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By Marg Powel & Des Crump | 21 February 2020

Indigenous Australian, Joseph SINN, 25th Infantry Battalion

Joe SINN, the son of John and Minnie Sinn (nee McGuinn), from Gayndah, enlisted to serve for his country in August 1915 while troops were still engaged in operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Joe left Brisbane aboard HMAT Ionus in December 1915 bound for Egypt. Troops at this time were being readied for service at training camps along the Suez Canal, and his battalion embarked for France just weeks after he arrived, landing at the port of Marseilles on 27 March 1916.

From Marseilles, they were transported by train to northern France where they would begin their active service in the front lines. The battalion took part in its first major battle at Pozieres in July 1916 and it was here on the 29th July, during a mid-night attack that Joe was reported missing.

The Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau were asked to make enquiries as to his fate, and Private William Korn, also from Gayndah informed them that Joe Sinn, while attempting to return to the lines that night had been hit by a shell and buried.

Red Cross file, Joe Sinn

Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau files 1914-18 War, Private Joseph Bruce Sinn. Australian War Memorial, Accession no. RCDIG1058294

Miss Rose Ann Cordwell, the head teacher at Airy Park School, Bundaberg, wrote to the authorities enquiring about Joseph Sinn in 1916. Three of her own brothers John, Joseph & William Cordwell had enlisted, two at the same time as Joe Sinn, sadly all of them died.

Letter card

Letter-card sent by Rose Ann Cordwell to Military Base Records, Melbourne, 10 November 1916.

Joe Cordwell had initially been assigned to the same battalion as Joe Sinn but was transferred to the 47th in March 1916, and died of wounds, just a few weeks after his mate - John Cordwell died of wounds a year later, in July 1917 and his twin brother William Cordwell died after illness in 1915, before he was able to embark.

Joseph and Cordwell

Joseph and John Cordwell, The Queenslander Pictorial

A military court of enquiry later determined that Joe Sinn had been killed in action during that operation, and notified his next of kin of their findings. With no known place of burial, Joe’s service is commemorated at the Australian National Memorial within Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, erected to remember all Australian soldiers who fought in the region whose graves are not known.

Further reading ...

Soldier portraits ...

The information in this blog post has been researched by State Library staff and volunteers, it is based on available information at this time. If you have more information that you would like to share or further research uncovers new findings, this post will be updated.


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