Saturday, 24 March 2018

George Hepworth - an 'Old Contemptible'

I recently came across a newspaper article in the Coburg Courier dated 16 March 1976 entitled 'Final tribute to an 'old Contemptible'.

The 'Old Contemptible' was George Hepworth of Landells Road, Pascoe Vale and he had just died aged 80. The article mentioned that another 'six of Victoria's most famous "Diggers"' were at his funeral, then aged between 80 and 90. One of them, Fred Long, held the 'Old Contemptibles' flag while the Last Post played. The article also mentioned that with his death, only 10 'Old Contemptibles' were left in Victoria.

Age, 25 August 1947. It's possible that George Hepworth is in this photo.

These World War One veterans took their name from the Kaiser's derisive term for them - 'Sir John French's contemptible little army'. Any British Empire Force soldier who served in France or Flanders between 5 August and 22 November 1914 could call themselves an 'Old Contemptible'. 

Sydney Mail, 24 April 1935

The Courier article gives more details:
Sixty thousand of their fellow British soldiers died in the retreat from Mons during the French campaign of World War 1.
 Eight British divisions, pitted against 45 German divisions, managed to inflict heavy German losses.
The Kaiser's order to his officers was to 'wipe the contemptible little British army into the sea.'
After the battle the 20,000 survivors all over the world formed the 'Old Contemptibles Association.

In June 1925 an Old Contemptibles Association was founded and soon it had 178 branches in the UK and 14 branches overseas. Perhaps the most active Australian branch was here in Melbourne.

Age, 23 August 1954.

Herbert George Hepworth (known as George) was a 30 year old hotel porter when he arrived in Melbourne in February 1926. He spent some time in Albury, NSW but after his marriage to Clara (known as Corrie) Newton in 1938, he settled in Melbourne and spent some years in Box Hill before moving to Pascoe Vale. He died in 1976, his wife in 1991. They are buried together at Fawkner Memorial Park.


If you are interested, there is an Old Contemptibles Facebook page. Well worth visiting!

Coburg Courier, 16 March 1976
Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage indexes
UK Outward Shipping Records (accessed via Ancestry)
UK WW1 Military records (accessed via Ancestry)
Fawkner Cemetery records
NSW and Victorian electoral rolls (accessed via Ancestry)
Sydney Mail, 14 November 1934
Sydney Mail, 24 April 1935
Age, 25 August 1947
Age, 26 April 1948
Argus, 25 April 1953
Horsham Times, 23 December 1953
Age, 23 August 1954

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