Note from Kerrie
I had a Grandfather, Uncles and distant Cousins, serve in WWI, including Great Great Uncle “Harry” Hicks, aka Captain Henry Thomas Hicks Jnr of the 34th Battalion of the AIF, who served in France and Belgium on the Western Front. There was also Uncle Harry’s older brother, Great Great Uncle George, aka Captain George Hicks, served at Gallipoli and in the Middle East with the 5th Lighthorse Regiment/2nd Lighthorse Battalion. In some ways, in the past decades, Uncle George’s military career had overshadowed that of his younger brother, Uncle Harry, perhaps not altogether surprising, as Uncle George had also been in the Boer War, as well as WWI. However in researching the story of Uncle Harry, I found that Uncle Harry’s WWI military career, as he was promoted from Second Lieutenant to full Lieutenant and to Captain in the 34th Battalion on the Western Front in Europe, was far from insignificant.
Lately, some in our Thirroul community have reflected on how many of the town’s sons would have left from the Thirroul Railway Station in those WWI years. I knew that some had joined the Waratahs marching on foot up to Sydney, but a lot must have gone by train as well. And later returned to their hometown of Thirroul, by the train and alighting near the now threatened Station buildings on the Eastern Platforms. Home from the horrors of WWI, but not the 22 remembered for their sacrifice on the Thirroul War Memorial. So fitting then, that our town’s Memorial is right beside the Thirroul Railway Station. Sadly now our community is deeply shocked with the moves afoot by Railcorp, to demolish the buildings on the eastern platforms at the Thirroul Railway Station – and just as we approach the Centenary of WWI.
And perhaps my Uncle Harry Hicks could well have been one of those who left by train from Thirroul, while older brother Uncle George enlisted from his adopted home of Murwillumbah. 15 years earlier, Uncle George had been given a hero’s welcome from the Thirroul Railway Station gates, when he had returned intact from the Boer War in July 1901. Uncle George, was a professional soldier who rose through the ranks from the Boer War years, returning for Gallipoli in WWI and the Middle East – becoming a Captain in the 2nd Lighthorse Battalion. Fortunately nearly all of my relatives returned from the WWI battlefields fairly intact, though many suffered significant injuries.
Uncle Harry came from a political family – lobbying and leading for 50 years at least since the 1860’s -his grandfather James Hicks, his father former North Illawarra Council Alderman Captain Henry Thomas Hicks JP (Reference list), older brother Alex Hicks who was a Mayor of the North Illawarra Council and President of the Illawarra Colliery Employees Association, and politically active relatives such as his Uncle Benjamin Broadhead on the Northern District Coalfields of the Hunter.
If Uncle George Hicks was the “professional soldier” brother, and Uncle Alex Hicks was the “political brother”, then in the pre WWI years, Uncle Harry Hicks was more the “sportsman brother” – in Soccer, Surf Lifesaving, Pigeon Racing and Shooting. But also often in a role of Leading – President, Committee Member, and Instructional Staff of the Thirroul Reserve Rifles pre WWI.
I had seen old newspaper articles of Harry Hicks playing soccer for Thirroul in 1896, but otherwise I knew little of Harry and how he fitted into my Hicks family, and I wasn’t really clear that he was one the five brothers of my great grandmother, Edith Florence Joy (nee Hicks). And I hadn’t put together that Harry Hicks, Thirroul Soccer Player, was the face behind the name “HT Hicks”, on the Thirroul War Memorial, a project championed by Thirroul icon, Grannie Riach.
So who was Harry Hicks ?
Harry Hicks lived at 17 Station St Thirroul at the Glen Roy Bungalow with his wife Eva Kate and two children, Elsie E Hicks and Henry Marshall Hicks, when he enlisted in the AIF in WWI in 1916 at 39 years of age. Long time Thirroul identity, Dorothy Sefton, widow of Alan Sefton, shared with me that originally Glen Roy had been built on Nos. 15-17 Station St Thirroul. Apparently at some point the house had been moved onto No.17, and No. 15 had been subdivided off, ie where her home of many years is located. I hadn’t realised that Uncle Harry Hicks had lived at Glen Roy Bungalow, until Thirroul historian Dr Joe Davis shared the story of Glen Roy Bungalow (2) with me – see photograph below from Joe Davis’ article.
Joe in fact has uncovered quite a deal of information about my Hicks and Callcott families over the last 25 years, for which my family are very grateful. Coincidentally Glen Roy Bungalow was owned by a colleague of mine, Alice Cartan, and like me, Alice was a former Councillor for Ward 1 on Wollongong City Council. However, at the time I visited at her Glen Roy Bungalow home, I was unaware of its connection with my Hicks family members.
