Sir Ivor Henry Thomas HELE CBE

HELE, Ivor Henry Thomas

Service Numbers: SX700092, SX7174
Enlisted: 29 June 1940, Adelaide, SA
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: Australian Ancillary Unit Korea
Born: Edwardstown, South Australia, 13 June 1912
Home Town: Aldinga, Onkaparinga, South Australia
Schooling: Prince Alfred College and Adelaide School of Arts and Craft
Occupation: Artist
Died: Natural causes, Aldinga, South Australia, 2 December 1993, aged 81 years
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
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World War 2 Service

29 Jun 1940: Involvement Lieutenant, SN SX700092
29 Jun 1940: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN SX7174, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, Middle East / Mediterranean Theatre
29 Jun 1940: Enlisted Private, SN SX7174, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, Adelaide, SA
30 Jun 1940: Involvement Private, SN SX7174, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW2
8 Jan 1941: Promoted Captain
4 Feb 1947: Discharged Lieutenant, SN SX7174, Military Historical Section HQ, Official War artist - attached to a range of units and headquarters in the Middle East, New Guinea and Japan.

Korean War Service

25 Jun 1950: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Major, SN SX700092, Australian Ancillary Unit Korea

Help us honour Ivor Henry Thomas Hele's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

Sir Ivor Henry Thomas HELE CBE (1912 - 1993)

Sir Ivor Hele was born and died in South Australia, but is recognised internationally as one of Australia's greatest war and protrait artists.

He trained as an artist, initially in Adelaide and then overseas from 1927 in Paris and Munich before returning to Australia in 1930.  He travelled overseas to Europe again and in 1937, he settled in Adlinga south of Adelaide where he lived for the rest of his life either side of his war service.(1)

When the Second World War broke out, Ivor Hele harbored a desire to be a war artist and was advised to enlist to enhance his chances.  He duly did so as a Private soldier and embarked for service in the Middle East with the 2nd /48th Infantry Battalion, which went on to be recognised as the highest decorated Battalion of the 2nd AIF, its members winning a total of four Victoria Crosses. However Ivor Hele's personal trajectory was to win him wide acclaim for very different reasons, in a very different direction but one entirely consistent with his background and ability. 

By January 1941 he had come to the attention of General Blamey and was in short order commissioned as an offical war artist, thus begnning an extraordinary career documenting the war service of Australians across the globe. He was Australia's longest serving and most prolific official war artist, depicting the men and women of the 2nd AIF and their exploits in over 500 works ranging from spectacular epic pieces and in exquisite indiviual portaits from North Africa to New Guinea and Korea.(1)  

The Australian War Memorial holds the majority of his military-themed works.

Although Hele also painted landscapes (mostly of the rocky southern coast of South Australia's Gulf St Vincent) and made many thousands of erotic paintings and drawings, he was best known as a portrait painter post-war. (2)  He was a prolific and much sought-after portait artist depicting many public figures in a post-war career that spanned the 1950s-70s. He won the Archibald Prize five times between 1951 and 1957, most notably with his portrait of Sir Robert Menzies in 1954 and a self-portrait in 1957.  His prize winning works were:

1951 - Laurie Thomas
1953 - Sir Henry Simpson Newland, CBE, DSO, MS, FRCS
1954 - Rt Hon R G Menzies, PC, CH, QC, MP
1955 - Robert Campbell Esq
1957 - Self Portrait

His post-war paintings were seen at open-air art exhibitions held by the SA newspaper "The Advertiser". He only ever held two solo exhibitions; his last was during the 1970 Adelaide Festival of the Arts.  He was notoriously self-critical and is known to have burned works he was not happy with. 

An interrogation of public information sources reveals that his works are hung in collections both public and private across Australia and oveseas.

Ivor Hele was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1954. This was upgraded to Commander (CBE) status in 1969 and in the New Year's Honours of 1983 he was named a Knight Bachelor for his services to art. (3)

Well-known contemporary South Australian artist Robert Hannaford names Ivor Hele as one of his great influences and mentors.  Hannaford's style reflects the influence he attributes to Hele in works such as the Simpson and his Donkey sculpture in the Adelaide parklands and in many portait works.


Steve Larkins December 2015

(1)     Celebrating South Australians Alison Painter (

(2)     National Portait Gallery (

(3)    'Its an Honour' website (



Relatives (cousins) in service:
1044     William Ernest Trenorden
3rd Light Horse
             kia 11/4/1917 - Bullecourt, France
             NO known grave.
Commemorated at Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

3113     Harold Percival Baker
             3rd Light Horse

5389     Harry Hewish
             48th Infantry Battalion
             kia  12/10/1917
             NO known grave
             Commemorated at The Ypres (Menin Gates), Villers-Bretonneux, France

31599   Arthur Ernest Saunderson
             2nd Field Artillery Brigade
             Returned 16/6/1919 

Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan.  20/11/2014.  Lest we forget.



Sir Ivor Henry Thomas Hele, CBE was an Official Australian War Artist.  Australia's longest serving official war artist, he recorded military life and death in North Africa, New Guinea and Korea. The Australian War Memorial holds the majority of his works. Read more on links below ... ( ( ( (