The (relatively) unknown soldier: librarians unearth Anzac story of John Hamilton VC

WHEN people think of Victoria Cross recipients from Orange, Sir Neville Howse  comes to mind. 

Few people know there was another VC recipient from Orange and staff of the Central West Libraries want that to change. 

John Patrick Hamilton VC was a 19-year-old butcher when he signed up to the Australian Imperial Force during World War I .

He was posted to 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade and boarded HMAT Euripides in Sydney for training in Egypt. 

On August 9, 1915, at Lone Pine, Mr Hamilton and five others were ordered out of the trench into the open in order to halt the enemy advance.

With “utter disregard to personal safety,” he lay in the open for six hours, protected only by a few sandbags, telling those in the trenches where to throw their bombs, while keeping up constant sniper fire. 

He was awarded the VC for his efforts. 

Librarian Trudi Mayfield said she had looked him up on the Australian War Memorial records but was contacted by a distant relative of Mr Hamilton, Jim Shepherd, who had written a short biography of  the VC recipient. 

She said she could understand why Mr Hamilton did not have the same exposure as the former mayor Neville Howse. 

“We always think of Sir Neville. He was the mayor of Orange when he enlisted ...the mayor of Orange versus a butcher,” Ms Mayfield said.

“It’s really quite exciting.”

During three years of frontline service there was no record of Mr Hamilton ever being wounded, which technical services librarian Ros Dorsman said was quite unusual. 

“He’s not particularly well known, but with the centenary [of WWI], it’s a perfect opportunity to recognise people who might not be household names,” she said. 

After the war, Mr Hamilton moved to Sydney and became a docker, but re-enlisted for World War II where he served as a lieutenant with the 16th Garrison Battalion. 

“He was a mature man who had who had seen action and was willing to do it again,” Ms Dorsman said. 

Mr Hamilton died in Sydney in 1961, aged 65, of cerebrovascular disease.

Taking into account people who were born in Orange, lived in Orange or who had next of kin in Orange, there were 1816 Orange residents who fought in WWI.

“Obviously [Mr Hamilton] was quite exceptional ... all of these people aren’t terribly well-known,” Ms Dorsman said. 

The Central West Library staff want to give these veterans the credit they deserve through its website, blog and Orange wiki page. 

Information was be found www.cwl.nsw.gov.au.

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