Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Harold Hampton Hardwick (1888–1959)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Harold Hampton Hardwick (1888-1959), sportsman, was born on 14 December 1888 at Balmain, Sydney, younger son of native-born parents George Henry Hardwick, draftsman, and his wife Priscilla, née Herrin. His father taught him to swim with cork water-wings as soon as he could walk and young Harold became a regular at Frederick Cavill's baths where he copied Dick Cavill's new crawl stroke and learned the trudgen for long distances. At 10 he began boxing lessons. From then on, he swam in summer and boxed in winter.

In 1904, while at Fort Street Model School, Hardwick won several swimming championships, played in the first XV and captained the winning lifesaving team. His father's death interrupted Harold's plans to study dentistry; on leaving school, he was apprenticed to a process engraver and was later employed as an accountant. Trained daily after work by W. W. Hill, he joined the Enterprise Swimming Club and in 1907-08 defeated Alick Wickham for the State 100 yards freestyle title. Next season he won the State freestyle titles for the 100, 220 and 300 yards, and for the ¾-mile and 1-mile events.

In 1911 Hardwick represented Australasia at the Festival of Empire in London to celebrate the coronation of King George V. As funds were low, he competed in swimming and boxing. After winning the 100 yards Empire swimming title, two days later, with hardly any training, he stopped the highly favoured English champion William Hazell in the first round, and an hour later won the Empire heavyweight title, halting his Canadian opponent in 2 minutes 35 seconds. Hardwick—who also won the 100, 220 and 440 yards Amateur Swimming Association championships of England—returned home in triumph and was named 'Sportsman of Australia' for that year. At the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm he was a member of the Australasian team that won the 4 x 200-metre freestyle event in the unofficial record time of 10 minutes 11.6 seconds; he also won bronze medals in the 400 and 1500-metre freestyle events.

Swimming, boxing, gymnastics, water-polo and lifesaving were Hardwick's main interests (he was a foundation member of the Manly Surf Club), but he also played Rugby Union for New South Wales against a visiting American universities team (1910) and was a member of the Eastern Suburbs premiership team (1913). In 1914 he won the State amateur heavyweight boxing championship and in 1915 signed up with R. L. Baker for eight professional fights, of which he won four; in the last bout (19 February 1916) he was knocked out by Les Darcy in the seventh round, though not before he had broken two of Darcy's teeth.

Giving his religion as Catholic, Hardwick enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 25 August 1917. After attending wireless-training school, he embarked as a sapper on 24 June 1918 and served with No.2 Signal Squadron in the Middle East. In April 1919 at the Inter-Theatre of War Boxing Tournament at Aldershot, England, he won the heavyweight boxing title; chosen by his fellow competitors, he was awarded a cup for the 'Ideal Sportsman' of the British forces, an honour he highly prized. At the Inter-Allied Games held outside Paris he was a member of the victorious Australian team in the 800-metre relay. He returned home in August and was discharged from the A.I.F. on 14 October.

When Hardwick's application for reinstatement as an amateur was rejected by the New South Wales Amateur Swimming Association he gave up competitive sport. In 1920 he joined the Department of Education as supervisor of swimming and was responsible for organizing holiday swimming schools throughout the State. In 1938 he directed the schoolchildren's display at Australia's 150th Anniversary Celebrations. He retired as deputy-director of physical education in February 1953.

In 1921 Hardwick had been commissioned in the Militia. As temporary lieutenant colonel he commanded the 1st Cavalry Divisional Signals from 1940 until his transfer to the Reserve of Officers in April 1942. At the Scots Church, Sydney, on 6 October 1945 he married with Presbyterian forms Maud Beatrice Hopper, née Harrison, a 65-year-old divorcee. He was foundation president (1949) and a life member (from 1952) of the Union of Old Swimmers. Survived by his wife, he died of a coronary occlusion on 22 February 1959 at Rushcutters Bay and was buried with Anglican rites in Waverley cemetery.

Hardwick was a handsome man, with blue eyes, brown hair and a fresh, olive complexion; he stood six feet (183 cm) tall and weighed twelve stone (76 kg) in his prime. Likeable, generous and unassuming, he was the quintessential sportsman. For his 1911 feats, his name was retrospectively inscribed on the Helms trophy, Los Angeles, United States of America. He is commemorated in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and by the Harold Hardwick memorial trophy awarded annually to the winner of the New South Wales 100-metres schoolboys' title. It bears the inscription: 'In memory of a great sportsman, soldier and gentleman'.

Select Bibliography

  • G. H. Goddard, Soldiers and Sportsmen (Lond, 1919)
  • P. Besford, Encyclopaedia of Swimming (Lond, 1976)
  • R. and M. Howell, Aussie Gold (Brisb, 1988)
  • A. Clarkson, Lanes of Gold (Syd, 1990)
  • P. Fenton, Les Darcy (Syd, 1994)
  • People (Sydney), 18 Nov 1953, p 40
  • Sporting Traditions, 7, no 1, Nov 1990, p 61
  • Referee (Sydney), 12, 26 July, 16 Aug 1911
  • Times (London), 1 May, 26 June, 2 July 1919
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Dec 1920, 16, 31 Mar 1922, 10 Feb 1953, 24 Feb 1959
  • Hardwick papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Hardwick, Harold Hampton (1888–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 December, 1888
Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


22 February, 1959 (aged 70)
Rushcutters Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.