John Hague (Jack) HEUSTON

HEUSTON , John Hague

Service Number: 925
Enlisted: 21 August 1914, Bendigo, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 7th Infantry Battalion
Born: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, June 1888
Home Town: White Hills, Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: White Hills State School, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Gardener
Died: Natural causes (short illness), Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, 1 May 1919
Cemetery: White Hills Cemetery, Bendigo
Section Mon H2, Grave 17123
Memorials: White Hills Arch of Triumph
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World War 1 Service

21 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 925, Bendigo, Victoria
19 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 925, 7th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
19 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 925, 7th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Melbourne
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 925, 7th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
25 Jul 1916: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, SN 925, 7th Infantry Battalion

Help us honour John Hague Heuston 's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

925 Pte. John (Jack) Hague Heuston

Under the article heading of SOLDIERS’ LETTERS, the Bendigo Advertiser reported the following on Tuesday 16 November, 1915 –

PRIVATE J H HEUSTON MEETS A BENDIGO NURSE IN LONDON HOSPITAL

By the evening mail last Friday, Mr. and Mrs. W H Heuston, White Hills, received a letter from their son, Private Jack Heuston of the 7th Battalion. The soldier has apparently, in addition to his severe attack of rheumatics, of which the Defence department sent word, received two wounds on the arm and in the shoulder. So far, no official notification of the wounds has been received by the parents, letters from their son being the only information so far. It is believed, judging by the way Private Heuston says he is improving, that a letter from him has miscarried. At the time of writing (7th October) he was in the Tooting Military Hospital, Church Lane, Tooting S. W London.

He said:—

"I don't suppose I'll be home before the Christmas. More than likely I will be sent home. My arm is doing splendid. I have had two operations on my shoulder and now I am beginning to feel my own self again. There are very few left of our old boys now. 'Pompy'* told me when he came on Wednesday, visiting day. He also said it was hard to find any of the boys in hospital, because there are so few of them left to be found. He told me I was looking thin, but not so bad as when I left the trenches. I am now 8 st. 9 lb. Well, mother, don't worry over me for I am getting better now.I have been in two hospitals, and I got a very pleasant surprise when sent to this place. It is staffed with Australian nurses, and one of them is a nurse from the Bendigo Hospital. Sister K Laity. We had a long talk about Bendigo. I get the 'Bendigoian' every fortnight from a Bendigo lass, (Miss McWilliams, daughter of Mr. McWillams, mining merchant of Long Gullly, who has been living in London about five years. She said she knew me, but that I had altered since she left Bendigo. She has visited me every Sunday and Wednesday since I've been here. I have a splendid time on visiting days in the garden. There is always a very large crowd to see the boys, especially the strangers from Australia, because they are far from home. We get plenty to eat and drink and smoke, but I haven't smoked for six months now.”  In conclusion Private Heuston desired to be remembered to all friends.

*The Pompey that visitied Jack was the famous Battalion Commanding Officer, Howard 'Pompey' Elliot. CB, CMG, DSO, & DCM. He also was evacuated sick in August, 1915 from the beaches of Gallipoli which is why he is visiting Jack. He would return to Gallipoli and the western front and win many accolades for his outstanding service.  

Jack Heuston enlisted on August 21, 1914 just a few weeks after war had been declared in Europe. He was of the first of the White Hills lads to sign on.

After some confusion on the spelling of Jack’s surname, which was incorrectly inserted as ‘Hueston’ on his enlistment paper and caused some confusion at the Base Records Office, the mistake would finally be corrected on official paperwork in February 1916, after clarification from his family.

Jack signs on for the ‘Overseas Expeditionary Force’ as it was known in this early stage of war recruitment with their destination largely unknown. At this stage, war in Europe was evolving and Turkey had not yet formerly entered the war till November 4, 1914 when Britain and allies declared war in the Ottoman empire.

In 1915, Jack is single, twenty six years of age, he lists his occupation as a ‘gardener’ and NOK (Nearest of Kin) his father Mr William Henry Heuston of 13 Plumridge st, White Hills. (His younger brother (William) would join the Railway Corp a year later and his brother-in-law Herbert Felstead who married Jack’s sister Elizabeth, would enlist just a month later in the 14th Battalion.)