I also discovered that Harry’s daughter-in-law Coral Hicks nee Douglas had contributed to the Illawarra Family History Group’s Illawarra Pioneers Pre 1920 – and from there I made contact with Harry’s grandchildren, my Hicks’ cousins – though of which degree is too confusing to work out – they are simply my Hicks’ cousins. I would like to acknowledge the information and photographs that they shared with me – helping me to uncover the “real story” of Harry and Eva Kate Hicks, the owners of the Glen Roy Bungalow from before the WWI years.
A Brief Time at Joadja Creek – Perhaps the Joadja Creek Shale Oil Mines ?
In 1898 Harry married Eva Kate Bottomley in Newtown, and for a brief few years, Harry, must have left Thirroul, as daughter Elsie E Hicks’ birthplace is listed as Joadja Creek, near Mittagong and Berrima on the NSW Southern Highlands, south west of Sydney. So what had attracted young Harry Hicks, and wife Eva Kate to Joadja Creek in 1898 ? These days it seems more like a ghost town but in the 19th Century, things were different but still I wonder … what a place for a young woman to give birth to her first child, well away from family support ? … The following is taken from the “100 Year Story of Shale Mining in Joadja“.
“In 1893 things still seemed to be flourishing at Joadja and an evening school was announced. However by mid 1894 the Depression’s effects were being felt, and so the once 400 strong workforce had dwindled to only one caretaker. But by 1896, things had been looking up again and the Mittagong Ironworks was being re-started, although 30 men got their notice at Joadja Creek Shale Mine that year – and in 1897 things didn’t sound any more promising.
Shale Oil production from Joadja in 1898 was 5486 tons, compared with the 23,000 tons of 1884. And Shale Oil mines at Hartley, Joadja and Jenolan districts employed a total of 246 men across these districts in 1898, where once over 400 men were employed at Joadja alone – the industry was described as tapering off.
So perhaps no surprise that in 1899 there was industrial disputation between the miners and management at Joadja, and by October 1899 the Shale Mine had shut down throwing 70 men out of work, some of whom had worked there for 15-20 years. Within a few weeks the issue was resolved and by the end of October 1899 the Joadja Shale Mine had re-opened.
In 1900 the Post Office had closed and the Masonic Lodge had been amalgamated with another. There seemed to be a cycle of opening and closing of the Joadja Mine, in 1901 it was re-opening after several years of closure; in 1903 a permanent closure of Joadja Shale Mine was announced. ”
Back to Thirroul and a Move to Coal Mining from Shale Oil Mining ?
By 1900, Uncle Harry Hicks was back in the Northern Illawarra working as a coal miner at Bulli (Old Bulli ?) mine, where in June 1900, he sustained a works injury, a broken leg, and was under the care of a Dr Clifton Sturt. However he recovered well enough to later play British Association Rules Football, aka Soccer, for a South Coast side in 1904 – 1905 against Metropolitan and Newcastle, plus was in a South Coast squad that played New Zealand in 1905.
Sadly there was a stillborn child as well. At the 1901 census, Harry’s father Henry Thomas Hicks was listed as having 15 persons in his household – 11 females and 4 males. It is uncertain where Harry, Eva Kate and their daughter Elsie Hicks were living at this time, but quite possibly they were at the Mt Gilead family farm in Thirroul off Phillips St ?
1907 saw the birth of Henry Marshall Hicks, the only son of Harry and Eva Kate Hicks. It was also the year that Harry became a delegate of the Illawarra Colliery Employees Association for the North Bulli Colliery, and his older brother Alex Hicks was President of the Association. And in 1908 Harry passed his Mines Engine Drivers Licence under Mines Inspection Competency Act of 1901. Although members of Harry’s extended family still tell the story to this day of how the Hicks family were none too pleased with North Illawarra Colliery for not paying all the due payments. These payments were for the lease for the Coal Tramway Rail line that ran down to Hicks Point (Headlands) over the Hicks family land in Austinmer, Such stories have been best remembered by Ian McKenzie Callcott, grandson of Harry’s younger sister Edith Florence Joy (nee Hicks).
In 1909, Harry’s father Captain Henry Thomas Hicks JP, passed away, and in his Will, he named sons Harry Hicks and older brother Alex Hicks as Executors of his Estate, describing both as Miners. It is not known when Uncle Harry gave up mining.
