John ‘Barney’ Hines also known as the ‘Souvenir King’ during WW1

Photograph of John Hines surrounded by some of his stolen and liberated souvenirs whilst serving on the Western Front.

John Hines was a British-born Australian soldier who served on the Western Front during the Great War who became known for looting whatever he could get his hands on but was also noted for being an aggressive soldier. In June 1917 he captured 60 German soldiers during the Battle of Messines after throwing hand grenades into their pillbox.

Although he was brave in battle his behaviour was erratic and when away from the front line he was court martialled on nine occasions for drunkenness, impeding military police, forging entries in his pay book and being absent without leave. It is also thought he was caught robbing the safe at a bank in Amiens and because of these convictions he lost several promotions he gained for acts of bravery.

In mid-1918 he was discharged from the Australian Army for being unfit due to haemorrhoid problems and arrived back in Australia on 19 October 1918. For the next 40 years he lived near Mount Druitt in a small shelter made of old clothes which was surrounded by a fence on which he hung German helmets and the local people were afraid of him. Despite being a recluse and pennyless he travelled to Concord Repatriation Hospital each week to donate a suitcase of vegetables from his garden to veterans being treated there.

At the start of the Second World War he attempted to enlist but was rejected, at that time he was 60 years old. After being rejected it was widely claimed he attempted to stow away on a troop ship but was caught before the ship sailed.

John ‘Barney’ Hines died at Concord Repatriation HospitaL on 28 January 1958 and buried in a grave which was unmarked until 1971, when a charity paid for a headstone. The council renamed the street on which he lived to John Hines Avenue and a monument commemorating him was built at Mount Druitt Waterholes Remembrance Gardens in 2020.

Historian Peter Stanley said Hines was a man whose skills in fighting were needed and whose knack of souveniring was admired, but he had few gifts that a peaceful society valued.

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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