Amah Singh A.I.F.  –  WWI

Amah Singh A.I.F. – WWI

©Len Kenna & Crystal Jordan 2015.

Amah or Ahmar SINGH (Aka John James Lawrence or Laurence and Ahmar Gaga Singh)[1] stated on official records that he was the son of Arthur Laurence, a Sea Captain and Catherine Spencer and that he was born in Cornwall and, or, Liverpool, England, UK in about 1881. There is a record of a Soldier named Mr. Armah Singh, aged 34 years, who travelled from New Zealand, on the “Ruapehu” to London, and arrived in London on the 9th August 1912.[2] 

Using the assumed name, John Lawrence, Ahmar Singh enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Kaniva, Victoria on the 17th November 1915 as a Private, in the 5th Reinforcements, 29th Infantry Battalion and his Regimental Number was No: 2799, he stated that he was a widower, his occupation was a Seaman and his age was 34 years and 1 month. He also stated that he had been in the American Navy for 7 years.[3] He named his son George Lawrence as his next of kin.

After he enlisted he was stationed at the Broadmeadows Camp, Victoria and later transferred to Geelong. On the 14th March 1916 he embarked at Melbourne on the Troopship “Anchises” bound for the Middle East with the 5th Reinforcements, 29th Battalion, 8th Brigade. Some of his service records during World War One seem to be missing from the National Archives.  During his time in the A.I.F. his rank was; Corporal 31 December 1916 England, Temporary Sergeant 8th Infantry Training Battalion 1 January – 23 January 1917, Corporal 24 January 1917, and on 5th March on Permanent Cadre 8th Infantry Training.  On his enlistment papers it was noted that Armah had a tattoo on his right forearm.

He was returned to Australia on the Troop Transport “Euripides” on the 21 July 1917, because he was diagnosed with defective vision, and disembarked in Melbourne on the 18 September. He was discharged as medically unfit from the army on 14 November 1917 and awarded the British War Medal 1914-1918.[4]

In 1931 John James Lawrence lived at 163 King Street, Melbourne and signed a statutory declaration, “that he was working on the wharf as a Stevesdore and had lost his A.I.F. badge.”  In a letter to the Government Base Records in Canberra in 1944, John James Lawrence stated, “that he had served as a Sergeant in the 29th Battalion in Egypt, England and the other side of the Suez Canal and that he started using the name John James Lawrence when he came to Australia. His correct name was Ahmar Singh and that he was known by that name to the Repatriation Department.”

He marched in several Anzac Day Parades.[5] The information with the photo below dated March 1945 states he was 100.[6] In 1948 when he marched in the Anzac Day Parade and stated he was born in Nepal 115 years ago (Note: this calculates as 1833 for his birth date). He said, “he had been in the Nepal Munity 1845, Khyber pass 1850-54, Lucknow 1854-56, Afghan, Ashandi, Khartoum, Omdurman, Burma, Makara, First Zulu War, South African War and World War One.”  At that time he was wearing two DSO Ribbons, one of which he said he had won 80 years before.[7]  He also wore seven rows of ribbons and a Major’s Crown on his Turban.[8] Another claim made by Armah Singh was that he had served in 18 wars and because of his wounds he was treated for his injuries with 197 stitches.

His real age is a mystery. Although he had the physique of a man of 60 or 70 years of age he was reported to be 100 years of age when he was admitted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with acute appendicitis, in January 1945, and was considered by the doctors as too old for an operation. In 1947 he was reported to be 114 years of age. [9]

There are many reports of him being a Pundit and a Foreseer of Future Events eg: when he predicted the coming of the Comet in Melbourne in 1947.[10] He also boasted of having 15 wives[11] and 50 children.[12]   Armah Singh was living at 165 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy when he died of tuberculosis on the 1st  September 1949, his age was listed as 78 years of age on his death certificate. He was cremated at the Fawkner Cemetery, Victoria. Ahmar Singh was survived by his children listed on his death certificate; George Arthur from his first marriage and Eric James, John Francis, Edna Winifred, Phyllis Marion, Dulcie Melva and Donald Bradman from his marriage to his wife Florence Higgins whom he married in 1917.[13] In his last will and testament, Pandit Ahmar Singh left his entire estate to the St. Laurence Trust Pty. Ltd., for the Brotherhood of St. Laurence.[14]

[1] “It’s Done By Meditation.” The Scone Advocate NSW Wed 31 Dec 1947.
[2] Singh, Armah, Mr. “Ruapehu” Shipping Records 1912.
[3] American Navy. (Note: this has not yet been confirmed. Could a person who was not a natural born American join the U.S.A. Navy at that time?).
[4] NAA: B2455, Lawrence John.
[5] “Ahmar Singh Claiming to be 115 years of age.” Truth Brisbane Qld Sun. 2 May 1948.
[6] Laurence, John, Death Certificate Reg: No: 10033, Victoria.
[7] “Veteran Of 1845 In Anzac March. Melbourne.
[7] “Ahmar Singh Claiming 115 Year of age.” Western Star & Roma Advertiser Toowoomba Qld. 2 May 1948.
[9] “How Ahmar Singh Foretold the Comet.” Western Star & Roma Advertiser Toowoomba Qld.19 Dec.1947.
[10] Ibid.
[11] “15 Time Wed…” The Daily News Perth WA Wed 31 Jan 1945.
[12] “Seer was a Dad at 110.” Mirror Perth WA Sat 17 Jan 1948.
[13] Laurence, Jno., Marriage Certificate Reg: No: 9384,  Victoria.
[14] “Estate Left to Brotherhood.” The Age Melbourne Vic Wed. 19 Oct. 1949.

Photo Caption: “OLDEST SUBSCRIBER TO THE THIRD VICTORY LOAN made an advance subscription at a Lonsdale Street warehouse yesterday. Ahmar Singh, an Indian, who declares he will be 100 on May 6, stopped work long enough to sign up with Mr. W, Bond, of the War Loan Office.” The Argus Melbourne Vic Thu. 1 Mar. 1945 p. 9.

©Len Kenna & Crystal Jordan 2015