Jack is enlisted into 7th Battalion which was completely recruited from the state of Victoria and formed part of the 2nd Brigade. The 7th Battalion was among the first units raised, forming less than a fortnight after the declaration of war. Recruitment was conducted over a period of three weeks and by the end of the period the process had been so successful that the battalion was over establishment.  (source - wikipedia- 7th Battalion AIF) 

After training at Broadmeadows, in September the battalion marched through the city of Melbourne and a fortnight later they embarked upon HMT Hororata bound for the Middle East.They arrived in Egypt on 2 December 1914 after which they undertook further training before being called to undertake defensive duties along the Suez Canal following the failed Turkish First Suez Offensive in February 1915. (source - wikipedia- 7th Battalion AIF) 

In early April, the battalion was moved to Alexandria and from there on to Lemnos Island. On the morning of 25 April 1915, the battalion took part in the Landing at Anzac Cove, coming ashore as part of the second wave. (Source – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7th_Battalion_(Australia)

The 7th Battalion got off to a bad start at Gallipoli.  On the left of the second wave, its boats landed near Fisherman's Hut to the north of North Beach.  Unfortunately for them, a Turkish defended locality was nearby and overlooked their landing point; the boats were caught in a hail of accurate machine gun fire which inflicted heavy casualties. A number of the boats drifted off the beach full of dead and wounded.  A total of 5 officers and 179 men were lost during and immediately after the landing. This was higher than any other subsequent battle that the battalion fought during the war.     (Source – RSL Virtual Memorial website)

On 29 April, the 2nd Brigade was relieved by the 12th Battalion and in early May the battalion was able to reorganise itself after its baptism of fire. The respite did not last long, however, for only ten days after the landing at Anzac Cove, the 2nd Brigade was transferred to Cape Helles in order to take part in an attack on Krithia on 8 May 1915. The attack was a very costly failure, with the battalion losing a further six officers and 87 men killed. Nevertheless, they were involved in what is believed to be the first brigade-level attack conducted by an Australian force against an entrenched enemy  and the attack earned the Victorians many plaudits. (Source – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7th_Battalion_(Australia)

After the attack the battalion was given a weeks rest at Cape Helles, where it received a number of reinforcements before being sent back to the lodgement at Anzac Cove, where a stalemate situation had developed. In an effort to break this deadlock, the Allies launched an offensive in August and the battalion took part in the Battle of Lone Pine. (Source – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7th_Battalion_(Australia)

We know that Jack survives the deadly cliffs of Gallipoli at least into June when we read in the Bendigoian newspaper a letter from Sgt W James also from the 7th Battalion who hails from Leongatha and has a brother in Bendigo. He writes of his narrow escapes and that ‘Jack Heuston is alright’.  (see document attached)

The first recording in Jack’s file is on August 24, 1914 shows Jack embarking on S.S Canada from the port of Mudros, on the Greek Island of Lemnos. Mudros was used as an evacuation point for sick and wounded Allied soldiers with Jack being treated at the 1st Australian Clearing Station. (see attached photo)

On arrival in England, Jack would initially be admitted to the St George Hospital, on Hyde Park corner in London and would spend all of September 1914, there. From here he would be transferred to the Tooting Military Hospital in South West London where he writes the above letter. (see attached newspaper article) He would spend six weeks here before being transferred to the Royal Mineral Water Hospital at the ancient Roman town of Bath in England. The hospital is still in operation today and still performs treatment similar to what Jack recieved. (source – Photo & Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_National_Hospital_for_Rheumatic_Diseases) Jack would spend another 7 weeks here at Bath with the Doctors noting ‘no apparent improvement’ before the Medical Board would finally declare he was ‘Fit for home service back in Australia for 3 months’.

