HEARNE, William Weston DSO (1871-1917) +

Modified on Mon, 19 Sep 2016 22:32 by Con — Categorized as: Biography - All, Biography - Students, Geelong College, Biography of War - Anglo-South African, Biography of War - World War I

HEARNE, Dr William Weston DSO (1871-1917)

William Hearne was born on 7 February 1871 at Bega, NSW, the son of William Goodall Hearne and Amelia Louisa nee Sykes. He was enrolled as a day student at Geelong College on 9 February 1886 with an entry address of Ryrie St, Geelong. He left in 1889. He gained the following awards:
1886, 1st, Arithmetic, University Class
1886, 1st, Algebra, University Class
1886, 1st, French, University Class
1886, 2nd, Physiology
1886, 1st, Physics & Mathematics, University Class
1887, 1st, Latin, 4th Class

He studied Medicine at the University of Melbourne, commencing in 1889, and was physician to OP and Clinical Instructor at the Alfred Hospital. He served as a Surgeon Lieutenant in the Boer War, and was awarded the Queen’s South African Medal. In 1904, he married Alice May Grubb (1873-1943) in New South Wales, and they resided at 9 Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street, Fitzroy, having had one son, William Beaumont Weston Hearne (1905-1996), born in South Melbourne on 5 July.

He was one of the first six doctors to enlist for the Great War, on 20 August 1914, and sailed from Melbourne on 19 October on HMAT A18 Wiltshire as a Major in 2nd Field Ambulance. Promoted Lieutenant Colonel on 26 July 1915, he transferred to 3rd Field Ambulance on 19 August 1915, and was ADMS 1st Division on Gallipoli on 16 September. He returned to 3rd Field Ambulance on 17 November, and then to 2nd Field Ambulance on 1 January 1916. His next posting was as ADMS 5th Division on 23 November 1916, and he was promoted Colonel on 9 June 1917.

W W Hearne (War Service).

W W Hearne (War Service).

He was promoted a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, gazetted 4 June 1917, the citation read:
‘During operations near Gueudecourt on the night of 4th/5th November 1916 Lieutenant Colonel Hearne displayed great courage and resources in the collection and evacuation of the wounded. On the early morning of the 5th November he supervised the collection of wounded, during this time his party was under shell, rifle and machine gun fire, incurring some casualties. This officer collected and tended wounded in No Man’s Land, and placed them in a deserted German dug-out, while it was impossible, owing to the fire, to bring them in during daylight. At this time he was in charge of the 2nd Field Ambulance, AAMC. Since he has been ADMS of this Division he has carried out his duties with energy and ability and has given every satisfaction.’

He was promoted Cavalier of the Order of St Maurice and St Lazarus (Italian), gazetted 26 May 1917; and awarded the Medaille de la Reconnaisance Francaise, he was also Mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatches five times, four of these were gazetted on 13 November 1916; 4 January 1917; 1 June 1917; and 28 December 1917.

C E W Bean wrote from France of the circumstances of Hearne’s demise:
‘An Australian who was known to everyone from the days when he commanded the 2nd Field Ambulance in the force which left Egypt for Gallipoli, and who, after looking death in the face far more often than was realised, except by those who knew him intimately, was Colonel W W Hearne. He held a high staff appointment at the time of his death, but he made it his business to know every part of the work which was under him, and it was his practice to visit points in the battle front where it is unusual for officers in his position to make regular visits. During the fight at Bullecourt, having some point of criticism to pass upon some arrangements of a junior officer, he did not write a slashing letter calling for an explanation. He went himself to the front line and saw the officer in question, and by these means found that the miscarriage was a mistake, and that another man, if any, was responsible. It was in going between two of his most advanced aid posts on the Broodseinde Ridge that Colonel Hearne was killed. He was with a companion when a shell fell some distance behind them, the officer in front looked round and saw his senior lying on the path behind him. A stray fragment had penetrated his heart. His division lost a fearless, gallant gentleman.’

Hearne was killed on 17 October 1917, and buried at The Huts Cemetery, Dickebusch, Belgium - Grave X.C.20.

The Cyclopedia of Victoria in 1903 recounted the following portrait of William Hearn:
'William Weston Hearne, MB. ChB., Melb., practising in South Melbourne, is a son of Mr W G Hearne, a well-known resident of Geelong. Educated at the Geelong College, he proceeded thence to the Melbourne University, gaining his diploma in 1894. After having been engaged in private practice for two years, Dr. Hearne left on a twelve months' visit to England for the purpose of extending his studies, and while there worked chiefly at the Middlesex Hospital, London, and the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh. Returning to Melbourne in 1898, he was appointed resident medical officer at the Alfred Hospital, a position which he occupied for three years.

On the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa Dr. Hearne went to the seat of war as a surgeon with the troops, and saw active service in several engagements, being wounded at Paardeberg during the attack upon Cronje's trenches, and taken prisoner by De Wet at Reddersburg. Entering Pretoria with the main column under Lord Roberts, Dr. Hearne was attached as surgeon to one of the busiest hospitals in that town, and subsequently, with the advance of the army, filled a similar position in the Middleburg Hospital. On his return to Victoria he established himself in practice in South Melbourne, where he has since resided. Dr. Hearne holds a commission as lieutenant on the medical staff of the Victorian Militia, and is one of the honorary anaesthetists on the staff of the Alfred Hospital.'

The Geelong Advertiser reported his death:
'A service in memory of the late Colonel W W Hearne DSO AAMC, who was recently killed in action in France, was held in St Luke's Church of England, South Melbourne, on Sunday evening. The Consul for England, Cavaliere Elies, Colonel Bryant AAMC, and a number of military officers were present. Mr Oswald Hearne represented the family. The Rev D R Hewton paid an eloquent tribute to the late physician's worth. Colonel Hearne had the distinction of being a Cavalier (Knight) of the Order of St Lazarus and St Maurice, one of the most ancient of the famous religious military orders. Colonel Hearne was in practice as a doctor in South Melbourne for some years before he left with the first troops for the Front. He served all through the Gallipoli campaign. He was presented to King George in France and afterwards had the honour of presenting some Australian nurses. Colonel Dr Hearne was a vestryman of St Luke's Church, South Melbourne. He had served through the Boer War, and was shot through the shoulder whilst attending to a wounded soldier in the field'

The AWM Collection holds a series of photographs which include W W Hearne, lent by Lt Colonel Quick, in such sites as Mena Camp and Gallipoli.

His brother, Dr Kenneth Goodall Hearne (1882-1958), was also educated at Geelong College.

Sources: Cyclopedia of Victoria, Melb: Cyclopedia Company, 1903 p69; Geelong Advertiser 27 November 1917 p3; Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp 52-53 (citing The University of Melbourne: Record of Active Service of Teachers, Graduates, Undergraduates, Officers and Serv-ants (1926); AWM H19194; C01629; C01633; C01668; C01681; C01683; C01728; C01741; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Photo Pegasus December 1917.