Uncle Harry Hicks the Sportsman
Harry seems to have continued his enthusiasm for Soccer (known in the past as British Association and Association Rules) well beyond 1896. Not only did he play for Thirroul, but he was in the Representative in the South Coast British Association Sides playing against Metropolitan, Newcastle and New Zealand of 1904-1905 according to the Illawarra Soccer Association’s Honour Roll. It’s nice to know that the broken leg of 1900, didn’t stop Harry from playing Soccer and representing the South Coast side on various occasions. Note – A century later and the Hicks’ family passion for Soccer remains – Harry’s great great great niece Katrina has played for the Thirroul Junior Soccer Club, with her father David Christian being both a Team Coach and a Team Manager. And Katrina’s Uncle Daryl Adams, a nephew of Harry, had also played for Thirroul Junior Soccer Club in the early 1970’s around 1971.
I knew that another Great Uncle, Victor Farraher, had been President of the Thirroul Surf Lifesaving Club in 1935-37. Then when checking his details in the “The Blue & White Wave – Centenary History of the Thirroul Surf Club“, I discovered that Uncle Harry Hicks had been there before him as Thirroul Surf Club President in 1909-1910. It also appeared that a cousin J McEwen had been Club Captain in the same period. There were no details recorded for 1910-11 and 1911-12, so it is uncertain whether Uncle Harry and his cousin served for more than one term. Though usually the President served for several years at least. Decades later Harry’s great nephew Kenneth William Joy, and sons Grant and Mark, have long been active in the Northern Illawarra Surf Clubs, first Thirroul and later Bulli. Grant Joy has become a longstanding President of the Bulli Surf Lifesaving Club, including at the time of the Club’s Centenary in 2013. And of course the Club’s Centenary History is being written up by Northern Illawarra historian, Dr Joe Davis … and I had no idea of this until the project was almost completed.
By 1911, Harry had also taken up Pigeon Racing and became a Committee Member for the Thirroul Homing Pigeon Society for 1911 and 1912. Fifty to sixty years later his great great nephew, Daryl Adams, also a Thirroul son, took up Pigeon Racing, and only recently has slowed down his involvement in the sport.
Military Service – Pre WWI and the WWI Years
Some time around 1909, Harry had joined “G” Company (Thirroul) St Georges E.R. Regiment – according to his enlistment papers for WWI and also became part of CMF Instructional Staff. Harry is possibly in the photograph below, second row and 4th from the left.
Uncle Harry’s WWI Military Service was spent time in France and Belgium on the Western Front, where he was wounded in action – plus at various military training schools in England, presumably doing some instructing as well as training.
By July 31 1951, Henry “Harry” Thomas Hicks Jnr qualified as a 2nd Lieutenant by competitive examination. And on February 23 1916, he enlisted in 34th Battalion of AIF. The 34th Battalion was part of the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Division of the AIF – a predominantly Maitland based Battalion – however as an Officer, Harry would have been allocated to where there was the need, rather than being with soldiers from the same town. Although recently long time Illawarra heritage expert Steve Dillon shared with me that many of the Thirroul sons in WWI also ended up in France.
- click here for a Diary of the 34th Battalion,
- click here for a Record of the 34th Battalion
- click here for other Collection items relating to the 34th Battalion
- click here for the Australian War Memorial On-line exhibition of 1918 : Australian in France
- click here for the Australian War Memorial WWI Official History 1914-1918 online – edited by Charles Bean
The details on his enlistment paperwork ? Harry gave his birthplace as Bulli, aged 39 years. His occupation was soldier, citing 4 years with St George Rifles and 5 6/12 years as CMF Instructional Staff S M and then currently serving, but with no civilian employment (mining) given. Next of kin was wife Eva Kate Hicks who was living at Glen Roy (Station St ) Thirroul. His declaration was made on 25.4.1916, the first anniversary of ANZAC Day – and the first time that April 25 was officially proclaimed as ANZAC Day.
By the end of the War, Harry’s record of service would grow to 74 pages in length – by comparison, older brother George Hicks’ WWI record was less than 40 pages.
On August 1 1916 – Henry Thomas Hicks Jnr had been promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to full Lieutenant, which was ante-dated by three months to May 1 1916 – also Volunteers Register. Unfortunately on September 25 1916.9, Harry sustained a Fracture (foot?) during bayonet assault training exercise jumping from a truck and was admitted to the Officers Hospital. After his recovery, Harry sailed on November 22 1916 to France from Southampton, and moved into the trenches of the Western Front, just in time for the onset of the terrible winter of 1916-17 – and was possibly part of the Hindenburg Line activities.
In April 1917, Harry’s record shows him in Boulogne, France ie part of the Western Front. The following month in May 1917 he was back in England, a Brisbane Courier newspaper report on May 1st 1917 lists Lieutenant HT Hicks Thirroul as Ill, sadly others are listed as killed in action, missing, wounded, and some also ill. Harry returned to the Western Front on May 28 1917 via Havre in France and was still in France in June 1917. On June 18 1917 Harry was promoted to Captain “to complete establishment” – and was possibly present at the Battle of Messines.