With limited or no information back in White Hills on Jack’s whereabouts, Jack’s parents would draft the local Member of Parliament into make enquiries on their behalf with the Defence Department. (Source - The Bendigoian Newspaper, January 24, 1916)

In response to frequents inquiries to the Defence department, Mr and Mrs W. H Heuston of White Hills are finally informed that their son, Private J. Heuston was in hospital at Bath, suffering from rheumatism. Before they get an official reply, jack's parents would receive a letter from him, written from the Monte Video camp, Weymouth, England. (Source - see attached article in Bendigo Independent newspaper)

After treatment for Rheumatism and wounds at three different hospitals over a period of 6 months in England, Jack is sent to Australian Base Camp at the southern seaside town of Weymouth on February 10, 1916. He would join many other Gallipoli survivors, sick and wounded men who stay at the relative new AIF command depot which is set up at Monte Video House in Chickerell, some two miles from Weymouth. Weymouth became the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) Command Depot No.2 which accommodated those men not expected to be fit for duty within six months, therefore, most of the Diggers repatriated as a result of wounds or sickness passed through Weymouth.   During the years 1915-1919 over 120,000 Australian and New Zealand troops passed through Weymouth. In Spring & Summer, Weymouth Esplanade would be full of Anzac soldiers in wheelchairs, being wheeled along by their more able mates. (source - http://weymouthanzacs.moonfruit.com/the-camps/4575540279

On March 17, 1916 Jack would eventually leave England from the Isle of Portland docks off the southern coast on HMAT A11 Ascanius for home. His ship would arrive on the April 30,1916.He would be met by family at the Port Melbourne, spend a couple of days in hospital in Melbourne before being able to take the train to Bendigo on May 2nd, 1916. 

 The Bendigo Independent Newspaper would report on Tueday May 9, 1916

“The White Hills Public Hall was crowded to standing last night by an Enthusiastic audience, eager to do honor to Private Jack Heuston, the first of the local soldiers to return from active service. The hall was decorated with the flags of the Allied nations. A huge Union Jack was stretched across the front of the building, and bore the word, "Anzac." As Private Heuston came limping into the hall on the arm of his mother and brother he was vociferously applauded. A home tone was given to the proceedings at the outset by the school children, under Mr. E. A Whitelock, singing Kipling's "Recessional," the first verse being sung before the curtain was drawn. A very fine programme of musical items were submitted by the following:-  including a tableau, depicting the well-known recruiting poster, "Come and Give Us a Spell”, arranged by Mr I. Stuckenscht, brought an enjoyable programme to a close. The various characters in this number were well sustained by Private Jack Heuston as the wounded soldier, Private Jack Pocock (also a White Hills boy in camp), as "his comrade, and Miss Elva Brown as a Red Cross nurse. The latter is an additional character to the original, but is certainly an acquisition.  The Chairman spoke in the very highest terms not only of the guest of the evening but of all the heroes who have gone from Australia in defence of home and country. They heartily welcomed him home, and trusted that he would soon be back to normal health. Tributes we're also paid to his parents. The chairman, in extending a welcome on behalf of the residents, presented Private Heuston with a gold medal, manufactured by Messrs. Prescott and Dawe, which bore the inscription on the front, "Anzac”. J.H. 2/5/16," and on the back, "Presented to J. Heuston on his return from active service. From White Hills residents" . At the- same time he handed him an illuminated letter of welcome, beautifully executed, headed with the Australian Coat of Arms. It read; "For Home, for honor and for right. To Pte, Jack Heuston, on his return from active service in defence of home and country abroad. Enlisted August 18, 1914; returned May 2,1916.

Having voluntarily responded to the call of your King and Country, and heroically and nobly done your part in the great European War against the tyranny and military oppression of a ruthless foe, we, the residents of White Hills, desire to: express our admiration of your- zeal, valor and patriotism, our appreciation of your services, and our gratitude to the Almighty for your safe return.                          

Welcome Home Committee.

Before dispersing the  chairman asked any members of the 38th Battalion who are leaving next week, and of which there were good many present, to come forward. The Rev. Matthews and Mr. Hyett then, in a few words, wished them God speed and a safe return".

Jack's health did not return, he died on May 1,1919 and was buried at White Hills Cemetery, Victoria.

Private John Hague (Jack) Heuston is remembered by the people of White Hills. The names of the local lads who sacrificed their lives and those that were fortunate to return from the Great War are shown on the embossed copper plaques on the White Hills Arch of Triumph, at the entrance to the White Hills Botanic Gardens. 

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