John Hancox

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John Hancox
John Hancox - Soldier Egypt 1915.jpg John Hancox - Soldier Egypt 1915.jpg
Hancox in Egypt, 1915
Born28 February 1888 (1888-02-28)
Sheffield, Tasmania, Australia
💀Died19 May 1915 (1915-05-20) (aged 27)
Gallipoli, Turkey19 May 1915 (1915-05-20) (aged 27)
💼 Occupation
👩 Spouse(s)None
👶 ChildrenNone
👴 👵 Parent(s)John Hancox (Snr) and Sarah Jane Hancox (née Bannon)

John Hancox (February 1888 – May 1915) was an Australian soldier born in Sheffield, Tasmania. A farmer, Hancox volunteered to serve in the First Australian Imperial Force in the 12 Battalion (C Company) on 18 August 1914, just two weeks after the start of Australia's involvement in World War I. After training in Egypt, Lance Corporal Hancox's battalion was assigned to the Gallipoli Campaign in Turkey as a part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). The 12th Battalion was one of the first to go ashore at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. Hancox survived the initial landing battle, however he was killed in action on 19 May 1915. He is buried at the Shell Green Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey.

The unique decoration of Hancox's original gravesite, completed during the battle at Gallipoli, has come to symbolise the respect and camaraderie that Australian soldiers have for their colleagues during times of war. Hancox is featured in numerous books detailing the Gallipoli Campaign.


Early life and Family History[edit]

John Hancox aged 24 - June 1912 Burnie

Hancox was born in Sheffield, Tasmania on 28 February 1888.[1] He attended a local state school and his religion was Roman Catholic. He had six sisters and three brothers. An older sister named Florence Ethel Hancox died, aged 11, in an accident on the way home from school in 1896 when Hancox was 8 years old.[2]

The family lived and farmed in the Sheffield area prior to moving to Table Cape in 1905, where they continued farming (potatoes, general livestock, horses). The family moved again in 1910 to the Ridgley area in Tasmania. Hancox listed his occupation as a farmer and his home as Ridgley.

Hancox joined the Tasmanian Rangers in c. 1912. The Tasmanian Rangers were an unpaid volunteer unit in Tasmania's north-west that prior to the Federation of Australia had been called the 3rd Battalion of the Tasmanian Infantry Regiment. The Tasmanian Rangers were later amalgamated with other volunteer units to become the Royal Tasmania Regiment.

World War I[edit]

12th Battalion Parade Hobart October 1914

World War I commenced on 28 July 1914 and Australia's involvement began on 4 August 1914 when Britain declared war on Germany. Hancox enlisted just two weeks later on 18 August 1914 when he joined the 12th Australian Infantry Battalion, Company C, First Australian Imperial Force.[3]

A military parade took place on 5 October 1914 through the streets of Hobart following a public appeal to support the troops. The parade included Hancox's 12th Battalion.[4]

Hancox was appointed to the rank of Lance Corporal on 12 October 1914.

Hancox's Battalion embarked from Hobart, Tasmania, on board HMAT Geelong on 20 October 1914. Following a stop in Albany, the HMAT Geelong left Australia on 1 November with the convoy of 48 Australian and New Zealand ships. The Japanese, who were allies in WWI, provided the battlecruiser Ibuki to protect the convoy.[5] It had been expected that the troops would be travelling to England for further training, however the convoy was redirected to a new training camp to be developed in Egypt. Having passed through the Suez Canal, the 12th Battalion arrived at Alexandria, Egypt on 2 December 1915. From there the 12th Regiment travelled to the Mena Camp close to the base of the Giza Pyramids to train with the 9th,10th, and 11th Battalions that made up the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division. While in Egypt the 1st Division was formally assigned to the newly created Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

In early April 1915 the Anzac Corps received orders that it was to be directed to the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. The 1st Division initially travelled to Lemnos, which is around 60 kilometres from Gallipoli. On 24 April 1915 the 12th Battalion left Lemnos heading for the Gallipoli Peninsular.