However it is uncertain if he was there at the time of the Ypres Sector in Belgium in mid 1917. Also uncertain if he was in the field at Passchendaele with his Battalion during October 1917, where there was a disastrous defeat and over 50 percent of casualties for the 34th Battalion– a battlefield deluged with rain creating a battlefield of mud. By April 20 1918, Harry was back to Havre France – he had missed the attack on Hangward Wood in March 1918. However he was most likely part of the major activity which defeated a major enemy drive on Villers Bretonneux – the last great German offensive.
From July 27 1918 Harry was detached to Army Infantry School, before leaving for France on August 7 1918 where he was possibly present at the battle of Amiens and also the Battle of St Quentin Canal. He had rejoined his 34th Battalion by August 17 1918, but was wounded in action around August 23-24 1918 in France on the Western Front. Initially he was admitted to the L of C Hospital in France before being evacuated to England on August 26 1918, and admitted to Hospital in England on August 27 1918. Harry’s wife Eva was advised on September 9 1918 that her husband had “mild” gunshot wounds to head, cheek, left shoulder in Rouen France. A little over a week later Eva was advised that her husband Harry had been sent to England with ”mild” gunshot wounds to head, cheek, left shoulder.
In mid October 1918 (1918.10.18) Harry was discharged from Hospital and by November 1918 was back in France on the Western Front. Once again he was wounded in action – around November 22-25 1918. He resumed his duties arriving in Boulogne France on December 3 1918, no doubt facing another harsh European winter in France on the Western Front.
On April 8 1919, Harry finally embarked for the return to Australia. And on ANZAC Day, 25 April 1919 he’d disembarked in Australia- thus missing the April 25 1919 Victory Parade in London. By May 1919 the 34th Battalion was disbanded – and on July 10 1919 Harry’s service with the AIF was terminated. From the 1920’s ANZAC Day would be established as a National Day of Commemoration – with the Dawn Service starting out in various places from ANZAC Day 1918, but on a larger scale in Sydney from 1927.
The Australian War Memorial record of the 34th Battalion does state that its members were gassed. However, despite Uncle Harry’s 74 page WWI War Service Record being incredibly detailed, it does not seem to list him as being gassed during WWI. And according to his grandson Ian, Harry Hicks was gassed in WWI and this impacted the health of his grandfather Harry Hicks in later life.
Click here for a Diary of Harry’s 34th Battalion.
WWI – Citations listed in Harry’s WWI War Service Record – 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal
Captain Henry Thomas “Harry” Hicks WWI Medals
Post WWI Years.
So Harry Hicks was one of the relatively more fortunate, in that he returned to his wife Eva Kate, daughter Elsie and son Henry Marshall, and to their home, Glen Roy Bungalow 17 Station St just a short walk from the Thirroul Railway Station. And of course, he also returned to his mother, Mary Ann Hicks of “Everest”, Seaview Terrace Thirroul. There would be 22 of his fellow townsmen who would not make the return journey to the Thirroul Railway Station.
Post WWI, despite the health impacts of his years on the Western Front, life began to return to normal, including with his daughter Elsie’s marriage to Robert Rankin in 1921. Although it is uncertain if he ever returned to the local coal mines. And his son Henry Marshall Hicks began a Carpentry career, becoming a building construction supervisor in the business of Harry’s brother-in-law Arthur Webb, ie AF Webb, a major Building Contractor business which carried out construction projects across NSW for Government projects and also for the private sector. Arthur, who had married Harry’s youngest sister Ida “Jummy” McKenzie Hicks in 1912, was the nephew of Thirroul identities, Albert Frederick Webb and Daniel Webb – his father being their brother Frederick Webb. (Note – nearly 80 years later, Harry’s great great nephew Gavin, a great great grandson of his sister Edith Joy (nee Hicks), would also take up Construction Engineering at Newcastle University and work in London, Sydney and Perth).
Moving to Cronulla
Around 1940, Harry and Eva Hicks moved to the Sutherland Shire, where son Henry Marshall “Harry” Hicks was living with his new bride Coral Gwen Douglas. Son “Harry” (Henry Marshall) had built a new home for his parents Harry and Eva Kate in the Shire. However unfortunately Eva’s health deteriorated in the years following, and she passed away in 1944. Her husband Harry, described as a retired Military Officer, followed her just several years later, passing away on December 17 1946, and is buried at the Woronora Cemetery. Son “Harry” (Henry Marshall) and his wife Coral Hicks would provide his parents Harry and Eva Kate with a grandson and a granddaughter. The family of Harry Eva Kate’s son continue to live in the Sutherland Shire.
A detailed Reference Index for Captain HT “Harry” Hicks can be found here on the Hicks Family Website.