William (Bill) Henry Hunt

First Name: 
William
Middle Name: 
Henry
Last Name: 
Hunt
Alternate Spelling: 
Bill Hunt
Date of Birth: 
Friday, October 30, 1891
Mother's Name: 
Ellen Hunt (nee Broadbent)
Father's Name: 
George Charles Hunt
Date Enlisted: 
Friday, November 13, 1914
Rank at Enlistment: 
Private
Rank at Discharge: 
Private
Unit: 
13th Battalion
Company: 
2nd Reinforcement
Service: 
Infantry
Awards: 
1914/15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Date of Death: 
Friday, May 28, 1965
Place of Death: 
Concord Repatriation Hospital
Cause of Death: 
Congestive Cardiac Failure. Ischaemic Heart Disease
Details: 

William Henry Hunt (Service No 1347) was born on the 30th October, 1891, at Robbinsville near Bulli, later named Thirroul. He was the eldest son of George Charles Hunt (a coal miner) and Ellen Hunt (nee Broadbent) who was born in Queensland. William's grandfather John Thomas Hunt was born at The Cape of Good Hope. His grandmother was Ann Brown, the daughter of George Brown, from Shellharbour.

When he was an infant the family moved to Helensburgh; Bill's brothers and sisters - Thomas, Alice, Francis and Edith - were born there. They all attended school in Helensburgh, where the Mawson children were also educated.

When he grew old enough to work, he left home and lived in a boarding house, finding work as a labourer with his brother Tom. They lived in Walker Street and then Bulga Road, Helensburgh, with their brother Frank. Bill kept in close contact his other brothers & sisters as well.

Bill enlisted on 13 November, 1914, (service #1347) becoming one of the earliest Anzacs, & joined the13th Battalion. He was 23 years old. Bill sailed from Sydney on the HMAT Seang Bee A48 on 11th February 1915, disembarking at Lemnos for training. Bill took part in the first landing on Gallipoli on 25th April, 1915.

Bill’s brother Tom enlisted on 28th April 1915 and also went to Gallipoli although they did not see each other until the war ended. Tom developed pleurisy and was sent to hospital in August 1915.

Bill contracted dysentery on 19 May, 1915 and was taken from the front line, returning to the fighting on 20 June, 1915. The order came to take Hill 60. When the battalion was eventually relieved from the front line they were required to dig a huge tunnel so mules could carry supplies right up to the front and conserve manpower for fighting. They also dug wells in search of water. Everyone was very sick. The battalion got a rest in late September at Mudros, returning on 1 November, 1915. Bill was still in hospital and returned to his unit on 8 December, 1915. Then came the call to evacuate Gallipoli.

The battalion arrived at Lemnos and had some well-earned leave; after Christmas they headed for Ismailia, from whence they marched to Serapeum. They then headed to Alexandria for their trip to Marseilles by ship. On arrival the battalion caught a train north to Bailleul. They could hear the sound of guns firing in the distance & soon were on the Western Front. They were then moved on to the Somme. They caught a train to Candas and then made a long march to Domart, where they got new boots before marching to Warloy. They then proceeded to Brickfield;  here they were shelled out of their shelters and had to take refuge in trenches. Then it was back to digging and road making. Time came for them to advance & drive the Germans back. Every night they experienced heavy fire. Water was scarce as it was required for the machine guns and soldiers could not get through the enemy fire.  During the fighting one of Bill’s mates was shot in the head, the bullet going straight through his helmet, and he was killed. Bill took the helmet and put it on top of his; a short while later he was also shot in the head. The bullet went through his mate’s helmet and dented his own. One night when Bill was on guard he saw an enemy soldier coming towards him in the dark. He could not fire a shot because he would give away their position; instead he leapt out of the trench and stabbed the soldier with his bayonet. As he tried to withdraw it he realised he had stabbed a tree stump. He returned to his post and did not tell a soul.

On 11 August at Pozieres, during fierce fighting which included hand to hand combat, Bill was badly stabbed in the right arm with a bayonet, but remained fighting until the next day when the wounded managed to make their way back to the field ambulance. Bill was taken to the Rouen field hospital, his arm so badly damaged that he was out of the fighting for a while. He returned to his battalion on 5 September, 1916.  But on the 21 September, 1916, he was readmitted to hospital; he had bad nerve damage from his previous wound, leaving him with a paralysed digit finger, and was subsequently sent back to England. 

