MYSTERY: The crypt-like centre of the old Hill Bowling Club wall with the faded 1918 inscription. Pictures: Mike ScanlonREMEMBRANCE Day this year was more memorable because of a telephone call I made the day after the recent centenary of the 1918 armistice.
My call to Newcastle identity Doug Goold was a follow-up to an email he had sent me posing a bit of a topical mystery.
“I walk past this plaque at the top of Watt Street, Newcastle, regularly and it’s now struck me it’s commemorating the death of a Mr Hingst, 100 years ago next month.
“It’s strange that I’ve never noticed it before. But who was he? Did he die in the (so-called) Great War of 1914-1918? Was he a Newcastle notable?
“Might be a good story here and who would be the bloke to turn to with these queries?” Doug asked.
Doug never gives me the easy ones. He was once a fellow drinker at the old Beach Hotel, a few blocks away from the site he was hoping I’d investigate.
This year’s special commemoration of what used to be called Armistice Day marked, of course, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month since the end of World War I. That’s when the guns finally fell silent in a war in which more than 60,000 ns died.
But where exactly had Doug spotted this ‘unknown’ inscription? I knew of two other monuments there, but strangely not that of the likely history subject of a Mr Henry Hingst.
For example, there’s one on a rock at the ocean lookout ocean dedicated to the memory of Anne Feneley (1953-1999), long recognised for her contribution to Newcastle’s cultural life.
Another is a small plaque behind wire at the cliff top there marking “historic site No.20”. It’s where a wooden post was erected in 1864 by surveyor D.M.Maitland to fix the street alignment.
“No. The Hingst memorial is about 50 metres into what becomes Ordnance Street there. It’s fixed to a wall at what used to be the old Hill Bowling Club,” Doug said.
So I took a walk (parking is impossible there) only to discover the Anne Feneley plaque has disappeared, possibly stolen by scrap metal hunters.
The street alignment plaque is still there, but, at first glance, the historic wooden post seemed to have also disappeared until I realised it was almost buried in bitou bush.
Nearby, hidden in plain sight in the very middle of a grey wall about 35 metres long was a piece of granite engraved with the faded words: “Erected to the memory of Henry Detlev Hingst, died 11th December 1918”
So, Mr Hingst had the misfortune to die exactly only a month after the 1918 armistice. But was he even a soldier?
Being on the lone surviving wall of the former Newcastle City Bowling Club, established 1881, made me suspect the late Mr Hingst may have been too old to serve his country, but was a prominent identity nonetheless.
Why though was there not also a memorial to, say, the city club’s famous founder, the “father of Newcastle bowls” Frank Gardner?
District bowling club records only indicate Hingst was a top player featuring in three fours bowling club championships between 1898 and 1912.
Just behind the wall there was another surprise. It’s a heavy, broken sandstone pillar also with an engraving on granite. This one is to the memory of David Miller, a bowls club member from 1881 to 1919. From memory, he was a former Newcastle mayor at some stage.
So, only two club memorials. They must have both been special people, but why single Henry Detlev Hingst out for posterity?
Hingst was obviously a prominent citizen, but I could find no trace of any printed obituary. Dare I suggest the monument was possible overdue recognition by fellow members for someone who had been grievously wronged by their society in wartime?
Did he die of a broken heart, disappointed at how his adopted country had treated him?
NO CLUES: The Hingst family monument at Sandgate Cemetery.
We may never know. Perhaps a family member knows more?
His story could well represent the other side of the coin of patriotic fervour whipped up in World War I to get young men to volunteer for war. That’s when often innocent citizens with German names were singled out for special attention by authorities, sometimes even persecuted by misguided members of the public.
In Hunter Street West, for example, near Union Street, there used to be a German eagle sculpture on a parapet above a business. Some people, incited by colourful early WWI propaganda, torn it down in a frenzy of hate against the ‘Huns’.
Shopkeepers, post masters, anyone with a foreign sounding names were often dobbed in by zealous neighbours. There were reports of harmless dachshunds, a German breed of small dogs with long sausage-like bodies and very short legs, being chased and butchered in revenge for alleged German atrocities overseas in Belgium.
It’s an appalling story no one usually wants to talk about these days.
What we do know is that Henry Detlev Hingst was taken before the Newcastle Electoral Revision Court on September 6, 1916, and after being described as being a native of Schleswig-Holstein, and was disenfranchised.
The action was taken on the grounds he was a naturalised citizen of a county now at war with Great Britain and therefore the British Empire, including .
Hingst protested his innocence as a possible enemy alien. The magistrate C.F. Butler, said the specific 1916 Act was “very hard on Hingst”. However, while seeming sympathetic, Butler SM said he could do nothing. The law was the law and he struck him off the electoral roll as a citizen.
Newspaper reports said this was despite Hingst, a clothier, being in business in Newcastle for 37 years. Born under the Danish flag in 1856, Hingst was naturalised some years after Germany had conquered and annexed Schleswig-Holstein.
Seemingly to fuel the injustice, the court heard one of his sons was an Anzac, fighting with the ns at the front line and that his daughter was a member of the Red Cross Society.
Moreover, he had never employed Germans and, of his 39 employees, not one was a foreigner. He had also contributed liberally to the patriotic funds and subscribed to the War Loan.
The same day three other Hunter residents were also struck off the electoral roll, including a jeweller who had been born in Jerusalem. This was “unfortunate” as it was then (in 1916) under Turkish rule, the magistrate said.
Hingst is today buried in Sandgate Cemetery but many inscriptions on the family tomb have been erased over time, giving no clue what happened after his 1916 hearing.
Meanwhile, 7000 Aussie residents were interned, most as ‘enemy aliens’, in World War I The main site was Holsworthy Camp in southwest Sydney.
Trial Bay Gaol, at South West Rocks near Kempsey, housed up to 500 German prisoners including puzzled doctors and businessmen, between 1915 and May 1918.
Five German internees died there during confinement and their comrades erected a stone monument in their memory. After the site was evacuated, resentful locals blew it to pieces in 1919.
It was finally rebuilt in 1959.