The Souvenir King

24 Apr, 2015 02:00 AM
SPOILS OF WAR: Barney Hines surrounded by German souvenirs after the Battle of Polygon Wood. Photo: Australian War Memorial
SPOILS OF WAR: Barney Hines surrounded by German souvenirs after the Battle of Polygon Wood. Photo: Australian War Memorial

THOSE Australian travellers who like to collect souvenirs on their journeys would have loved John "Barney" Hines.

Hines was dubbed "the Souvenir King" on the Western Front during the First World War because of his passion for looting the belongings, badges, weapons and helmets from dead and captured Germans.

Hines gave his occupation as shearer and lied about his age (he was much older than 28) when he first enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in August, 1915.

He was classified medically unfit a few months later because of hemorrhoids but successfully rejoined the AIF in June, 1916, this time giving his age as 36 years and his occupation as engineer.

Hines, who was born in Liverpool, England, had been drifting around Australia working at different jobs before he was posted to the 45th battalion and sent to France and Belgium.

He was an unruly soldier away from the frontline trenches, frequently in trouble with his superiors and the military police for a range of "crimes" including drunkenness, numerous absences without leave, and forging entries in his pay book.

But in battle he was a ferocious fighter who once captured 63 dazed Germans, including a general, after throwing several Mills bombs inside a pillbox during the Battle of Messines.

Later the same day he destroyed another German machine-gun post after venturing out alone but was wounded and while convalescing stole a horse which he sold for a bottle of whisky.

A photograph of Hines taken by Frank Hurley after the Battle of Polygon Wood in September, 1917, wearing a German cap and surrounded by souvenirs taken from the enemy became one of the most famous images of the war.

Reports indicated he had collected more than 4000 francs, a bottle of whisky, a pair of earrings, a diamond brooch, a gold ring, around one million German marks, a variety of watches, and sufficient iron crosses to fill a sandbag.

He also had some lucky escapes. At Passchendaele in 1917, Hines was the only member of his Lewis gun team To survive a direct hit by an enemy shell.

After the war he lived in a humpy near Mt Druitt on Sydney's western fringe and was forced to sell off some of his souvenirs to bolster his war pension.

Hines died on January 29, 1958, and was buried in Sydney's Rookwood Cemetery.

Vernon Graham

Vernon Graham

is the group editor of Fairfax Agricultural Media


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