Bill returned home on the HMAT Ulysses, leaving Plymouth on 13 February, 1917. He arrived back in Australia and was discharged on 18 May, 1917. He received a pension of .25cents a fortnight for the loss of the function of his finger. Bill received the 1914/15 Medal, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal. At some point, Bill’s lost identity disks had been found and he was presumed dead. His sister fainted as she opened the door to him when he arrived home. On his return home he learned that his mother had died while he was fighting in France, and that his youngest brother, Francis Joseph, who was only 19, had enlisted on 13 March, 1917, and embarked to France on 10 May, 1917. His father had signed the papers giving him permission to enlist. On 2 June, 1918, Francis was gassed at Bussy Les Daours in the Somme and died on 12 June, 1918. 

After the war work was hard to find; being quite talented Bill & his brother Tom went for an audition at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney and got a job as a pair of song and dance men. The pay was not great so they were always looking to earn more. Bill met a man who was going to the bush to cut down trees for logging so he decided he would join him. He made quite a good bit of money, which he saved. Tom went into advertising and also did very well. When Bill came back to the city, he found that the government was offering training in the trades to returned soldiers and he decided to do a course as a hand car tyre maker - a vulcaniser - at Perdrios at Drummoyne, which later became Dunlop Perdrios.  While working there he met Mary Kelly when he rented a room her father (Tom Kelly) had advertised. Bill was then 26 years of age. The room was at Redfern above the Kelly's mixed business in Abercrombie Street. Bill and Mary became good friends and eventually fell in love. Bill applied for a loan and built a house at 50 Rawson Street, Lidcombe, and they were married in 1921. Mary’s father Tom sold the shop and he and his children Tom Jnr, Albert, Frank & Doreen moved into the Lidcombe house with Bill and Mary at Bill’s insistence.

At the age of 28, Bill & Mary's first child - a girl they named Enid - was born on 26th February, 1922.  He & Mary subsequently had 5 more children: Kathleen, on 4 December, 1923; Ronald, on 30th May, 1927; Joan, on 13 February 1932; Margaret on 16 January, 1937; Patricia in 1941 at St Margaret’s Hospital Sydney. 

During the Great Depression Bill lost his job. He tried hard to find work and did odd jobs to feed the family but he & Mary couldn’t keep up the payments to the War Service Homes, nor could many of the returned servicemen under this scheme. These veterans of Gallipolli & the Western Front were given eviction deadlines, & many had to leave. Around this time Bill saw a newspaper advertisement about 'arable' land near Wyong that returned servicemen could have for the payment of a leaf. Bill went up there but found the 'land' to be a swamp. He mentioned this to the bus driver, Tom Pearce, who was also an estate agent. He offered Bill a rent free house on the Tuggerah Lakes where the neighbouring farmers would help him to get started. The family subsequently settled in Kanwal, 5 miles out of Wyong. 

In March 1934, Mary’s father, Tom Kelly, died and was buried at Jilliby cemetery near Wyong. In February 1939, after a bushfire at Kanwal, in which Bill's War Service papers were lost, the family moved back to Sydney. Bill had difficulty getting work because of his injuries, so he decided to study nursing. He was employed as a nurse at Lidcombe Hospital and worked there for 17 years. Bill travelled all the way from Clovelly to Lidcombe taking a tram, a train and a bus. The family first lived at 99 St Thomas Street, Clovelly. They then moved to 79 Arden Street, Clovelly, followed by 89 Arden Street, Coogee. When World War 2 began Enid went to work in a munitions factory, while her husband Harry (Francis Henry Mawson, son of Francis Mawson) served with the 2/33rd Battalion; it was during this time Bill shared his experiences with her about the war. Kathleen joined the WAAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), and Margaret, at 21, sailed to America on 6 June, 1958, and settled in Vancouver.

Bill lived at 89 Arden Street, Coogee, until his death. He had always had problems with black outs as a result of the war, and had to carry identification with him so people could either get him home or call his wife, Mary, to come and get him. Bill passed away on 28 May, 1965, aged 74, and was buried in Rookwood Cemetery. Shortly after Bill’s death a man also named William Henry Hunt, from Junee, came looking for him, as during the war he kept getting his mail etc. They had both enlisted at Liverpool only days apart - their regimental numbers were 1345 and 1347 - and they left Sydney on the same ship. They both belonged to the 13th Battalion until William from Junee was wounded on 11/5/1915.

 

Sources: 
NAA: B2455; HUNT W H 1347; HUNT, William Henry

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