No.68583 Private Alfred Hartly Hurst
Alfred Hartly Hurst was born on 23 June 1895 in Maldon, Victoria to Alfred William and Rosetta Ann Hurst (nee Palmer). The town of Maldon is located in a historical gold mining region between the larger centres of Castlemaine and Bendigo.
Alfred had five brothers, they were:
- Charles George (1893-1985)
- Clarence Aldous (1897-1978)
- Archibald Stanley (1898-1978)
- George Hector (1901-1974) and
- Roy Hurst (1903)
Alfred enlisted into the Army at Melbourne, Victoria on 2 July 1918. He was aged 23 years and one month and was five feet and five and a quarter inches tall. Matthew weighed 129 pounds and had a chest measurement of 32 to 34 and a half inches. His complexion was listed as fresh, with blue eyes and brown hair. His next of kin was listed as his father, Mr. Alfred William Hurst, Aviation School Road, Laverton, Victoria. All of this was recorded at the time of his enlistment.
Alfred embarked from Port Adelaide, South Australia per S.S. Boonah on 22 October 1918. He was bound for the United Kingdom via Fremantle and South Africa. S.S. Boonah was the last Australian troop ship to leave Australia in World War 1. Carrying about 1200 AIF soldiers, she arrived in Durban, South Africa just three days after the Armistice was signed, and on hearing the news, made arrangements to promptly return home.
Alfred and his fellow comrades never made it to the war, but on their return trip had to fight a war of their own. Whilst in Durban, local stevedores from the Spanish flu stricken city infected soldiers, who were billeted in the crowded ship. By the time the ship had arrived back at Fremantle on 12 December, more than 300 cases had been reported, and Commonwealth immigration authorities initially refused to allow the soldiers to disembark, knowing of the global pandemic which was underway but which had until then spared Western Australia. After some delay before approval was granted, 300 of the most unwell soldiers were ferried ashore to the Quarantine Station, Woodman Point, Western Australia.
Alfred and his sick ship mates were admitted to the Quarantine Station suffering from Pneumonia Influenza on 12 December 1918. Not all of the men were sent to Woodman Point. The remainder stayed on the ship, where conditions were said to be deplorable. A seven-day incubation period with no new cases was required to prove that the disease had burnt itself out, but new infections and deaths continued, caused by the cramped and close living conditions on board.
Public outrage grew against the refusal of the immigration authorities to allow all of the soldiers ashore with casualties growing each day. After nine days of acrimony, and despite breaking quarantine regulations, the ship was ordered to depart presumably to defuse the situation. Another 17 cases were discovered between Albany and Adelaide, and the remaining men were disembarked at Torrens Island Quarantine Station, a similar facility to Woodman's Point, and just north of Adelaide. No further deaths occurred and after being given the all-clear, the remaining men returned to their homes.
A total of twenty-seven soldiers and four nurses at Woodman Point died of influenza during the crisis, which was remembered as Boonah Tragedy: The ship of death that created an uproar.
Alfred was one of the lucky ones and he was discharged from the Quarantine Station on 3 January 1919 and was discharged from the A.I.F. on 31 January 1919.
According to the 1917 Australia Electoral roll (Victoria, 1919, Melbourne Ports, Newport) Alfred Hartly Hurst lived at 116 Mason Street, Newport with his parents and his brother Charles. His occupation listed was a carpenter.
The 1919 Australia electoral Roll had the Hurst family living in Laverton. Living on the farm were his parents and his brothers Charles and Clarence. Their occupation was listed as farmer.
The 1921 Australia Electoral Roll had the Hurst family living in Laverton. Living on the farm were his parents, his brother Charles George and his wife Ethel Florence; also his other two brothers Clarence Aldous and Archibald Stanley.
The 1925 Australia Electoral roll had Alfred Hartley Hurst living at 41 Newcastle Street, Newport with his wife, Pearl Dorothy Hurst. Alfred’s father, mother and brother Clarence were living in 37 Newcastle Street, Newport. The profession of all three men then was plasterer.
Alfred Hartly Hurst died on 29 September 1978 at Eltham, Melbourne Victoria aged 82 and is buried at the Williamstown Cemetery, Williamstown North, Victoria.
Medals and Entitlements:
- British War Medal - Date unknown
- Victory Medal - Date unknown
Citation NAA: B2455, HURST A H 68583
South Australian Medical Heritage Society Inc - The Boonah Tragedy
Boonah crisis (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Trove – Digitised newspapers: The Argus - Melbourne, Vic. Saturday 4 January 1919 THE S.S. BOONAH OUTBREAK.
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) Friday 20 December 1918 Pneumonic Influenza – Position in Sydney.