Death and afterward[edit]

John Hancox ANZAC Original Grave 1915

John Hancox was killed in action on 19 May 1915 at Gallipoli. He was 27 years old. He was buried at "Artillery Road East Cemetery", which was described as "... about 1100 yards SSW of Anzac Cove."[6]

Hancox had been well liked and respected by his fellow soldiers. The impact of his death on the morale of the soldiers close to him has been referenced by two authors on the Gallipoli Campaign, Newton (1925), and Dando-Collins (2012). His grave-site was uniquely decorated by fellow soldiers during the battle as a sign of respect. The photograph is included in the collection by the Australian War Memorial and in the book “Where Anzacs Sleep...” Austin (2006).

In April 1923 Hancox's father was advised that his son's remains were exhumed and re-interred in the Shell Green Cemetery, Gallipoli, where they currently remain in Grave No 21.[7] Shell Green was the location of a cricket match held in the midst of battle on 17 December 2015 to distract the Turks from the subsequent troop withdrawal.

Hancox's personal effects of a wallet, gospel, testament, rosary, watch (damaged), 2 pocket-books, 1 purse, coins, letters,and 1 'disc' were returned to John Hancox (Snr) in February/March 2016. The estate of Hancox was inherited by John Hancox (Snr) in November 1915.

Honours, decorations, awards and distinctions[edit]

Hancox received the following medals for his service:

  • 1914-15 Star,
  • British War Medal,
  • Victory Medal

Australian convict past[edit]

Hancox's grandparents were Edward and Catherine (née Stewart) Hancox. They were both convicts who met and married in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) in 1854[8] after being sentenced to transportation from Great Britain for 'housebreaking and stealing' and 'assault and robbery' respectively. They had four children including Hancox's father John Hancox (Snr).[9] John Hancox (Snr), born 1858, was placed in the care of the "Queens Orphan School" (Feb 1863) [10] while Edward and Catherine were in gaol for 'absconding' and 'receiving stolen goods'. Hancox's father married Sarah Jane Hancox (née Bannon) in 1882.[11] Sarah was the daughter of an Australian convict called William Bannon and his wife Harriet Bannon (née Shattock).

See also[edit]

  • World War I
  • Gallipoli Campaign
  • William Bannon
  • Royal Tasmania Regiment


John Hancox is referred to in the following books:

  • Milne, Christine (2017). An Activist Life. London: University of Queensland Press. Search this book on Logo.png
  • Dando-Collins, Stephen (2012). Crack Hardy: from Gallipoli to Flanders to the Somme, the True Story of Three Australian Brothers at War. Vintage Books. Search this book on Logo.png
  • Austin & Duffy, Ronald, Jack (2006). Where Anzacs Sleep: the Gallipoli Photos of Captain Jack Duffy, 8th Battalion. Slouch Hat Publications. Search this book on Logo.png
  • Newton, L.M. (1925). The Story of the Twelfth: A Record of the 12th Battalion, A. I. F. During the Great War of 1914-1918. Slouch Hat Publications. Search this book on Logo.png

John Hancox is referenced in the following newspaper articles:

John Hancox is included on the following websites:


  1. "Births in the District of Sheffield" Tasmania Libraries: RGD33/1/67 p361j2k
  2. "Death" The North West Post 11 July 1896 p2
  3. "HANCOX John" Series:B2455 National Archives of Australia
  4. "Tasmania. The Tasmanian Contingent", The Mecury 03 October pg 5
  5. “Dig Deeper - the first convoy; Australian War Memorial
  6. "HANCOX John" Series:B2455 page 22. National Archives of Australia
  7.,-john/#&gid=null&pid=1 "Grave Registration Report" Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  8. "Marriage Permissions" Libraries Tasmania:CON52-1-7p49
  9. "Application for Queens Orphanage" Libraries Tasmania:SWD26-1-6p69
  10. Tasmania. Parliament. Legislative Council (1863).Journals of the Legislative Council, Volume 13 Page 85.
  11. "Marriages" Libraries Tasmania: resource RGD33-1-36p184j2k

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