Arthur James Hillman Capt

Arthur James Hillman Capt


3rd Tunnelling Company

Born 19 July 1884 in Perth Western Australia Arthur James Hillman, the son of Alfred James Hillman (who held a commission in the Perth Rifles) and Elizabeth Deborah nee Brockman. Arthur was sent to Melbourne to further his education at Melbourne Grammar School where he was Dux of the school in his final year in 1901. He completed a degree in Civil Engineering at Melbourne University.

He completed the Application for a Commission in the Australian Imperial Forces on 29 September 1915. He listed under the Military Qualifications section that he had qualified for appointment as 2nd Lieutenant about 1908, that he had been the O.C. M.G. Section, 11th A.I.R. 1909-1910, that he had held the rank of 1st Lieutenant A.I.C., then Honorary Lieutenant, and had transferred to the Reserves on 1 October 1914.

He listed his profession as Civil Engineer and stated that his present civil employment was as the Assistant Engineer, Perth District Water Supply Department. Arthur was 5ft 9in tall and weighed 138lbs.

He signed the Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad on 8 October 1915 and was appointed Lieutenant in No. 3 Mining Corps the same day.

He recorded his age as 31 years and 3 months and that he was married with 3 children. He named as his Next of Kin his wife Helene Elizabeth Hillman (nee Merry) of East Street, Guildford, Western Australia

Arthur possibly travelled to Sydney on board SS Indarra with the other Western Australian recruits for the Mining Corps.

After concentrating and training at the Casula Camp, the newly formed Australian Mining Corps of Officers and men embarked on 20 February 1916 from Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A38 Ulysses.

Arthur was a Lieutenant in No. 1 Section of the 3rd Company under command of 2/lt L. J. Coulter at the time of sailing.

Ulysses stopped at Melbourne, Victoria, possibly to re-fuel and then proceeded to Fremantle Western Australia where 52 reinforcements were to board the ship and prepared to depart Fremantle on 24 March. When Ulysses was delayed for about a month due to requiring repairs following a collision with an uncharted rock when leaving Fremantle, the unit disembarked and were camped at Blackboy Hill Camp where their training continued.

On 24 March Arthur was detailed by Lt. Col. Fewtrell, C.O. of the Mining Corps, to the position of 2nd in Command of No. 6 Tunnelling Company, which was then forming at Blackboy Hill, to ensure the training of that unit was uniform with that of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Company.

The West Australian on May 30, 1916 reported on the Tunnellers’ Farewell Concert with Lieutenant Hillman taking part:

On 1 May 1916 he was promoted to Captain and embarked on 1 June 1916 from Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A69 Warilda with 1,118 members of the 4th, 5th and 6th Tunnelling Companies.

In his Diary, Sapper Hughie Dodd of the AEMMBC records:

“Australia – South Africa 1916

June 23
Have to travel with lights out. Pay day and got 12/-. Have next of kin down as James instead of Jabez which I am getting altered. Captain Hillman taking final evidence before submitting it for DCM. This is for NCOs only.”

It is believed that one of those Court Martialled was 3608 2nd Corporal Hindmarsh, G., charged with being “Absent without leave at Durban from 2pm till 3.45pm 17 June 1916”. Corporal Hindmarsh was Awarded “Forfeiture of seniority of rank”. The Court Martial was later deemed to have been improperly constituted and all sentences were quashed. George Hindmarsh went on to win a Military Medal and was prominent in coal mining after the war.

Disembarking at Plymouth, England on 18 July 1916, the men on Warilda underwent further training before Arthur proceeded overseas to France on 28 August 1916. He was taken on strength of the 3rd Australian Tunnelling Company, Supernumerary to Establishment, in 25 September 1916.

The original Australian Mining Corps was disbanded in May 1916 and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Australian Tunnelling Companies were formed. A new unit, the Australian Electrical and Mechanical Mining and Boring Company (AEMMBC) were formed from the technical members to provide lighting and ventilation equipment support to the Tunnelling Companies, and the British Expeditionary Force in general. When the 4th, 5th and 6th Companies arrived in France, they were absorbed into the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Companies respectively.

