Returned soldiers at Hawkesbury Agricultural College

Returned soldiers HAC Hawkesbury Gazette 9 May 2018

By Anzac Day 1918, Hawkesbury Agricultural College had provided agricultural training for sixty returned soldiers in the fields of horticulture, pig raising, poultry farming and dairying. Many of the men had permanent injuries and were selected under an arrangement between the State War Council and Department of Agriculture. It was reported in the HAC Annual Report in 1916 that ‘Fifteen soldiers have taken advantage of this…many of them are maimed and injured to such a degree that it is impossible for them to pursue occupations incurring strenuous labour.’

By 1919 it was reported that ‘there has been a continuous stream of returned soldiers entering the College, to whom were allotted 50 bedrooms. These returned men of all ranks, as they are discharged, are granted six months’ training in any section to which their physical capacity and temperament suit them, free of charge’.

Despite their injuries, these men were endeavouring to make a new start in civilian life after the horrors of war and most were determined to complete their courses. Take for example Robert Macky, Lachlan Maclachlan, William Worth, Ernest Boston, Ernest Barnes and Leonard Beckett.

Robert Mitchell Macky enlisted in 1916 aged 38 and listed his occupations as farmer and dentist. He suffered repeatedly from the effects of trench fever and rheumatism but after he completed a course in dairy in 1918, he continued working his properties at Bowraville.

Lachlan Maclachlan enlisted in 1914 aged 27 and listed his occupation as stockman. He was wounded several times while serving at Gallipoli, then sent to Belgium and France. In 1916, he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. Maclachlan was seriously wounded and returned to Australia towards the end of 1917. Soon after, he commenced a six-month course at HAC in dairying, plots and piggery but was accidentally killed at Kenilworth Station at Byrock in late 1918.

William Worth enlisted in 1914 aged 20 and listed his occupation as engine driver. Shot in both shoulders at Gallipoli, he suffered paralysis in the neck, leg and arms but he completed three months’ training in the poultry section. Ernest James Boston, who had been gassed, did a course in poultry. Ernest Walter Barnes, wounded in the shoulder and larynx, completed a year in orchard work and then trained as a saddler. Leonard Beckett enlisted in 1915 aged 26 and listed his occupation as carpenter. He was wounded at Gallipoli and his right hand was amputated but he completed a six-month course in poultry.

These are just a few of the names of returned soldiers listed in the student cards in the open archives of Western Sydney University. The photograph shows a group of wounded WW1 soldiers from No 4 Australian General Hospital, Randwick, on an outing to HAC on 18 December 1918. On the back of this photograph was written ‘the man carrying his legless friend on his back had himself two artificial legs’.

copyrightCarol Roberts 2019

I completed the basis of this article for the Hawkesbury Gazette published on Wednesday 9 May 2018 for Colo Shire Family History Group as ‘Training for the wounded’.

Note: I am currently Seeking permission from Western Sydney University Archives to include copy of original photo.


Annual Report – Hawkesbury Agricultural College (HAC) – 1916 (p.88, ref. AI-42139),, accessed 6 May 2018.

Annual Report – Hawkesbury Agricultural College (HAC) – 1919 (p.55, ref. AI-42142),, accessed 6 May 2018.

‘Probate Jurisdiction, Robert Mitchell Macky’, NSW Government Gazette Issue No. 48, Friday, 16 March 1934, National Library of Australia Trove Government Gazettes,, accessed 6 May 2018.

National Archives of Australia, Your story, our history,, accessed 6 May 2018.

NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages Online Index,, accessed 6 May 2018.

Open Archives Western Sydney University,, World War One 1914-1918, accessed 6 May 2018.

Photograph from Western Sydney University Archives Collection, P1402, Wounded soldiers who fought in the First World War (WWI) visiting the College [Hawkesbury Agricultural College (HAC)] 18/12/1918.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s