Rank: Private

Regimental Number: 3744

Place of Birth: Brisbane, Queensland

Address: C/- GPO Perth, Western Australia

Next of Kin: Father, Mr August John Snellman,
3 Mile Scrub Road, Ashgrove, Queensland

Enlistment Date: 9 October 1917

Unit Name: 49th Battalion, later 52nd Battalion

Date of Death: About September 1974

Cause of Death: Not Known. 88 years old

Place of Death: Hendon, Middlesex, England

Year of Photo: 1915

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Queenslander John Snellman was a designer and carpenter by trade. Personally, he was a dissenting idealist and an enthusiast with a burning desire to affect change. After being rejected from the AIF for varicose veins and the condition of his teeth, he sought entry into politics. Described as a forcible speaker, on 2 February 1915 he addressed a crowd on Perth’s Esplanade and shared his pamphlet “A Message of Hope” detailing his ambitious plan to build irrigation dams in the south west with the use of unemployed labour. Thereby dually improving water conservation in the wake of severe drought and relieving WA’s rising unemployment problem. Neither his acerbic delivery nor his pamphlet were well received and the next month he released a new pamphlet entitled “What’s Wrong with WA?”. His political aspirations shelved, he enlisted in the AIF once more in August 1915 and was this time accepted. While still in training at Blackboy Hill, he and his brother Alexander also a designer and in training in Brisbane invented a new kind of machine gun. John was so convinced of its superior design. He applied for discharge in October 1915 at the age of 29 around the time this photo was taken to work on it with Alexander. Their discharge was granted and they worked on their machine gun together for the next 18 months during which John also submitted a patent for a new style of clothes peg. Having drawn and basked in public attention before, when publicly accused of “not doing his bit” he hotly responded in the press with “I claim exemption… As you may be aware, I have a machine gun to build first. I would like you to know that I am doing my bit. Also that there is some prospect of its proving a bigger bit than would have been possible within the forces which I left with great reluctance…”. We don’t know the eventual fate of his machine gun but we do know he enlisted for a third time in Brisbane, Queensland in October 1917. He embarked from Sydney, New South Wales in May 1918 and joined the 49th Battalion in June. A few days later, he learnt Alexander had been killed in action on 24 April. He then absented himself without leave for a few days which cost him 24 days’ pay and three weeks in the field prison. On returning to the front he suffered accidental injuries to his back during bomb training which saw him invalided back to England for the closing months of the war.

Granted leave for December 1918 to explore business opportunities, he was subsequently and surprisingly discharged from the AIF on 28 January 1919 still in England - unsurprisingly, it was “in consequence of being disobedient". John remained in England and married Daisy Wortley in 1926. He worked periodically on his various patents for better dyes and during WWII better bomb sights and died there in 1974 aged 88