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Anzac’s The Chinese Connection

Dick Hustwaite and Tom Partington.
Dick Hustwaite and Tom Partington.

AMONGST the usual war medals, photos and letters, a first aid booklet – in very good condition – feels out of place in what was part of Corp. Sydney John (Dick) Hustwaite’s, of the 14th Battalion, army kit when he went off in the first World War. Titled ‘First Aid to the Injured Booklet’ the text and images cover things such as how to deal with fractures, bandaging, burns and scalds. The booklet, along with other items, is now in possession of David Hustwaite, Dick’s grandson. “Dick had two children, Neil my uncle and Stuart my father (who has been dead for many years), when uncle Neil passed away all this came to me because his three sons had all passed away, two in the Vietnam War, so it was left to me to take over,” David said. Dick Hustwaite was a Chinese ANZAC, his mother Lavinia Lee Soon was of Chinese/Irish parentage and in 1892 she ran away with John Hustwayte (a bank trainee) to Ballarat to be married – Dick was born in 1894 and was the second eldest child of eight. “My grandmother had most of this (memorabilia) up until she died, which was in 1997, when she passed it went to my uncle Neil and when he passed it went to me,” David said. “The first thing I did when he died I raced to one of his daughters in law and got this stuff back, it was a priority and she gave it saying it didn’t really mean anything to them, it meant more to me because it was my grandfather.” Touching the history he has in his possession David said, “You sort of don’t think about until you start to look at it and then you realise its 100 years.

Corp. Sydney John (Dick) Hustwaite,
Corp. Sydney John (Dick)

The dog tags and badges went all the way to the Western Front and came back and they are still here.”

Dick Hustwaite did return home from the war but it was not an easy journey home. Amongst the letters are two which appear to be from fellow soldiers who took the time to write to Dick’s mother, telling of his injuries and capture and an official report from the ‘Australian Imperial Force’ to advise that Corporal S J Hustwaite has been officially reported prisoner of war, captured 11/4/17 at Raincourt, and in interned at Gafangenenlager, Munster (Western Germany). What was Dick’s mother feeling as she read these letters? What were hundreds of other mothers feeling as they read similar letters?

He did come back with bad war injuries and he worked at the railways after he came back but he was TPI’d (pensioned) in the 50s and then he died in 1961,” David said. “He didn’t actually die from the gunshot wounds; he died from gangrene from in the trenches and the wet sloppy conditions. His feet were gangrened– he lost one foot but then it just went through him and that’s what killed him.”