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HOOPER, Ashby Arthur William MC (1895-1982)

HOOPER, Ashby Arthur William MC (1895-1982)

Born on 9 May 1895, the son of Arthur Frederick Hooper and Fanny Madeleine nee Dempster, he was educated firstly at Melbourne Grammar School from 1907 to 1909 and then as a boarder at Geelong College from February 1910 to December 1914. A conspicuous sportsman at College, he rowed in the 1st College VIII from 1912 to 1914 and played in the 1st Football XVIII in 1914. He was a member of the Athletics Team from 1912 to 1913 and its Captain in 1914 also winning the Geelong College Cup, the School’s foremost and much prized Athletics Trophy that year. In 1913 and 1914 he was a School Prefect.

His son, Brigadier John Ashby Hooper CBE (1929-2007), who was also educated at Geelong College, wrote of his father’s war service: ‘Being under 19, the age for enlistment in the AIF, my father with two fellow students sailed to England and applied to join the British Army. Father wanted the Army Flying Corps (AFC) but was overweight at 14 stone for the flimsy machines of the day so was granted the Royal Field Artillery (RFA). One of his companions joined the 17 Lancers, but spent most of the war in the rear of the line of the Western Front awaiting the breakthrough of the German Defences in 1918. Ashby Hooper was commissioned T/2nd lieutenant Royal regiment of Artillery on 6 March 1915. He arrived in France on 26 June to join 52 Battery 15 RFA Brigade of 5 British Division.

5 Division- the Reserve Division ever since Wellington's day, up to and including World War Two - was moved from one part of the front and from one theatre of war to another to meet a demand for reinforcement. 5 Division was deployed in various Corps in Belgium and northern France during 1915 to 1917, including a march north in a blizzard to relieve the French Army on the Arras front when the Germans attacked Verdun. The artillery supported the Canadians at Vimy Ridge and the Division fought at Ypres before being rushed to Italy to assist the Italians to fend off the advancing Austro-Hungarian invasion. 5 Division arrived in Italy in November 1917 as one of twelve French and British divisions sent to stabilize the Italian retreat from the northern border to the Piave River. The division assembled near Padua, it was according to the historian of the division, 'a happy interlude in the Grea t War ' . My father said that the comparative inaction in Italy permitted 5 Division to retain its strength and skill as compared with the wearing down of the units on the Western Front. Thus when 5 Division was rushed back to France in April 1918 the divisional artillery marched 65 miles in two days and just ahead of the Australian Corps to play its part in halting the German advance. The division fought at Bapaume and took part in the final advance before the Armistice.

My father was Mentioned in Despatches in May 1917, and awarded the Military Cross in June 1918. He was gazetted Captain in July 1918 and demobilized in April 1919, arriving back in Australia in November. At Sydney University he was invited to join the Militia, but like so many of the returned soldiers of the day, he believed that he had taken part in 'the war to end all wars' . He did however become a member of the United Service Institution. When the then Prince of Wales visited Sydney, students with First War service were asked to wear their uniforms. I have been told that he was one of the senior and most decorated men to appear. During the crisis over the problems arising from the attitudes of the Lang Administration (New South Wales Government), he was a member of the 'New Guard' prepared to maintain law and order if the civil administration broke down. Fortunately things settled without serious conflict.’

Ashby A W Hooper died in 1982.

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp 216-217 (citing The Pegasus; The National Archives (Kew); Army Lists 1915; A H Hussey and D S lnman, The Fifth Division in the Great War; Narrative of 5 Div Artillery 1914-1918 Woolwich; Hooper Family Papers.)
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