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Sir John Charles Hoad (1856–1911)

by Warren Perry

This article was published:

Sir John Charles Hoad (1856-1911), soldier, was born on 25 January 1856 at Goulburn, New South Wales, son of George Hoad, labourer and later baker, and his wife Catherine, née Kearney. Nothing is known of Hoad's boyhood or education, but it is believed that at 6 he was orphaned and brought up by relations in the Wangaratta district of Victoria.

On 1 January 1878 he entered the Victorian Education Department and was appointed head teacher at Gooramadda State School; in September he became an assistant at Wangaratta School and in April 1881 head teacher at Wangaratta North. Interested in sport, Hoad proved himself a keen horseman and good cricketer, footballer and athlete. His last teaching appointment was at Brighton Road, St Kilda, school.

On 5 December 1884 Hoad became a militia lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, Victorian Rifles. He resigned from the Education Department and joined the permanent staff of the Victorian Military Forces on 11 February 1886. Posted first to the Cadet Corps, on 4 June he became adjutant of the Victorian Mounted Rifles commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Price. A captain since March 1887, Hoad was promoted major in April 1889.

In October Hoad left Melbourne for England where he underwent training courses in signalling, military engineering and musketry. He returned to Melbourne in March 1891 and in January 1892 was appointed second-in-command of the Victorian Mounted Rifles. He pushed ahead in the service and consolidated his position. In March 1895 he was promoted lieutenant-colonel and appointed assistant adjutant general at Victorian Headquarters—a post which had hitherto been reserved for a British Army officer.

In England again in 1897, Hoad attended Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee celebrations in London and served on the personal staff of Lord Roberts and the Duke of Connaught. He returned to Melbourne in October. On 28 April 1899 he attained the rank of colonel.

During the South African War Hoad served as a special service officer, and on arrival at Cape Town on 26 November 1899 was given command of the 1st Australian Regiment, the first force composed of troops from Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The regiment moved to the Orange River on 1 December and joined the Kimberley Relief Force. At Bloemfontein in April 1900 when the regiment was absorbed into the 1st Mounted Infantry Brigade, Hoad became assistant adjutant general to the brigade under Major General Sir Edward Hutton. In July Hoad was evacuated to hospital in Cape Town and from there was invalided to Australia, arriving in Melbourne on 26 August. For his services he was appointed C.M.G., awarded the Queen's Medal and mentioned in dispatches. He was aide-de-camp to the governor-general from August 1902 to October 1906.

During Hutton's period in command of Australia's military forces after Federation, Hoad was his principal staff officer with the title of deputy adjutant general and chief staff officer. From November 1903 to January 1904 he temporarily commanded the 6th Military District (Tasmania). Early in 1904 relations between himself and Hutton became strained because, against Hutton's advice, the Deakin government sent Hoad for attachment to the Japanese Army, as an observer, in the Russo-Japanese war in Manchuria. For his services he received the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, 3rd class, and the Japanese War Medal.

When the Military Board was set up in January 1905 Hoad became its principal military member with the title of deputy adjutant general. In September 1906 he was appointed, temporarily, inspector general with the temporary rank of brigadier general. In January 1907 he was promoted major general and confirmed as inspector general.

In 1908 Hoad was sent to England to discuss the creation of an Imperial General Staff at the War Office, London, and to take part in the autumn manoeuvres of the British Army. Hoad was an ambitious officer and adept at cultivating friends in high places. During his absence in London (Sir) William Bridges's appointment as first chief of the Australian General Staff in January 1909 did little to improve their long-standing antipathy.

On Hoad's return in May (Sir) George Pearce, minister for defence, recommended that Hoad's recommendations for an Australian section of the Imperial General Staff be accepted and that Hoad be appointed chief of the Australian General Staff vice Bridges who was posted to the Imperial General Staff, London. On the creation of the Imperial General Staff Hoad, though not a staff college graduate, became concurrently, on 1 July 1909, chief of the Australian section of the staff.

On 21 December 1909 Hoad met Field Marshal Lord Kitchener at Darwin and accompanied him on his exhaustive tour of inspection of Australia's land defences which was completed in Melbourne on 12 February 1910. Later, while immersed in the planning for introduction of Australia's universal training scheme, his health deteriorated and he went on sick leave on 1 June 1911. On the occasion of the coronation of King George V on 22 June Hoad was appointed K.C.M.G. He was unable to attend the official opening of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in June and died in Melbourne of heart disorder on 6 October 1911. He was buried with military honours in St Kilda cemetery.

By ambition, industry and sustained work at high pressure Hoad held the two highest posts open to an officer of his time in Australia's military forces. He had spent most of his official life as a staff officer as few opportunities existed in his time for a regular officer to gain command experience. Despite a 'spare military figure' Hoad was 'full of suppressed energy', and his manner was quiet, tactful and unpretentious. He was a good listener; he spoke little but at the appropriate time had 'a ready flow of speech'.

Hoad had married a widow, Sarah Denniston Sennetts, née Brown, at Wangaratta Post Office, with Wesleyan forms on 22 December 1881. They had a daughter, who died as a child, and two sons.

Their younger son OSWALD VICK (1888-1963), was born on 30 July 1888 at South Melbourne and educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School. He was commissioned in the militia in February 1907 and in May 1909 became an honorary aide-de-camp to his father. In 1910 he transferred to the staff of the permanent military forces.

In 1913-15 he was an exchange officer with the Canadian Army. After staff postings in Victoria and Tasmania he was seconded to the Australian Imperial Force as a captain and in 1917-18 saw active service on the Western Front with the 21st and 22nd Battalions. He was wounded in action on 5 October 1918 and invalided to Australia in May 1919.

Resuming duty with the permanent forces in June 1919, Hoad was promoted major in November and in October 1920 became one of the original officers of the newly formed Australian Staff Corps. From February 1921 to July 1922 he was director of drill at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. During World War II Hoad occupied staff positions in Australia; he was promoted temporary brigadier in 1942 and retired in March 1946. He died at Southport, Queensland, on 12 September 1963. On 10 June 1913 at St Peter's Church, Melbourne, he had married Sheila Mairi McDonald; there was one son of the marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • R. A. Preston, Canada and ‘Imperial Defense’ (Durham, NC, 1967)
  • C. D. Coulthard-Clark, A Heritage of Spirit (Melb, 1979)
  • W. Perry, ‘The military life of Major-General Sir John Charles Hoad’, Victorian Historical Magazine, 29 (1959), no 3
  • Lithgow Mercury, 18 Oct 1907
  • Punch (Melbourne), 30 Dec 1909
  • Age (Melbourne), 19 Jan 1912.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Warren Perry, 'Hoad, Sir John Charles (1856–1911)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 26 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


25 January, 1856
Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia


6 October, 1911 (aged 55)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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