Pakenham's Boer War Soldiers
Pakenham’s first soldiers were volunteers who served during the Second Anglo-Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902), including Reg Henty, Alfred Hillman, Tom Thompson and Tom Wilson. Reg Henty was a member of a pioneering family (owners of “Pakenham Park”) and later served on Berwick Shire as a Councillor and Shire President. Tom Thompson was perhaps the most highly decorated soldier ever associated with Pakenham, being awarded the prestigious Distinguished Service Order (DSO). This was mainly awarded to senior officers (Lieutenant Colonel and above) with awards to more junior officers like Thompson “usually for a high degree of gallantry just short of deserving the Victoria Cross” (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/medals-decorations/details/40). Alfred Hillman, who was the son-in-law of local blacksmith and undertaker Oscar Smith, served with both the Light Horse and the artillery. He later had the distinction of being part of the military contingent that represented Australia at the coronation of King Edward VII in London. Tom Wilson, a farmer from Gembrook but whose parents lived in Pakenham, later became a police officer (SBMJ, 25/7/1900 p. 2 & 14/5/1902 p. 2). While there was popular enthusiasm about key events, such as the “Relief of Mafeking” (indeed, King Street in Pakenham was originally named “Mafeking Street”), there was some criticism that the town had not show its “sincere appreciation” to all the returning soldiers (SBMJ, 14/5/1902, p. 2).
Several other men who later lived in the District, including Ern Gabbett and Lionel Malcolm, were also veterans of the Boer War. Interestingly, Ern (who was a popular local shopkeeper, musician and actor) was eventually a veteran of three wars, having served in the Boer War, WWI and WWII.
Above: Alfred Hillman in uniform (Courtesy of Hillman family)
Right: Reg Henty (second from right) duck hunting with Miss Marion Cicily O'Shannassy (local post-mistress at Old Pakenham) and his brothers, probably on his estate "Pakenham Park" (Courtesy of Deborah Carmichael)
Far right: Ern Gabbett during WWII. On his medal bar are the ribbons for his Boer War and WWI medals. Courtesy of National Archives (B884, V7041)