Henry Bert Hart
Christened Thomas Henry Bert Hart but known as Henry Bert Hart, “Bert” was the youngest child of Thomas Bond Hart and Julia Adams. He was born on 11 December 1885 in Molong. His siblings were Rachael, Ernest, Arthur, Julia Anne (Annie), Lavinia, Matilda (Till) and Frederick William.
His father Thomas came to Australia from Bedford, England, and married Julia Adams on 23 May 1870. Thomas Bond Hart began farming at “The Gap”, between Cumnock and Molong, in 1876. He died of pneumonia on 6 November 1886 when Bert was just 11 months old. His mother stayed on at the farm with the assistance of her brother, Edward Watson Adams. She set up shop by the roadside and sold farm produce and grocery items to the teamsters as they passed by. Julia married Fred Toole in 1889 and they had two children, Violet Ada and Richard Toole. Julia also died of pneumonia at her residence Walwayne, Anson Street, Orange, in 1911. She was buried in the Millthorpe Cemetery alongside her parents. Her sons, Fred and Bert Hart were then residing at “The Gap”.
Henry Bert Hart enlisted in the AIF on 26 October 1915, in Rockhampton, aged 29 years and ten months. He was single, a labourer, and nominated his sister, Mrs Annie (Julia Anne) Woods of Molong as his next of kin.
Bert’s medical examination states that he was 5 feet 10 inches tall, fair complexion, grey eyes, black curly hair and of Church of England religious denomination.
Molong Argus, 10 December 1915, p. 4:
Private Bert Hart, who has been on active service (and who has been on duty at Thursday Island), paid a visit to his sister, Mrs Alex Wood, of Belgrove, Amaroo, last Thursday. He is on final leave, and Mr and Mrs Wood took advantage of his presence to have a social evening at their residence. A goodly number of Amaroo friends assembled to do honor to the departing soldier, and a very pleasant time was spent by the guests …
Private Hart was made the recipient of several useful articles by a few of his friends, after which dancing was indulged in until 2 am, when the party broke up, after having had a most enjoyable evening.
On Friday evening Private Hart was presented with a sheepskin vest by Miss Williams on behalf of the Amaroo public. The function took place at the Public School. Short addresses were given by Messes Ford, McNamara and Williams, who wished the departing soldier God speed and good luck. A Balaclava cap and knitted socks were also given to Pte Hart by the school girls, after which he left by the mail train for Liverpool.
Bert embarked from Australia on 20 February 1916 from Sydney on HMAT Ulysses A38. The Ulysses departed Fremantle on 1 April 1916 with a total of 1,303 soldiers on board, made up of men from No 1, 2 and 3 Companies and 1st Reinforcements. The Ulysses sailed to Suez, Egypt, arriving on 22 April and departing 23 April. The ship then stopped over at Port Said and Alexandria, before continuing onto Valetta, Malta, arriving 30 April and departing 2 May. The Ulysses arrived at Marseilles, France on 5 May and the troops were detrained to Hazebrouck, France on 8 May 1916.
Shortly after arrival in France, attached to No 1 Company Mining Corps in Armentieres, Bert was charged with the offence of ‘disobedience of orders’ – being out of bounds on 26 May 1916 and had to forfeit two days’ pay. On 7 June 1916 he reported to a Field Hospital with mumps and on 10 June transferred to the 3rd NZ Field Ambulance. He was discharged back to duty on 9 July.
Bert was transferred to 1st Australian Tunnelling Comany (ATC) on 24 December 1916. On 9 March 1917 he was admitted to the 47th Divisional Rest Station with scabies and rejoined his unit on 13 March. On 12 May 1917 Bert was appointed Lance Corporal, while serving with 1 ATC.
On 22 October 1917 Bert was wounded in action with a gunshot wound to his left leg and on 24 October admitted to the 14th General Hospital and on the same day transferred by the Hospital Ship Princess Elizabeth to England. He was admitted to the Chatham Military Hospital on 25 October. On 2 November he was transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford.
