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Quinton John HUNTER


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Pte 113 24y5m 20/08/14 7/5/17 KA 4 & 7

Private Quinton John Hunter (1890—1917)

Booklet

Family background 

Quenten John Hunter1 was born at Charters Towers in 1890, the son of David Bryce Hunter and Miriam née Dodson.

Enlistment

On 24 August 1914 he enlisted in Brisbane in the Australian Imperial Force. He was a single man, aged 24 years and 5 months and had worked as an ironmonger. He was allotted to A Company, 9th Infantry Battalion, based at Enoggera and embarked from Pinkenba on 24 September 1914 on HMAT Omrah, the transport on which Padre Ernest Merrington sailed as Chaplain.

Gallipoli landing - 25 April 1915

The troops of the 9th Battalion arrived at Egypt in early December and joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in March 1915.  Private Hunter took part in the Gallipoli Landing on 25 April 1915 when he was wounded in action.  He was admitted to the Australian First General Hospital at Heliopolis and while his wound was being treated at the Helouan Convalescent Camp he wrote to his sister.  His own words tell of his experience just before and during that eventful, now famous landing:

Heliopolis 6/5/15

Sent you a cable today.  It cost 15/3.  It seemed a lot but I thought it might relieve you to know my injuries were not bad.  The bullet hit my rifle and then my left forearm.  It has taken a chip out of the bone in the forearm and has left a nasty flesh wound.  I suppose it will be two months before I am ready for the front again.  I suppose you know now we have been all those weeks on Lemnos – just a few hours’ run from the Dardanelles.  We left there on Saturday, 24/4/15.  A and B Companies formed the landing party.  At 2 a.m. on Saturday we got into the rowing boats and were tugged ashore by pinnaces.

We were about three yards from the shore (at 4 a.m.) and the next man to me said, “Looks as if we are having a quiet landing.”  I said, “If there’s not men moving there, I know nothing,” when whiz, bang, etc., around us came the enemy’s fire.  Well, it was over the side into waist-deep water and wade ashore, while the pinnace stood off and let them have the contents of her machine guns.  We threw off the big pack and fixed bayonets, and then charged up a mountain, which was a stiff crawl the whole way.  Mount Cootha is an open plain to it, and in places we had to use our bayonets to help us up.  In half an hour we had their first line of trenches and the first hill.  By 9.30 a.m. we had three lines of trenches and three ridges, and about 3½ miles of land.  We were entrenching there, but the order came to move forward. Then commenced the fight against odds. We were only infantry with a few machine guns, while they had howitzers and machine guns by the score.  They were a firmly entrenched army of machine guns, batteries and infantry.  At the most we were two or three brigades, and could easily have been demolished.  We fought odds that day, Australia’s men have put her name on the roll of fame.

Sir Ian Hamilton said: ‘For hard, rough work, I have always liked the Gurkha; in future give me the Australian.’  We lost a great number, the 9th especially suffered but we have the name now.  Well, I kept pegging along in that living hell, until 2 p.m. when I was struck and made my way as best I could to the ship.  On the Tuesday we left for Alexandria, arriving on Thursday afternoon.  Left there Friday afternoon and arrived in hospital train at the doors of Heliopolis Palace, where I am now a regular boarder for about six weeks or two months, for which I suppose you would be glad.  I certainly am not.  It was amusing to see them ducking from shells on the beach after coming from the firing line.  One chap advised me to pick a bit of shelter.  I told him there was nothing worth hiding from down there.

It is marvellous how soon you become indifferent to the fire, although Sunday’s took some getting used to.  Officers were picked off as soon as they showed.  In fact as soon as anyone showed they let off about 30 machine guns at you.  Well, at 3 p.m. I retired from the firing line with more speed than grace with a hole in my arm.  Lots crawled out, but I just up and sprinted over the hill.  Never knew I had such a fine turn of speed until then.  Had the satisfaction of potting off three Turks for certain before they got me.  They were only 200 yards on our right flank and thinking no one was looking their way exposed head and shoulders.  I think there were VCs won in plenty that day; men carried comrades back over an area you would think it impossible to live in.  I believe our doctor has been recommended for the V.C.  There were no officers left, and a machine gun was worrying us from a small hill.  He pulled off his Red Cross and called the boys to follow him.  They did and got the gun and turned it on the enemy.  50 of our men were cut off and surrounded by about 200 Turks.  They were called on to surrender but their answer was to fix bayonets.  The Turks remembered a previous engagement and went.  They hate the bayonet.  Of course we have orders to take prisoners whenever possible.

If you could see the wounds on some poor comrades caused by explosive bullets, you yourself would want to murder all Turkey.  Well, I suppose by now Australia is not ashamed of her first Contingent.  An Indian Officer said the retreat from Mons was nothing like it.

I have had my arm X-rayed and it is not broken, only the wound.  The doctor said I would be fit in a month from now.  My arm was straight at the time I was hit.  Today was visiting day here.  Two nice girls brought some roses.  We are out of the way up here. Other wards got tobacco and cigarettes.

Well, we are being well treated by the sisters and being well attended to. When you see some of the injuries you feel thankful yours was so slight. Hospital seems like jail.  I suppose it is being healthy and being chained down makes one feel it so much.2

Illness and hospital admissions in Mudros, England and Etaples

Private Hunter was assigned to Base Details at Zeitoun, Helouan on 8 June and by 22 June had rejoined his unit at Gallipoli. He was again admitted to hospital on 22 August, this time with dilated heart and debility, was transferred to Mudros, then by hospital ship Franconia to the Military Hospital, New End Hampstead in England.

