Australian 100 yards record-holder in the early 1900s, Bendigo’s Herbert Humphreys Hunter, was a World War I hero who died in Gallipoli.
At the 1904 National championships, Hunter was involved in a dramatic run-off for the 100 yards title, which he won against a great NSW athlete Nigel Barker. Two years earlier Hunter had run 9.8 to equal the Australian record, a time which stood until 1930.
Hunter was a talented all-round sportsman. He was a boxer, AFL footballer and swimmer. A dentist, Hunter enlisted in the war and was given command of D Company of the 7th Battalion.
He arrived at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and two weeks later on 8 May 1915 the 7th Battalion were given orders to attack the Turkish front line in the second battle of Krithia. Hunter, "being an exceptionally fast runner", was at the forefront of operations.
A special correspondent for the Melbourne Argus recorded the manner of Captain Hunter's death, writing: “..in some marvellous way he was not hit by a Turkish bullet until late in the morning, although men were killed all about him.
He received a flesh wound in the heel, however, when the battle was at its height, he was taken behind the firing line to have the injury cleaned and bandaged.
While he was lying on the ground a bullet struck him in the head and he died in a few seconds.”
After his death G Freeman, wrote a poem which was published in the Bendigonian on 27 May 1915:
IN MEMORIAM CAPTAIN H. H. HUNTER.
So fleet, so strong, so gay, so high of heart,
So straight a sportsman, true to manhood's laws;
He heard the call, and chose the nobler part,
A man's clean death fighting in freedom's cause.
How oft we marked him as he led the race
With flying leap, quick blow, or bounding stride;
But never did he so set so true a pace
As when he led the battle charge – and died.
He gave his country all-his body's might,
His life's success, home love, his joyous youth
He cast, them all. the offerings of a knight,
Into the altar flame of right and truth.
God rest thee, sleeping in thy far off grave,
With heroes round thee; yet another shrine
We guard for thee, first dead of all our brave,
The sad, proud memory of each friend of thine.
-G. H. FREEMAN.
Bendigonian (Bendigo, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), Thursday 27 May 1915
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia
David Tarbotton and Bruce Coe have compiled
an extensive list of athletes who served in World War I
as part of their continuing work remembering those who served our country.