Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine - - Memories with Ivor Jon & Friends -

As we cel­e­brate the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War 1, I de­cided to take a break form Maisie Al­lan’s Story of grow­ing up in Aus­tralia and in this is­sue con­cen­trate on the story of a lar­rikin rogue who fought in the Aus­tralian Army at the West­ern Front at Flan­ders.

PRI­VATE JOHN (BAR­NEY) HINES was born Jo­hannes Heim in Liver­pool, Eng­land to Ger­man mi­grants. Liv­ing in a part of Liver­pool which was pre­dom­i­nantly Ir­ish he changed his name to Hines and told peo­ple that he was Ir­ish.

He was work­ing in a sawmill in Aus­tralia when World War I broke out in Au­gust 1914 ...... When he first en­listed in 1915 he claimed to be 28. He was in fact 42 and had been fend­ing for him­self for 30 years, as a sea­man, a labourer, a Boer War guide and other things all over the world.

The army dis­charged him af­ter a few months train­ing be­cause even a big, strong man couldn’t go to war with haem­or­rhoids. But he re-en­listed later in 1916. This time he said he was 36 and the au­thor­i­ties weren’t so choosy be­cause the West­ern Front was minc­ing up tens of thou­sands of men. He got to France as a 45th Bat­tal­ion re­in­force­ment in time for the slaugh­ter of 1917.

Once in France, the leg­end of this huge, pow­er­ful man who never showed fear, and was known by his nick­name of “Wild Eyes” be­gan ...... he gen­er­ally dis­dained con­ven­tional weapons such as his .303 ri­fle, pre­fer­ring to go into ac­tion with two sand­bags packed with Mills bombs ...... his com­mand­ing of­fi­cer had a brain wave and gave him a Lewis gun, which was an im­me­di­ate suc­cess. Hines was en­tranced by its spray­ing ef­fect and an­nounced in his broad Liver­pudlian ac­cent: “This thing’ll do me. You can hose the bas­tards down.”

Hines seemed to re­duce bru­tal com­bat to a sort of macabre sport. “Sou­venir­ing” Ger­man loot was maybe a way of keep­ing score, a log­i­cal thing to do in a place with no logic, where men lived mis­er­ably and died ter­ri­bly and at ran­dom.

Hines’ most au­da­cious act was to charge a Ger­man pill box, dance on top of it then throw two “Mills bombs” (early hand grenades) through the gun slits. Af­ter the smoke cleared, he cap­tured the 63 shaken Ger­mans who sur­vived the blasts and came out with their hands up. Later the same day, he went back into the field and “knocked out” a Ger­man ma­chine­gun post. He pre­ferred to leave his ri­fle be­hind and make solo raids lug­ging two bags stuffed full of “bombs”. The bags came in handy for bring­ing back loot.

Hines “found” a grand­fa­ther clock and put it in a dugout un­til his own troops blew it to pieces be­cause the chimes gave away their po­si­tion. An­other time he re­turned from Amiens with suit­cases full of French francs, ap­par­ently “found” in a bank. British mil­i­tary po­lice ar­rested him but he caused so much trou­ble he was re­turned to his unit. In Ar­men­tieres he came across a keg of beer which he started to roll to­wards the bat­tal­ion ..... he was stopped by mil­i­tary po­lice and told not to go any fur­ther with it ..... un­fazed, Hines left the keg and went ahead to round up fel­low Dig­gers who re­turned to drink it on the spot.

He killed and cap­tured dozens of Ger­mans be­cause he was good at it and he robbed them be­cause he needed the money. He’d had his pay docked so of­ten for brawl­ing, drink­ing and go­ing ab­sent with­out leave that he was ef­fec­tively fight­ing for noth­ing. In civil­ian life he could have made the ideal stan­dover man or rogue cop, with a pis­tol in his belt, a roll of cash in his pocket and the sort of fear­less­ness that’s im­pos­si­ble to fake. His fame spread be­yond his own bat­tal­ion as sto­ries of his ex­ploits passed along the lines.

At Pass­chen­daele, a shell burst killed ev­ery man in his Lewis gun crew. Hines was thrown 20 me­tres, had the soles ripped from his boots but still man­aged to crawl back and keep fir­ing un­til he fainted from his wounds. Af­ter he re­cov­ered in hos­pi­tal he re­turned, to be wounded again and gassed.

He was sent back to Aus­tralia a month be­fore the Armistice and dis­charged in 1919. He went back to do­ing the best he could – drov­ing, prospect­ing and tim­ber cut­ting – but in the 1930s was camp­ing in a hes­sian humpy on the west­ern out­skirts of Syd­ney. His old army mates took up a col­lec­tion to help him but peace didn’t suit the old war dog.

When a new war broke out in 1939 he tried to join up again, aged 66, but this time he couldn’t fib his way in. “Bar­ney” died broke in 1958 at 85. Now, he looks like a can­di­date to be a be­lated Aussie hero ex­cept for one prob­lem. He was born and bred in Liver­pool and didn’t reach Aus­tralia un­til he was in his 30s.

The sto­ries lasted as long as his gen­er­a­tion of Dig­gers did. When they died out, so did the leg­end. “Wild Eyes” wasn’t as ro­man­tic as “Simp­son” and his don­key. He wasn’t of­fi­cer ma­te­rial and con­tem­po­rary war his­to­ri­ans and cor­re­spon­dents weren’t go­ing to praise such a vul­gar char­ac­ter. They didn’t give medals to men like him.

Don’t for­get to con­trib­ute your mem­o­ries and also any old pho­to­graphs that you would like to see pub­lished in this mag­a­zine’s “AS WE WERE” sec­tion.

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