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Herring, Sydney Charles Edgar (1881–1951)

by Anna Katzmann

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

Sydney Charles Edgar Herring (1881-1951), soldier and estate agent, was born on 8 October 1881 at Gladesville, Sydney, second of nine children of English-born Gerard Edgar Herring, under secretary for lands, and his Australian wife Caroline Estella, née De Lange. After a private school education he became a clerk and later a land and estate agent. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 1st Australian Infantry Regiment (militia) in 1904, was promoted lieutenant in 1906 and on the introduction of universal military training in 1911 was appointed an area officer at Drummoyne. On 17 August 1910, at North Sydney, he married Florence Elizabeth Murray-Prior with Anglican rites.

When World War I broke out Herring enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 9 October 1914 as captain commanding 'D' Company, 13th Battalion, and embarked in December. In Egypt in February 1915, he was promoted major. His battalion landed at Anzac Cove on the night of 25 April and moved into Monash Valley; next day his company was ordered to clear the enemy from Russell's Top and close a dangerous gap. After climbing the steep slopes under desultory fire his men met with fierce Turkish resistance on the summit and, with nothing but low scrub for cover, were soon driven back; the men to the left and right of Herring were killed and he withdrew his line under heavy fire. Though slightly wounded on 28 April he served continuously until the evacuation from Gallipoli and was temporary commander of his battalion from 27 June and commander from 26 August; he fought mainly at Pope's Hill and Quinn's Post and was also in the attack on Hill 60. For distinguished leadership on Gallipoli he was awarded the French Légion d'honneur and was mentioned in dispatches.

On 21 February 1916 Herring was transferred to command the new 45th Battalion, the nucleus of which had been formed in Egypt from two companies of the 13th Battalion. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 12 March and early in June reached France where his unit went into the line at Fleurbaix, moved to the Somme in July and, in August, during the battle of Pozières, suffered high casualties in one of the most severe and continuous bombardments of the war. He commanded the 45th at Wytschaete, Belgium, and throughout the winter of 1916-17 on the Somme. In the New Year honours for 1917 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for 'consistent, thorough and good work in raising and training his battalion and subsequently commanding it with conspicuous success in action near Fleurbaix and Pozières'. That year he fought at Gueudecourt and Bullecourt and, in the battle of Messines on 7-11 June, his battalion captured one of its two objectives near Owl Trench but could not dislodge the Germans from the other, the advance being held up by two concrete blockhouses. Herring's weary troops made four assaults on these but failed to take them; the battalion lost over 500 men in four days. In October, because of his long front-line experience, Herring was posted to England to command the A.I.F.'s 3rd Training Battalion. He resumed command of the 45th Battalion in May 1918 and next month was promoted colonel and temporary brigadier general and appointed to command the 13th Brigade; this was to play a major role in the battle of 8 August, the advance along the Somme and the penetration of the Hindenburg line. For outstanding leadership he was appointed C.M.G. and awarded the French Croix de Guerre; in 1917-19 he was mentioned in dispatches four times.

Herring's A.I.F. appointment ended in August 1919 and he resumed work as a land and estate agent. In 1921 he was New South Wales treasurer of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. At the massive 'loyalist' demonstration on 8 May in the Sydney Domain he railed against 'red-raggers' and 'disloyalists'. He became a councillor of the Royal Empire Society, vice-president of the Millions Club and in 1924 stood unsuccessfully as Nationalist candidate for the Senate. He was for some years secretary of the New South Wales Golf Club. He was placed on the retired list, Australian Military Forces, in 1946, with the honorary rank of brigadier; for many years his tall, lean figure had led the 4th Division, A.I.F., in Sydney's Anzac Day marches.

Survived by his wife and daughter, Herring died of heart disease on 27 May 1951 at his Killara home and was cremated with military honours after an Anglican service. His estate was sworn for probate at £29,482.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1921, 1924), and The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • J. E. Lee, The Chronicle of the 45th Battalion, A.I.F. (Syd, 1924, 1927)
  • T. A. White, The Fighting Thirteenth (Syd, 1924)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Sept 1951
  • Fighting Line, 26 Feb 1920
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Jan 1917, 7 Apr 1920, 9 May 1921, 28 Oct 1924, 30 July, 5 Oct 1940, 29 May 1951
  • S. C. E. Herring file (war records section, Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Anna Katzmann, 'Herring, Sydney Charles Edgar (1881–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/herring-sydney-charles-edgar-6651/text11461, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 October 2014.

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

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