Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Timms, Edward Vivian (1895–1960)

by Anthony Barker

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Edward Vivian Timms (1895-1960), by unknown photographer

Edward Vivian Timms (1895-1960), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-vn3299293

Edward Vivian Timms (1895-1960), novelist and scriptwriter, was born on 7 April 1895 at Charters Towers, Queensland, son of William Henry Timms (d.1898), a chemist from Worcester, England, and his Victorian-born wife Bertha, née Bawden. Bertha moved to Western Australia where she married a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Angus King, who served at Coolgardie and Fremantle before settling in Sydney in 1906. Taught at Fremantle Boys' School by (Field Marshal Sir) Thomas Blamey, Edward attended public schools in Sydney, then studied electrical engineering. Using his stepfather's surname, he was commissioned in the 1st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, on 27 August 1914 and promoted lieutenant on 15 March 1915. He took part in the landing on Gallipoli on 25 April, was wounded and invalided home.

Reverting to his patronymic, Timms married Alma McRobert in his stepfather's church, St David's, Haberfield, on 19 August 1916. With another couple, they took up a soldier-settler block on the Richmond River, but inexperience and drought forced them to quit. Back in Sydney, Timms published his first novel, The Hills of Hate, in 1925; there followed two adventure stories, a humorous novel (James! Don't be a Fool) and Lawrence, Prince of Mecca (1927) under the pseudonym 'David Roseler'; The Cripple in Black (1930), set in the seventeenth century, was the first of his historical romances.

In addition to twenty-two novels, Timms wrote many short stories and innumerable plays, serials, scripts and adaptations of novels for the cinema and radio. Having adapted The Hills of Hate for Raymond Longford's film in 1926, he wrote the scripts for The Grey Glove (1928) and The Squatter's Daughter (1933), and collaborated with Charles Chauvel on Uncivilised (1936) and Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940). In January 1938 Timms began conducting 'The diggers' session' for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and wrote a serial for it until 1940.

During World War II he served in Australian Garrison battalions from June 1940. With the rank of temporary major, from October 1943 Timms was in charge of Italians as commandant of C Camp, No.12 Prisoner of War Compound, Cowra. On the night of the mass Japanese break-out (5 August 1944), he led C company in fending off a rear attack by the Japanese and gave the order to fire. He later testified at the military court of inquiry and published a description, 'Bloodbath at Cowra', in As You Were (Canberra, 1946). In 1945-46 he was inspection officer for prisoner-of-war camps.

Tall and strongly built, with brown hair and a ruddy complexion, Timms was essentially a family man. He had no illusions about his writing and considered himself simply a good story-teller. His novels were popular and some were translated into Spanish, German, French, Dutch and Norwegian; Forever to Remain was adapted as a stage musical.

After the war Timms embarked on his 'Australian saga', a twelve-volume sequence of historical novels that began with Forever to Remain (1948) and portrayed the lives of an English immigrant family, the Gubbys. In 1954 he went into semi-retirement at Budgewoi, near Gosford, where he enjoyed gardening, walking and fishing. Survived by his wife, daughter and two sons, he died there on 14 June 1960 of hypertensive heart disease and was buried in Northern Suburbs cemetery, Sydney. His widow completed The Big Country (1962) and wrote the final volume of the 'Australian saga', Time and Chance (1971). F. L. Tregear's portrait of Timms is held by his family.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Carr-Gregg, Japanese Prisoners of War in Revolt (Brisb, 1978)
  • A. Pike and R. Cooper, Australian Film 1900-1977 (Melb, 1980)
  • Wireless Weekly, 15-21 Jan 1938, 17 Feb 1939
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Aug 1934, 21 Sept 1939, 25 Sept 1954, 16 June 1960
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 21 July 1934
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 29 Dec 1951
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 27 May 1962
  • Report on visit to Cowra, AWW 54, items 780/3/2,4 (Australian War Memorial)
  • Court of Inquiry on mutiny at Cowra, AA 1977-461-2, Ser A1608/1, item Ax 20/1/1 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information
  • Angus & Robertson correspondence (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Anthony Barker, 'Timms, Edward Vivian (1895–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/timms-edward-vivian-8818/text15467, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 2 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Edward Vivian Timms (1895-1960), by unknown photographer

Edward Vivian Timms (1895-1960), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-vn3299293