Oliver “Trooper Bluegum” Hogue
Oliver Hogue was born in Sydney on 29 April 1880. He had four sisters, including his twin, Amy, and five brothers. Despite being raised in the city, Hogue’s sporting abilities and skill as a horseman led him to consider himself a bushman, and after completing school he travelled thousands of miles by bicycle, camping along Australia’s east coast.
Hogue worked as a commercial traveler before joining the Sydney Morning Herald as a journalist in 1907. When the First World War broke out in 1914 Hogue applied unsuccessfully to become an official war correspondent, and instead enlisted as a trooper with the 6th Light Horse Regiment. He left Sydney aboard HMAT Suevic on 20 December 1914.
Hogue served on Gallipoli for five months before being evacuated to England with enteric fever. He returned to his unit in early 1916, at which point it had pushed out into the Sinai Desert, where allied and Ottoman forces fought for control of the Suez Canal.
Hogue developed a reputation as a loyal and enthusiastic officer unafraid of front-line service. He kept in touch with his family and wrote contributions for the Sydney Morning Herald under the pseudonym “Trooper Bluegum”. His articles were later published as books back in Australia.
Hogue fought in the battle of Romani in August 1916, which finally put an end to the Ottoman army’s threats on the Suez Canal. He served for some time in the Imperial Camel Corps until it was disbanded towards the end of the war, at which point he returned to the light horse and was soon promoted to major. He participated in the Australian advance towards Damascus in Syria. The Ottoman army eventually surrendered in October 1918, and the next year Hogue went on leave to England. After surviving the fighting and harsh conditions in the war, Hogue contracted influenza while in London, and died on 3 March 1919.
Hogue was later described as:
...a man who radiated geniality, and in all his doings was actuated by a kindliness of heart and generosity that won everyone’s regard and affection … Fearless, cool, and brave, he was in many ways a typical soldier. He was a soldier and a gentleman. Unfailing goodness was a quality he possessed in a marked degree.Sydney Morning Herald, 1919.
Hogue described his decision to volunteer in an article he wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald:
The sun was just setting over the western rim of dear old Sydney town when my turn came … The First Light Horse Contingent – in fine fettle, ready at a moment’s notice to sail for Europe … reminded us that the nation was in a state of war, that the Empire was engaged in a life-and-death struggle, and that on the issue of the great conflict depended the fate of Australia. And we of the second contingent were to make good the “wastage of war”. So, solemnly, I kissed the book and swore this oath: … [I] swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lord the King.Trooper Bluegum, Sydney Morning Herald, 1914.
1. What reason does he give for volunteering? Why do you think this was important to him and many other Australians at the time? What other reasons may some Australians have had for volunteering?
Hogue described the Australians who served in the light horse in the same article:
In a huge marquee on Rosebery Park were a score of virile young Australians stripped for the fray. Sun-tanned bushmen they were, for the most part, lean and wiry, with muscles rippling … Splendid specimens – strong, but not too heavy … these were ideal Light Horsemen.Trooper Bluegum, Sydney Morning Herald, 1914
2. Do you think all Australians had these characteristics? Why or why not?
3. Hogue also served in the Imperial Camel Corps. Why would camels have been useful in a desert war?
Hogue also wrote poems about his time in the war, including this one about the evacuation from Gallipoli.
Ah, well! Wae’re gone! We’re out of it now. We’ve got something else to do.
But we all look back from the transport deck to the land-line far and blue:
Shore and valley are faded; fading are cliff and hill;
The land-line we called “Anzac” … and we’ll call it “Anzac” still!
This last six months, I reckon’ll be most of my life to me:"Trooper Bluegum", 1916
Trenches and shells, and snipers, and the morning light on the sea,
Thirst in the broiling mid-day, shouts and gasping cries,
Big guns’ talk from the water, and … flies, flies, flies, flies, flies!
4. What does Hogue’s poem tell us about the conditions the Australians experienced on Gallipoli?