irish-born wife Margaret Jane, née Armstrong. He attended Fort Street School, then joined the Sydney glass merchants, James Sandy & Co., as a clerk.

In 1894 Fraser began a long association with the militia when he enlisted in the 1st Regiment, New South Wales Scottish Rifles, later attaining the rank of colour sergeant. He served as a private in the South African War from November 1899 to January 1901 with the New South Wales Infantry Contingent (later known as 'E' Squadron, 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles). The unit took part in the relief of Colesberg and the battles of Bloemfontein, Diamond Hill, Heidelberg, Elands River and Pretoria. He was awarded the Queen's South Africa medal. After the war he resumed work as a clerk and on 12 March 1902, at Waverley, Sydney, married Jessie Isabelle Ross with Presbyterian forms.

In 1906 Fraser transferred to the Australian Corps of Signals, Australian Military Forces (militia), as a company sergeant major and two years later was commissioned second lieutenant, rising to lieutenant in 1909. In 1911 he transferred to the Senior Cadets but in July 1913 rejoined the 24th Signal Company (Engineers) as captain in command. When war broke out he was mobilized for duty under the officer commanding Sydney Defended Port. On 11 August 1914 he was awarded the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal.

Fraser enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 22 March 1915 as a captain and brigade signal officer, 4th Light Horse Brigade. The unit embarked for Egypt on 31 May and was reorganized as part of the 2nd Australian Division Signal Company with Fraser second-in-command. Part of the company, led by Fraser, embarked for Gallipoli on 30 August on the transport Southland. On 2 September the ship was torpedoed but most of the men aboard were rescued by allied ships and landed at Anzac Cove on 4 September; there Fraser established the divisional signal office at Rest Gully and served at Gallipoli until the evacuation.

On 9 March 1916 he was appointed to command the 4th Division Signal Company and was promoted major on 1 May. Next month the company moved to France and assisted in all major divisional operations in 1916-18. Fraser was mentioned in dispatches in January and June 1917 and on 4 June was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. On 31 August 1918 he transferred to the Australian Engineer Training Depot (signal section) in Britain. He returned to Australia in June 1919 and was demobilized next month.

Back in civilian life, Fraser became a salesman and later a director of Glass Products Ltd, Sydney. He retained an active interest in military affairs through his association with ex-servicemen's clubs and as an officer in the A.M.F. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 31 March 1921 and commanded the 2nd Divisional (Signal Services) Australian Engineers until March 1927. In 1921 he was awarded the Volunteer Officers' Decoration.

Fraser suffered from diabetes. Survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter, he died at his Petersham home on 3 June 1934 and was buried in Waverley cemetery. At his funeral a wreath was dropped from an aeroplane on behalf of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, previously a signaller in Fraser's company.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • London Gazette, 1, 2 Jan, 4 June 1917
  • Reveille (Sydney), July 1934
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 5 June 1934
  • 2nd Australian Division Signal Company, AIF, A Brief History, M95, Box 7/4, (Australian War Memorial)
  • war diaries, 2nd, and 4th Australian Division Signal Company, AIF (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Kevin J. Fewster, 'Fraser, John Edward (1877–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 30 May 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

Life Summary [details]


16 August, 1877
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


3 June, 1934 (aged 56)
Petersham, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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