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Australian WW1 Solider John “Barney” Hines

Researchers have recently uncovered the Scottie Road roots of legendary Australian WW1 soldier John “Barney” Hines. It was claimed that Hines killed more Germans than any other Australian soldier in the Great War. Little was known about his early life until researchers, looking for his relations who lived at 23 Eldon Place Liverpool, discovered that Hines was previously called John Heim. Surprisingly, considering his war exploits, he was the son of German immigrants, Jacob and Dora Heim. His father, Jacob Heim, was one of the many Liverpool-Germans working in the local sugar refining industry.

Hines was born Johannes Heim at 16 Grosvenor Street Liverpool on 11 October 1878 and baptised at St Joseph’s church on 20 October 1878. After working at Bevington Bush Tannery, he enlisted in the British Army in 1895 but was found to be ‘non Effective’. The following year he joined the Royal Navy but was ‘Discharged as objectionable’ after eight months. He found work as a merchant seaman and married Hannah Maher at Our Lady’s church in Eldon Street in 1899. They had two children together but for some reason around 1904 he left his family behind in Liverpool to start a new life Down Under.

He successfully joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 8 May 1916 after being discharged as medically unfit the previous year. Assigned to the 45th Battalion he departed Sydney for Europe on 22 August 1916. After completing training in England, he was sent to the Western Front in March 1917. In June 1917 he captured 60 German soldiers during the Battle of Messines. He was most effective in combat when attacking German positions with his beloved “Mills bombs”, a type of hand grenade.

In June 1917 he captured 60 German soldiers during the Battle of Messines. He was most effective in combat when attacking German positions with his beloved “Mills bombs”, a type of hand grenade.

At the Battle of Polygon Wood in September 1917 Frank Hurley took an iconic photograph of him with the spoils of war captured from the Germans. The photograph was published in late 1917 under the title “Wild Eye, the souvenir king” and became one of the best-known Australian photographs of the war. Many soldiers identified with him and were amused by his collection of souvenirs. The photograph was used as propaganda, and a false story developed that the German Kaiser Wilhelm II had become enraged after seeing it.

Commander of the 45t h Battalion, Arthur Samuel Allen, described Hines to a journalist in 1938 as “a tower of strength to the battalion … while he was in the line”. Away from the front line his poor discipline often got him into trouble. He was court martialled on nine occasions for drunkenness, impeding military police, forging entries in his pay book and being absent w ithout leave.

In mid-1918 he was discharged from the AIF as being medically unfit due to hemorrhoid problems. He arrived back in Australia on 19 October 1918. After the war he lived near Mount Druitt on the outskirts of Sydney. He struggled to find consistent work and lived mainly on his Army pension. Continued interest in the the Hurley photograph resulted in him being the subject of articles in several newspapers and magazines. He died in Sydney in 1958 and was buried at Rookwood Cemetery.

The Blacktown City Council changed the name of the street on which he lived in the suburb of Minchinbury to John Hines Avenue, and a m onument commemorating him was built at the nearby Mount Druitt Waterholes Remembrance Garden in 20 02. A large version of the famous photograph of Hines was accorded a prominent position in the Australian War Memorial’s permanent building in Canberra after it opened in 1941. The photo was also included in the 2014 redevelopment of the Memorial’s permanent World War I exhibition.