John Bisdee was born at Hutton Park, Melton Mowbray, Tasmania on 28 September 1869. He was educated at The Hutchins School, Hobart and then worked on his father's property until he enlisted in 1900 as a trooper for service in the Boer War with the 159 Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen.

He sailed for South Africa on 26 April 1900 and served in the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal.

On 1 September 1900, Bisdee, with an advance scouting party, was ambushed and six of the eight men were wounded including two officers, Major Brooke and Lieutenant Wylly (q.v.).

Brooke's horse had bolted so Bisdee dismounted, put the officer on his own horse and led him to safety under heavy fire from the Boers.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry, the first gazetted to an Australian‑born soldier serving in an Australian unit.

He had been one of those wounded in the ambush and was invalided home but returned to South Africa as a Lieutenant in the 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen in March 1901.

After the war, he returned to his property, married the daughter of Bishop Hale and in 1906, joined the 12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Tasmanian Mounted Infantry.

In 1910 he was promoted to Captain and attended a course of instruction in India. In August 1913 he was given command of the 26 h Light Horse.

Bisdee joined the A.I.F. on 26 July, 1915 in the 12th Light Horse and, whilst serving in Egypt with a Composite Regiment was wounded and then posted as Assistant Provost Marshal at A.I.F. Headquarters in Cairo. He was promoted to Major and later to Lieutenant‑Colonel and appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in June 1919.

After the war, he returned to farming in Tasmania and he died at Melton Mowbray on 14 January 1930.

The Bisdee Memorial Cadet Efficiency Prize awarded annually at St.Virgil's College, Hobart is named in his honour.

Bro. John Hutton Bisdee was initiated on 6 January 1917 in the Bulwer Lodge No.1068, English Constitution, at Cairo.

He was passed to the Second Degree on 3 March 1917 and raised a Master Mason on 7 April 1917.

He resigned from the lodge on 31 December 1923 and there is no record of his having joined a lodge in Tasmania.


Information supplied from the book " Australian and New Zealand Freemasons and the Victoria Cros" by Grahame Cumminge PDGM UGL of NSW & ACT