With improved health he arrived at Abbey Wood Depot in England for convalescence in November 1915.  There he remained till March the following year.  By this time the Anzacs had withdrawn from Gallipoli and were preparing to join the British Expeditionary Force in France and the Western Front.  Private Quinton Hunter rejoined his 9th Battalion unit at Etaples on 18 April 1916.  While engaged in training exercises there he was admitted to the 24th General Hospital with mumps and a further period of convalescence.

Rejoined 9th Battalion at Bullecourt

In August, he was promoted to the rank of A/RQMS3 and reverted to Private on 13 December when he rejoined the 9th Battalion, then taking part in fierce fighting against the Germans. He was treated for a sprained ankle in March. By May the Australians with the British were trying to push patrols into Bullecourt. On the fifth day of the Second Battle of Bullecourt, 7 May 1917, the fighting went on for hours. Clouds of oil smoke hung in the air. The Germans attacked muddy trenches with flamethrowers then dumped shells.

Reported missing in action

Private Hunter was reported missing that day. “At Bullecourt on 7th May when we were about three quarters of a mile behind the line, filing out after being relieved Pte Hunter was about the third man behind me,” said A H Walsh at a Court of Enquiry months later. “I was speaking to him three minutes before a shell came over and fell in the trench behind me killing men on both sides of Pte Hunter but no trace of him could be found.”

Mother's suffering

And what of the doubt and sorrow suffered by Quinton’s widowed mother4, Mrs Miriam Hunter, at home in Stanley Terrace, Taringa, Brisbane?  On 2 January 1918, Mrs Hunter wrote to the Officer-in-Charge, Base Records, Melbourne:

On June 5 I received word from your Department through the Chaplain that my son No 113, Quinton John Hunter of A Company, Ninth Battalion was reported missing on May 5 1917. Since then I have heard by cable and letters that my son was blown up by a shell when returning from Bullecourt to be relieved. You also sent me as next of kin a souvenir of Princess Mary in which you mentioned the late Private Quinton John Hunter. As I have not yet been officially informed of my son’s death, I will esteem it a great favour if you will kindly advise me of any information.

,Thanking you 

,I am, sincerely yours

Miriam Hunter

Mrs Hunter did not inquire again.  She moved to Artarmon, Sydney in 1920.  Quinton’s sister, Miss Miriam Young Hunter, of the Department of Justice, Treasury Building, George Street, Brisbane wrote again seeking information about the fate of her brother and his personal effects.  Eventually, though not till 14 June 1921, the family received a letter from Major Lean, Officer in Charge, Base Records:

I regret very much that, notwithstanding the efforts of our Graves Services Unit, we have so far been unable to obtain any trace of the last resting place of your son the late No 113 Private Q J Hunter, 9th Battalion.  

Miss Hunter replied, in part: 

Captain Carroll and Sergeant Bryce of 9th Battalion (A Co) friends of my brother’s, called on us and told us that Q. J. Hunter was smashed by a shell. In fact, Sergeant Bryce recognised a portion of my brother by the boots he wore, which of course goes to prove he was smashed to pieces.  My brother had in his pocket a bullet proof wallet, which contained photos and a last letter to his Mother, and other possessions.  It seems strange that we have not heard anything of this wallet.  If this should be found, I conclude it will be forwarded on to my Mother.

The wallet was never recovered.

Artefacts held at the Australian War Memorial

Artefacts relating to the services of Quinton Hunter and John Swayne who both served in the Great War are held at the Australian War Memorial.  It is unknown if one of them collected the item in this picture during the war or if it was acquired at an earlier or later date.  Before the rise of Nazism the swastika or fylfot, derived from India, was a popular symbol of good luck in western nations and it was not uncommon to wear swastika jewellery for good luck, or to use the symbol on greeting cards and other items.

John Swayne served with 5th Light Horse Regiment, survived the war and afterwards married Quinton Hunter’s sister Miriam.

The Memorials which honour Quinton John Hunter

The Graves Services Unit found no resting place but Quinton John Hunter is remembered with honour at Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

In Queensland, as well as the Honour Board in Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church, Quinton Hunter’s name is listed nearby on the 9th Australian Battalion Memorial where an inscription reads: 

In everlasting memory of 45 officers and 1049 other ranks of the 9th Battalion AIF who laid down their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1919 for king and empire. This monument is placed in the capital city of their land that what they did may not be forgotten by their countrymen.


Footnotes
1. Spelling according to Queensland Register of Births. Hunter spelt his name as ‘Quinton’ as it appears throughout this article. He said he was born at Eidsvold but his mother advised Charters Towers as his birthplace.
2. Private Hunter’s “Letter from the Front” was printed in The Northern Miner, 17 June 1915, page 3
3. Acting Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant
4. David Bryce Hunter died in 1898.

Select Bibliography
• Bean C. E. W., Anzacs to Amiens, Penguin Books, Melbourne, 2014
• Carlyon Les, The Great War, Macmillan, Sydney, 2006
• Merrington E.N., Memoirs, unpublished, c 1955
• National Archives of Australia, military records
• Australian War Memorial
• First World War Embarkation Rolls
• Commonwealth War Graves Commission
• The Northern Miner, Charters Towers, 17 June 1915, page 3
• The Brisbane Courier, 13 May 1890, page 7; 11 June 1915, page 8
• The Queenslander, 22 May 1915, page 25
• Sydney Morning Herald, 18 April 1975
• New South Wales Register of Births, Deaths, Marriages
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths Marriages
• Queensland War Memorial Register

Compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane, April 2015

 

 

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