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Hammond, George Meysey (1892–1918)

by A. J. Sweeting

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

George Meysey Hammond (1892-1918), by Ruskin Studio

George Meysey Hammond (1892-1918), by Ruskin Studio

Australian War Memorial, P01228.001

George Meysey Hammond (1892-1918), soldier, was born on 3 July 1892 at Handsworth, Staffordshire, England, son of George Richard Hammond, grocer, and his wife Emily, née Roberts. Educated privately and from 13 at the National School, Pershore, Worcestershire, he was briefly secretary to a vicar and then apprenticed himself to a grocer. The sea and the prospect of escape from a humdrum existence appealed strongly to him and when, to his mortification, he twice failed to pass the test for colour-blindness with a shipping line he decided to migrate to Australia.

Hammond arrived in Western Australia in February 1911 and, having refused all aid from his father, was employed as a labourer on a wheat farm near Moora and then as a boundary rider on the Upper Gascoyne and in the De Grey district. With two 'chums' he bought a 6000-acre (2428 ha) farm but this venture failed and in mid-1913 he signed on at Fremantle as a seaman on the schooner Penguin. After one voyage to the East Indies, full of hardship, danger and excitement (vividly described in a narrative written soon afterwards), he was put ashore at his request on the Western Australian coast near Dongara with no boots and little more than the nondescript clothes he was wearing. He worked briefly on a dairy farm, then sat for the qualifying examination for entry into the Commonwealth Public Service. He was working as a post-office assistant at Broome when war broke out in August 1914. On 25 February 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 28th Battalion. He was promoted corporal on 24 May and sailed for Egypt in June. On 6 August he was promoted sergeant and on 10-11 September disembarked at Anzac where the 28th Battalion moved into trenches near Rhododendron Ridge.

During thirteen weeks under fire on Gallipoli Peninsula Hammond distinguished himself in patrol work and won a reputation for absolute fearlessness. He was sent off ill just before the evacuation in December, but was specially mentioned for his work and awarded the Military Medal. He rejoined his unit in March 1916, just before it left Egypt for France. He was wounded in the leg during heavy fighting north of Pozières on 29 July; in hospital he learned that he had been promoted second lieutenant on that date. In fact he should not have been in the fighting: he had been ordered to remain at Albert with a nucleus group but had disobeyed.

Hammond rejoined his unit at Ypres in September and next month accompanied it to the Somme. Just before the attack on the German trenches at Flers on 5 November his left arm was shattered by a bullet—so badly that from then on it was useless and had to be carried in a sling; a glove covered the skin discolouration which developed. A medical board recommended his return to Australia, but he pleaded so strongly that in May 1917 he was back with his battalion. He had been promoted lieutenant five months earlier and on resuming duty was appointed intelligence officer—doubtless with the intention of keeping him out of the fighting. He was prominent in action at Polygon Wood in September, capturing twenty Germans and winning the Military Cross, and in the attack in October on Broodseinde Ridge, where he and the signals officer were observed well ahead of the advancing infantry, exuberantly charging pillboxes.

Early in 1918 A.I.F. Headquarters decided to send an officer to Palestine to take control of the War Records Section from Captain (Sir) Henry Somer Gullett who had been appointed official war correspondent with the Light Horse. The choice fell on Hammond who joined the War Records Section in London in April with obvious reluctance. When, soon afterwards, letters began to arrive from his mates on the Somme, he begged to be allowed to return to his unit and rejoined it in mid-May as a company commander with the rank of captain. On 10 June the 28th attacked the German lines at Morlancourt. Hammond, knowing that the eager Australians were in danger of advancing too quickly and being caught in the supporting shell-fire, walked ahead of his men, checking the bounds of the barrage with watch in hand, all the time upright, frequently with his back to the enemy, straightening out the line with an occasional motion of his walking-stick, halting it and ordering it to ground whenever it moved too close to the bursting shells. He was the first man into the enemy trenches and a dozen or so Germans had surrendered to him before the rest of the troops arrived. He was wounded while visiting his outposts next day. He died on 14 June and was buried in Viquacourt cemetery. His deeds at Morlancourt resulted in the award of a Bar to his Military Cross.

Tall and rather thin, with an exceptionally deep voice, Meysey Hammond was an unconventional soldier and an unusually brave one. His speech was studded with nautical expressions and his cap and clothing were freakish and sometimes disreputable. It was a tribute to his character that in an army where a 'new chum' was often regarded with amusement, and unorthodoxy with suspicion, Hammond was held by his men in esteem verging on worship. His renown as a fighting man spread far beyond the bounds of his unit.

Select Bibliography

  • H. B. Collett, The 28th: A Record of War Service A.I.F. 1915-1919 (Perth, 1922)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 27 Oct 1916, 26 Oct 1917
  • Anzac Bulletin, July 1918
  • Reveille (Sydney), Oct, Nov, Dec 1938, Jan, Feb, Mar 1939
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

A. J. Sweeting, 'Hammond, George Meysey (1892–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hammond-george-meysey-6542/text11241, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 16 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018

George Meysey Hammond (1892-1918), by Ruskin Studio

George Meysey Hammond (1892-1918), by Ruskin Studio

Australian War Memorial, P01228.001