Arthur was taken on strength of the 3rd Tunnelling Company on 1 June 1917.

During their time on the Western Front, the 3rd Tunnelling Company was allocated to the First Army and never worked with an Australian unit or formation. They were employed by the British in the Sectors of Wytschaete, Fromelles, Laventie-Fauquissart, Chapigney, Lens, Loos, Arras, Givenchy, Vermelles and Tilleloy.

One of an Officer’s duties was to send a letter of sympathy to the next-of-kin of a member of his company when killed in action. The following is a letter to Mrs Carden offering condolences on behalf of the men of his company reprinted in the Western Argus on Tuesday April 9, 1918:

The award of the Military Cross to Captain Arthur James Hillman was noted in his records in March 1918 and was published in the London Gazette of 3 June 1918, appearing in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 7 November 1918.

On 22 June 1918 he was admitted to 34th Field Ambulance with P.U.O. (pyrexia unknown origin) and was transferred to the 23rd Casualty Clearing Station, suffering a NYD (not yet diagnosed) fever, on the same day. He was discharged to I Corps Officers Rest Station on 13 July 1918, marching out to rejoin his unit on 25 July.

Arthur enjoyed some leave from 28 September to 13 October 1918. Whilst in London he discovered that his date of embarkation was registered as 1 June 1916. At the end of October he sought through his C.O. to have his official date of embarkation amended to register his embarkation from Sydney on Ulysses on 20 February 1916. Administrative Headquarters, A.I.F. London were advised of the circumstances but what action was taken is unknown.

His wife was advised of Military Cross award on 18 November 1918.

In January 1919 Arthur gave evidence, in the form of a character statement, in the Inquiry into the disappearance of Lt Neil Campbell in April 1918, stating:

“I knew Lt. Campbell during the period he was connected with the unit, and he was attached to No.4 section for a while. In my opinion he was an Officer who in extreme case would fight on rather than surrender. He would not be taken prisoner.”

Arthur was marched out of the 3rd Tunnelling Company on 6 February 1919 for repatriation to Australia; however on 13 February 1919 he was given Command of the 2nd Tunnelling Company vide Major Mulligan who was returning to England.

Two weeks later on 21 February 1919, he marched out to England for demobilisation, returning to Australia per Sardinia, which departed London on 19 April 1919.

Disembarking in the 5th MD on 25 May 1919, his appointment as an Officer in the A.I.F. was terminated on 5 July 1919. He was entitled to wear the Military Cross, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Arthur James Hillman died on 27 April 1922 aged 36 years. The announcement appeared in The West Australian the following day:

The following arrangements for a military funeral were made known in The West Australian on Friday April 28, 1922:

A few days later The West Australian on Monday May 1, 1922 reported on his Military Funeral and interment in the Guildford Cemetery:

Further acknowledgement of his services and sympathy to his widow was publicly announced in The West Australian on Tuesday May 16, 1922:

Arthur’s two brothers also served in the Great War:

Lieutenant Herbert Ralph Hillman (1879-1964) – 16th Battalion – returned to Australia 19 April 1919.

Sergeant John Frederick Hillman (1883-1963) – 10th Light Horse – returned to Australia 4 August 1919.

John also served as a Private (W71208) with 6th Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps in WW2.

Two of Arthur’s six children served in WW2:

His eldest son, Geoffrey Arthur De Courcey Hillman, was the WA Rhodes Scholar for 1936 and served in the British 14th Army in India and Burma from 1942 to 1945.

The youngest son, Robert Merry Hillman, served as QX45631 Lieutenant with 9th Australian Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers, in New Guinea from 1942 to 1945.

© Donna Baldey 2008

Compiled with the considerable assistance of Ron Strickland, great nephew of Arthur Hillman. Photos also were donated by Ron Strickland.

Aust War Memorial Images:

E02485 19 June 1918 3rd Tunnelling Coy Officers at Neoux-les-Mines

E02489 19 June 1918 3rd Tunnelling Coy Officers at Neoux-les-Mines (with hats)

H00058 studio portrait England

P00615.0063rd Tunnelling Coy Officers at Neoux-les-Mines