John Kenneth (Ken) HARBISON

HARBISON, John Kenneth

Service Number: NX428
Enlisted: 10 October 1918, Sydney
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: Australian Army Medical Corps (2/AIF)
Born: Carlysle, England, 25 May 1898
Home Town: Armidale, Armidale Dumaresq, New South Wales
Schooling: Maitland High School and the University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Medical Practitioner
Died: Natural causes, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 17 September 1985, aged 87 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Maitland High School Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

10 Oct 1918: Enlisted AIF WW1, Sydney
18 Nov 1918: Discharged AIF WW1

World War 2 Service

15 May 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Captain, SN NX428, Australian Army Medical Corps (2/AIF), Paddington
15 May 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Major, SN NX428
19 Oct 1940: Embarked Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Captain, SN NX428, 2nd/5th Australian General Hospital, HMT Queen Mary, Sydney for Middle East - disembarking 25 November 1940
10 Apr 1941: Embarked Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Captain, SN NX428, 2nd/5th Australian General Hospital, RMS Mauretania, Middle East for Greece - evacuated to Middle East in May 1941
31 Jan 1942: Embarked Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Captain, SN NX428, 2nd/5th Australian General Hospital, RMS Mauretania, Middle East, then transhipped to SS City of Paris at Bombay, India for return to Australia - disembarked Adelaide 24 March 1942
8 Jun 1943: Promoted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Major, Australian Army Medical Corps (2/AIF)
5 Feb 1944: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Major, SN NX428
5 Feb 1944: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Major, SN NX428, Australian Army Medical Corps (2/AIF)
Date unknown: Involvement Major, SN NX428, Australian Army Medical Corps (2/AIF)

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Biography contributed by Michael Silver

John Kenneth Harbison, known as Ken, was born in England in 1898 into an Australian family of medical practitioners - his father was the first of four brothers to enter the medical profession and most of their sons did the same. The family returned to Australia, to Numurkah in Victoria, when Ken was six weeks old.

In 1901 they moved to West Maitland in New South Wales. Ken matriculated from East Maitland Boy's High School in 1916 and entered St Andrew's college at the University of Sydney. He enlisted for overseas service in World War 1 at the completion of his second year of medicine, when restrictions were lifted. However, the university company of 500 men was demobilised after the armistice was signed, two days before sailing.

Ken graduated in 1922 and after residency at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, some months as a ship's surgeon, and various locum’s positions, he commenced practice at Wyong in July 1924. In 1926 he married Euphemia Moira Steel.

Greatly helped by his wife Moira, he continued in the very busy Wyong practice until in 1928 he joined Dr Robert Austin in Armidale. It was in Armidale that Ken, who had learned from his father, performed a great deal of surgery.

In World War 2 he served with the 2nd/5th Australian General Hospital with many other well-known doctors. Most of the members of this unit became prisoners of war in Crete, except for a small party which included Ken, from which the hospital was reformed. When the unit finally returned to Australia, it was set up in Armidale. In 1944, after further service in Brisbane and Sydney, Ken was discharged with the rank of Major.

In 1950 Ken and Moira moved to Murwillumbah to be closer to her parents where Ken entered a partnership with a Dr Macgillivray. After Dr Macgillivray’s sudden death in 1951, Ken took over the whole practice which he held for four years before taking in Dr Jim Marks and his wife Dr Betty Marks as partners.

In 1957, Ken and his wife moved to a seaside cottage in Kingscliff, which had been purchased in 1956 as a weekender. At Kingscliff, he built a new surgery and operated a small practice until he retired in 1969 after being a country general practitioner for 45 years.

Ken Harbison excelled in many sports including golf, tennis, golf, rugby union, lawn bowls, rowing and cricket. However, his favourite sport was athletics, particularly the high jump, pole vault and broad jump, and he was the universities and NSW champion on several occasions. He had many community interests including Freemasonry, Rotary from 1932 and Legacy from 1944.

Major John Kenneth Harbison died in Sydney on 16 September 1985. His wife, Moira passed away in 2001.

Reference: Timelines: April 2017; Vol 5, No 4 - Murwillumbah Historical Society Inchttp://www.murwillumbahhistoricalsociety.org.au/timelines/201704%20Final.pdf

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