Molong Argus, 1 March 1918, p. 1:
Mrs A Wood of Amaroo, is in receipt of the following letter from her brother, Private Bert Hart, who is “doing his bit” at the front – England, 25.12.17
Dear Annie, Just a few lines hoping to find you all well as this leaves me OK, and you will see by the menu inside what kind of a dinner we had in this camp (Xmas Day). It is like being in a new world being on this side of the Channel. I have had the time of my life these last few weeks and I will not like going back to Belgium again. I am marked active, so I will to the mark once more, and long before you get this letter, I will be back in the trenches once more. I will drop you a field card when I get on the other side.
I see where the Referendum was beaten in Australia. I am glad it was – for there are thousands of fit Australians on the staff in England who have never seen a shell blast yet, and never will, and yet there are a lot of men in the trenches who are not fit to be there. It is a disgrace the way things are run over here. There are very few of the boys who go to the line that voted ‘Yes’.
Do you ever hear from Fred?* I have not heard from him for a long time and what has become of Victor and Jack Puddlestone? I have not heard of their whereabouts for a long time. I have had no mail for about three months – I can’t make it out. I have written to the base, but can’t get a reply. It may turn up altogether when I get back to my unit.
Well, dear Annie, I hope you all had a merry Xmas. Remember me to all enquiring friends. Goodbye until we meet again.
[* Bert’s brother, Frederick William Hart, had been captured by the German Army on 20 July 1916 and was a Prisoner of War at Munster, Germany when Bert wrote this letter. His nephew, Alfred Victor Hart, had been captured on 26 September 1917 and was also a Prisoner of War.]
Bert had four months recovery time until proceeding back to France on 1 February 1918, and rejoining 1st Australian Tunnelling Company on 8 February 1918. He returned to Australia on Boonah, leaving London on 20 April 1919, was discharged from the AIF on 26 July 1919.
On Friday, 14 November 1919, Bert was one of thirteen local lads ‘Welcomed Home’ at Leary’s Hall, Cumnock, for ‘doing their bit for the Empire’. They were all presented with an inscribed gold medal. Medals were also provided for Privates Alfred Victor and Frederick William Hart, who were not present.
Bert married Catherine Agnes Dwyer in Glebe in 1920 and they had one son, Wallace John Hart, born in 1923. Henry and Catherine are recorded in the Australian Electoral Rolls for 1936, 1937 and 1943 as living at Orchard Hills, via Penrith, with Bert’s occupation listed as a farmer.
The family were involved in a car accident on the Western Road near Prospect on 20 November 1938 and Wallace, aged 16 years, died the same day from injuries received in the accident. His parents and four other occupants of the other car received minor injuries. He was buried at the Kingswood Cemetery in Penrith on 22 November 1938.
In the 1949 Electoral Rolls for Penrith, MacArthur, Henry and Catherine are listed as living at Adelaide Street and that Bert’s occupation was that of a Peace Officer. In the 1954 to 1963 Electoral Rolls, Henry and Catherine are listed as living at Bellevue Road with Henry’s occupation that of a Peace Officer. [Peace Officers were the early form of the Australian Federal Police, created through the Peace Officers Act 1925. In 1945 the Peace Officer Guard had 1,745 men and women deployed across Australia to provide a security presence at a range of critical infrastructure sites. New legislation saw a revised Commonwealth Police Act in 1957 and in 1960, Peace Officers became Commonwealth Police Officers.]
Catherine died in 1971 and Bert, aged 66 years, on 14 February 1972 in Penrith.
Henry Bert Hart is commemorated on the Molong and District Soldiers Memorial Roll of Honor, the Cumnock War Memorial Gates, the 1914-19 Honor Roll at the WE Agland Memorial Museum and St John’s Presbyterian Church Orange Honour Roll.
* Val McKenzie 2014
Cumnock NSW War Memorials