These are casual notes from my research on Henry Hammond. The formal account is in the body of the book.
This interesting piece spans two wars.
The original piece comes from the Boer War. The WW1 items are added later.
It is part of a collection of items for H.Hammond. It comes in a beautiful old tea caddy along with three photos - uninscribed - and a small prayer book with cherubs on the front.
The collection fascinates me. I know that the trench art will point to the war story of H.Hammond 771 ALH - but what about the other items? The only handwriting is the inscription within the prayer book 'Dear Gladys, With loving wishes from Her Mama’ and the date in a different hand and different ink ‘Jany 1. 1915’
So what can I find from these anonymous items - where the only clue is that they are relevant to H.Hammond 771 ALH?
I start with H.Hammond 771 in the CWGC.
Service No: 771
Date of Death: 07/08/1915
Regiment/Service: Australian Light Horse 2nd
Cemetery: Shrapnel Valley Cemetery
Additional Information: Son of Charles and Mary Hammond. Native of South Australia.
There is no official Boer War record for Henry Hammond in the Australian Archives - but his enlistment form shows he served with the Imperial Bushmen’s Corps until the Boer War ended in 1902. It’s likely that this is where he made the locket with the cutout Queen Victoria fob.
He signs up again for WW1. This is the story from his service records.
Henry Hammond enlists on 2 January 1915 in Blackall – a small town in outback Queensland. He is working as an overseer on a remote cattle station and is described as a drover on the Nominal Roll. He says he is 30 and single and gives his mother in Adelaide as his next of kin.
He joins the 2nd Light Horse and travels down to Brisbane to embark on the Itria for Egypt, where he spends several months in training. He goes AWOL in Heliopolis for three days and has his pay appropriately docked. In August he leaves Alexandria to join the Anzacs on the Gallipoli Peninsula, where he is killed in action a few weeks later. He is buried in Shrapnel Gully.
The story unravels as I look further into his file. He is 30 when he enlists in January 1915 - but 38 when he dies seven months later at ANZAC Cove.
And it appears he is married. After his death there is a letter from a woman called Helen Scott Hammond from South Australia who claims to be his wife.
I look for a marriage between 2 January 1915 when he enlists and 9 February when he embarks on the Itria - but find none. In fact South Australian records show that Henry Hammond marries Helen Scott in Adelaide in 1910 – five years before he enlists.
I check his enlistment form. Not only does he mark ‘Single’ for marital status - he crosses out the options of leaving one third or one half of his pay to a wife. And he names his mother in Adelaide as his next of kin. He signs the form in his own strong hand. So it is more than a slip of the pen.
Helen Scott Hammond is asked to show that she was in fact married to Henry Hammond and that they were not separated or divorced. She does this and goes on to claim a war widow’s pension of one pound a week from the time of his death. She receives his medals ahead of his mother whom he names as next of kin - with no challenge from his mother when they check with her. So she knows about Helen. When Helen dies intestate in 1947 with no children, the Public Trustee sends Henry Hammond’s medals to the Australian War Memorial.
So here’s the mystery. Why did Henry Hammond leave his wife and travel hundreds of miles to work on a remote cattle station? And then say he was single?
And who was Gladys, who gave him this small prayer book - a childhood gift from her Mama - the day before he enlisted in Blackall?
. . . . .
I look for clues in the most recent photo in the group. I assume this is Henry shortly before WW1 aged 37.
Once again it looks like a family photo. I go back to the South Australian archives.
Henry has three sisters - Olive Louise born 1880, Winifred Muriel born 1882, and Hilda Marjorie born 1887 - and a brother Roy born 1885.
Olive Louise marries a distant cousin Andrew Wilson in Adelaide in 1902.
I have a sudden insight. At last - something to tie the faraway outback town of Blackall to Adelaide. When Henry Hammond enlists in Blackall he gives his occupation as ‘overseer of cattle station’ and his contact as ‘Drew Wilson’.
I check the Queensland archives and find that Olive Louise and Andrew Wilson have two children born in Queensland - Joan Ayre born 1906 and Charles Frederick Dean born 1909. So when Henry Hammond enlists in 1915 he is staying with his sister and her family on a cattle station in Blackall. That could be Olive Louise with six-year-old Charles in the photo.
I look for the second child. Hilda Marjorie marries in 1910 and has a son Jack the following year in Adelaide - he could be the four-year-old with his mother Hilda and aunt Winifred.
So where are they? It’s a real ship - the shadows show it is not a studio photo. They could be travelling down the Queensland coast to see Henry off in Brisbane - but this is my part of the world and the clothes are all wrong. No-one wears coats in sub-tropical Brisbane in January - the height of summer.
I mentally retreat to Melbourne or Adelaide where the weather is famously variable - and go looking for Roy.
Roy Hammond is one of the first to enlist after war is declared in August - he enlists in the Australian Light Horse on 25 September 1914 in Brisbane. He’s a salesman for the Pianola Company. He gives his father as Charles Hammond of North Adelaide - and I think he goes back to Adelaide to see his family and tidy up his affairs before he embarks on HMAT Borda in Brisbane on 15 December 1914.
This is what I think happens. The family - including Olive Louise from Blackall - gathers in Adelaide in late 1914 to farewell Roy. Henry Hammond - veteran of the Boer War - also applies to join the Light Horse. But he is rejected - too old at 37. His younger brother Roy is accepted - he is only 28.
Veteran Henry Hammond devises an alternate path into the Light Horse. He decides to go to Queensland with his sister Olive Louise and take on a new identity. He drops 8 years from his age and becomes an overseer of a remote cattle property. He wants to join the Light Horse instead of the infantry - so on paper he becomes a drover. To maintain his new identity he needs to be a long way from people who know him - and he needs to be single to avoid any awkward questions.
I think the photo could be Henry leaving Adelaide for Queensland and his new adventure. He is buoyant. His sisters are a little excited at what lies ahead. Only his mother beside him is subdued. She has seen him go off to war once before.
I know this is conjecture - but it makes emotional sense. The trench art locket says that Henry Hammond still loves his wife. He didn’t desert her or run away with another woman. Inside the locket is a small smoothed coin - a 1915 halfpenny - which looks like real ‘trench art’ in that it could have been inscribed by hand in the trenches. It has a small crucifix painstakingly stippled on the reverse - and either side of the cross in hand drawn ovals are the initials H H - Helen and Henry.
And the small bone-covered prayer book from Gladys? I think this came from little Gladys Stacy who was born in 1910 - the year Henry and Helen were married. They may even have been her godparents. Perhaps her mother suggested she give it to her Uncle Henry to take with him to the war - and gave it to Olive Louise to give to Henry before he enlisted. Someone wrote 1 Jany 1915 in an adult hand under the original inscription, in a different ink. Henry enlisted the next day in Blackall.
So, a love story after all - of a trooper who fought with the Bushmen's Corps in the Boer War and lost his life at Gallipoli, who carried a locket and a small prayer book with cherubs on the front.