• Henry Thomas Gunning

Army / Flying Corps
  • 19th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • 5th Brigade
  • Private

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  • 1914–1915 Star
  • Birth

    Cooma, New South Wales, Australia

  • Enlistment - WW1

    Goulburn, NSW, Australia

Stories and comments
    • From the Monaro to the Black Hole of Lille
    • Posted by annstewie, Tuesday, 16 December 2014

    Pte Henry Thomas Gunning No: 4128 19th Battalion 7th Reinforcements Henry Thomas Gunning (“Harry”) was born in Cooma in 1895, the youngest of the four surviving sons of Esther Stewart and Henry Gunning. Henry Snr had arrived in Australia, in 1872, as an 18 year old English migrant. Esther was the daughter of Hugh Stewart and his wife, Jane Hain. Hugh had migrated from Northern Ireland as a baby with his parents, William Stewart and Esther Hannah, in 1842. The family eventually settled at Cooma Creek, where mother Esther was killed by lightening in 1857, while William and Hugh were away, probably with their drays. Hugh had begun working with his father while just a boy, later carting supplies to the Kiandra gold fields, where they made very good money. He went on to develope many business and recreational interests in and around Cooma, including horse racing, grazing, flour milling, mining and storekeeping (e.g. The Little Wonder Criterion Store.) With his wife, Jane Hain, he established and ran The Traveller's Rest Inn and The Cooma Coffee Palace. Jane's family were equally enterprising. Her father, James Hain and his wife, Mary Patch, who had migrated from England in 1852, had built and run the Royal Hotel, The Lord Raglan Hotel and Hain's Country Store. The family was involved in the building of many of the houses in Lambie St. and running stock and station agencies. Jane and Hugh participated in community affairs as well, including supporting or establishing Cooma Hospital, the Anglican Church, the Commons Trust and the Cooma Show. Hugh was also an alderman. Henry and Esther in turn passed on these community minded values to their sons. Henry Snr was Mayor of Cooma for six months in 1893 and a member of the Hospital Committee, for which Esther was a fund raiser. They both exhibited in the Cooma Show – Henry with his drawings and steel engravings and Esther with many fruit varieties. Henry was made a magistrate in 1918. The family raised their boys at “Leigh House” in Lambie St. and ran The Enterprise Store for decades. Harry was a 20 year old shop assistant, when he enlisted at Goulburn, in October 1915. He arrived in France, in May 1916 and joined the 19th Battalion. He was hospitalised in December with sore feet and then again in January 1917, with shock and concussion after a bad fall. He rejoined his unit in February, but went missing in April. Army Headquarters in London was then notified, that Harry had been captured by the Germans at Lagnicourt and was interred in the Limburg province of Belgium. Harry later told his family, that he had spent time in the infamous Black Hole of Lille prison, where food and water were very scarce and he had become extremely weak. This must have been an anxious time for Henry and Esther. Their eldest son, Frank, had enlisted in 1916 and was stationed in London with the Army Pay Corps. Fortunately Harry survived and was liberated in December 1918 and repatriated to England. Sent to an Anzac camp in south east England, he decided to contact his father's friend. Since arriving in Australia, Henry Snr had corresponded with a Mrs Spinner, whom he had known in his youth, in Somerset. She was now living in Worle-Super-Mare, in Avon, with her husband and 19 year old daughter, Ivy. The family ran a general store. Mrs Spinner invited Harry to visit them, which he did. He was obviously impressed with their daughter. Harry arrived home in Cooma, in April 1919 and was discharged in July. His brother Frank was already home, accompanied by his new English bride, Min Stone. Harry went to work with his brother Bert, on his Hereford stud, but his heart was elsewhere. He wrote to Ivy for six years and finally returned to Worle, where they were married, in 1925. He became a partner in the Spinner's business and took it over, when his father-in-law died in 1940. Harry and Ivy were happily married for over 40 years and raised two children in the family home – Manchester House. Harry died in 1968, age 73. Ivy died in 1980. REFERENCES: “From Kilkeel to Cooma”,William and Esther Stewart family History Group, Cooma, (undated) “Back to Cooma”, Direct Publicity Co, Sydney, 1926 “Lambie St-A Walk Through the Past 150 Years”, Cooma-Monaro Historical Society, Monaro Publishing