John McDonald Baillie

Sergeant John McDonald Baillie was killed in action at Armentières on Monday 8th January 1917, aged 48. His regimental number was 400 and he served in B Company 39th Battalion Australian Infantry, Australian Imperial Force

Born about 1869 in Rogart, Sutherland, John Emigrated to Australia aged 20, His parents were John and Jean Baillie, and his wife was Elizabeth Baillie (nee Pidd) of Johnston Street, St Kilda, Victoria, Australia. John’s wife Elizabeth was born 12 October 1874 in Queensland, Australia; they had married on 12 May 1891 and had 4 children together.

Service Record

Service record shows Sergeant number 618 then renumbered 400, appears to have been reduced to private on enlistment and with B Coy 23rd (Depot) Batt, promoted again to Sergeant 01/05/1916,
Embarked on “A.11. ASCANIUS” from Melbourne 27.5.16 to Davenport 18.7.16

Admitted Brigade Field Hospital, Camp 5 Larkhill sick 29.9.16, transferred Fargo Hospital due to Fever at Larkhill 29.9.16-06.10.16.


Enlistment date & place: 01/11/1916 Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Description on Enlistment: Age: 44 years and 11 months, Height: 5 feet 7¼ inches, Weight: 144 ¼ lbs, Chest measurements 37¼ – 39¼ inches, Complexion: Fresh, Eyes: Blue, Hair: Brown, Religious denomination: Presby. Distinctive marks: Face & Left arm – Scar on left of head, small red spots on chest & right side and also on back.
His profession was described as Gardener.
Previous Service: 3 year Highland Rifle Volunteers and 11 years as a Sergeant No, 618 with 34th Fortress Company Royal Engineers, Australia.
Proceeded overseas from Southampton, England to France 23.11.16

His legacy

Date of Death:         Killed in action Armentières on Monday 8th January 1917 Age 48
Burial/Memorial: Plot 4 Row C Grave 36, Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentières, France.
Grave Inscription:               “A BRITISH GENTLEMAN”

Widow listed as Elizabeth Baillie, Daughter Ethel J. Baillie, Son John C. Baillie and Daughter, Olive E. Baillie. address for family – 71 Spensley St, Clifton Hill, Victoria, Australia (Later moved to Johnston St, East St Kilda).
Memorial plaque returned and re issued due to misspelling of surname 15.01.1923 Ref no 315399.

Medal Index Card: Not found but Service record shows British War Medal received by Elizabeth 22.03.1923 and Victory Medal also received by her 28.09.1922.

Soldiers personal effects: Elizabeth granted 53/9 per fortnight as from 26.03.17, Ethel granted 8/-, John granted 20/- and Olive granted 15/-.

Items returned

Wallet, Battalion Colours, small tooth comb, steel mirror, photos, post cards, salve in tin, comb (broken), corkscrew, comb in case, pocket knife, spectacles in case (damaged), mirror (broken), 2 rubbers, pince-nez in case, electric battery (damaged), housewife, identity disc, handkerchief, compass in case, metal wrist watch and strap, metal watch cover, money belt, pieces of gauze, note book, jack knife, 3 pencils, letters, boot laces, key and booklet.

Battalion’s Story

The 39th Battalion was first formed on 21 February 1916 at the Ballarat Showgrounds, in Victoria, for service during World War I. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rankine, the battalion was raised as part of an expansion of the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) that took place at the conclusion of the Gallipoli Campaign. the majority of the battalion’s recruits came from the Western District of Victoria, and together with the 37th, 38th and 40th Battalions, it formed the 10th Brigade, which was part of the 3rd Division. Following a brief period of training in Ballarat, the 39th Battalion marched through Melbourne on 15 May as the city fare-welled the unit and they subsequently embarked upon HMAT Ascanius on 27 May 1916, bound for the United Kingdom. Sailing via Cape Town, the battalion landed at Plymouth on 18 July 1916, and moved by train to Amesbury, before marching to Larkhill on Salisbury Plain, where they undertook a period of four months training before being sent to France in November. After completing the Channel crossing on 23rd-24th November, they landed at Le Havre and moved to the front by train. On the night of 10 December, the battalion took its place in the trenches along the Western Front, relieving its sister battalion, the 37th, around Houplines in the Armentieres sector. They remained at the front for the next week, as part of their introduction to trench warfare, during which time the battalion repelled a small German raid and sent out patrols into no man’s land.

Burial and Memorial

John McDonald Baillie was buried in Plot 4 Row C Grave 36, Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentières, France. He is commemorated at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery and Rogart War Memorial.

Plot 4 Row C Grave 36

Grateful thanks to Alasdair Will for his meticulous research.