John was the second child and elder son of William and Hannah Ahern. He was born in 1887 at Inverell where his father ran the Oxford Hotel. After spending his early years in Inverell, John attended St Joseph’s School at Hunter’s Hill in Sydney. When he enlisted in July 1916, John was working as Manager of the Kings Cross Hotel in William Street, Darlinghurst NSW. At this time he was a twenty eight year old single man.
He became a member of the 29th Battalion, 11th Reinforcement and sailed from Sydney on HMAT A19 Afric in November 1916. After a voyage of sixty six days the Battalion arrived in England on 9 January 1917. Within a fortnight John was ill with pleurisy and admitted to Hospital for 10 days. His battalion undertook further training until going to France in March, joining the 5th Australian Division at Etaples. He was sick again in May and after a month’s treatment rejoined his unit. During the Battle of Polygon Wood on 26 September 1917, John was Killed in Action.
Private John Ahern is one of many soldiers who have no known grave. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres, Belgium. His few personal effects consisting of a wallet, photo, religious book and religious medallion were returned to his Mother. John’s sister Rita also enlisted during the War. She nursed in Egypt and for sixteen months in Salonika before returning to Australia due to ill health.
Photo: provided by relatives