Soldier Profile – John Bermingham

John Bermingham, pre-war (Courtesy Darren Bermingham)

John Bermingham, pre-war, 1900 (Courtesy Darren Bermingham)

Born in Young in 1879, John Bermingham grew up in the peaceful surroundings of country New South Wales.  He soon showed a strong aptitude for working with machines, and eventually gained considerable expertise and employment in the field of mechanical engineering. With wife Sarah, daughters Annie and Edith, and sons Martin and Harry, the family settled in Narromine before the war.

Perhaps feeling that family duties outweighed those of King and Empire, John resisted the notion of joining up when war broke out in August 1914. Yet like so many others following the failure of the Gallipoli campaign and the resulting heavy losses, by early 1916 he had made his mind up to go and ‘do his bit’. Travelling to Cootamundra, the 36-year-old Bermingham enlisted in the AIF in March 1916 (No. 2128), and was allotted to the 4th Reinforcements for the 56th Battalion. By the end of April he was learning the routine and drill at the recruit training depot at Goulburn. The 4th Reinforcements, numbering around 150 men, left Sydney in early September aboard HMAT A15 Port Sydney. They arrived in the UK at the end of October and were immediately sent for a stint with the 14th Training Battalion at Hurdcott near Salisbury.

John in uniform.  Undated but probably prior to going overseas.

John in uniform, winter 1916.













Bermingham finally joined the 56th Battalion in France as a private, just prior to Christmas 1916 as one of the coldest winters in memory set in. Put into C Company, he apparently was present for all the battalion’s major battles during 1917, including Louverval (April), Bullecourt (May) and Polygon Wood (September). It was at Bullecourt on 15 May that John was wounded in the face by shrapnel and badly concussed during the intense German bombardment. Yet he recovered quickly, rejoining the battalion a week later.

After surviving the terrible conditions in the mud at Passchendaele, Bermingham went into a rest camp late in the year and soon afterwards received some much-needed treatment on his dentures. Then in January 1918 he suffered a bout of stomatitis; a painful inflammation of the mouth or gums often caused by poor dental hygiene. Following his recovery, John’s medical problems were then compounded by terrible knee pain that set in around April. A court of inquiry found that he was he suffering from chronic synovitis and there was no suspicion of self injury.  This was routine, since malingering was rife during the war and soldiers were very inventive in creating self-inflicted conditions to get themselves away from the front.  But John had had problems with his legs ever since they had both been broken a few years before the war and the court was satisfied there was nothing suspect in this case.

Perhaps due to warmer weather in the summer and benefiting from a prolonged rest, John eventually recovered from his knee troubles, and remarkably, was well enough to rejoin the battalion by the end of August. Days later, on 2 September, the 56th Battalion went into action at Peronne, one of their biggest and last battles of the war. During the successful attack on this key town on the Somme, the battalion suffered heavy casualties, including almost fifty dead. One of those killed was John Bermingham. While no official account of what happened has survived, John’s son Martin apparently heard from one of his father’s comrades after the war. This man, an eye-witness it seemed, said that Bermingham had initially been wounded in the leg by a shell. Unfortunately as his comrades were then carrying him to safety, he was shot through the head by a sniper and killed outright.

Today John Bermingham rests in peace at Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension.  Of course he is also commemorated on the Australian War Memorial’s Roll of Honour.  Lest we forget.

1JB headstone2

2128 Private J Bermingham. 56th Bn Australian Inf. 2 September 1918.

* Many thanks to John’s great-grandson, Darren Bermingham for providing additional information and the photographs.


7 Responses to “Soldier Profile – John Bermingham”

  1. Raymond Bermingham Says:

    Thanks Craig for the great profile on my Grandfather John Bermingham but he was born in 1879 in Young, I have his birth certificate.

    Editor’s response: Okay thanks Raymond, I’ve corrected this now. I was previously going by his attestation form on which he gave his age as 32 years and 9 months. He probably thought he’d have a better chance of getting in if he put his age down a bit.


  2. Darren Bermingham Says:

    Hi Craig,
    I just like to take this opportunity to thank you once again for the brilliant profile you’ve done on my great grand father, it really is appreciated from me, my father and the rest of the Bermingham Clan. Future generations can look back at this website and see some of the heroes that went through hell, that fought and died horrific deaths. Its people like yourself and the AWM that will keep their spirit alive and well. Thank You

    Darren Bermingham

    • kevin Casey Says:


      I am descended from the O’Loughlans. McNamaras,Berminghams, Kildeas and Caseys from County Clare and have done extensive research into these families including the Berminghams. I would be interested in sharing family history details with you.

      Kevin Casey

  3. Raymond Bermingham Says:

    The pic of my Grandfather John Bermingham in uniform is Winter 1916.

  4. Raymond Bermingham Says:

    The first picture of my Grandfather John Bermingham pre war is 1900.

  5. martin birmingham Says:

    my grandfather martin birmingham of dewsbury england b 1896 was wounded in battle in france and also subject to terrible gas and chemical attacks. after he recovered, against advice he bravely and unselfishly went back over to france and was trampled by an horse pulling a large gun causing skull and facial fractures in another battle. he did not ever really recover from the latter and he died aged fourty in 1936 after 18 years of shocking illness and pain from 1918 till his death. he was a strapping footballer before he volunteered and weighed less than 5 stone at his death

  6. Margaret Troy Says:

    Hi Craig,
    I too would like to thank you for the great profile, John Bermingham is my great granandfather as well, I am one of Annie’s granddaughters. I will pass this web site onto our side of the family.
    PS it apperars we all have the same photos of him

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