Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Fighter joins the Fray

It was when I read this newspaper article from 1942 I learnt that Mr GeniAus' Great-Uncle Herb, John Herbert Gillespie (1893-1964), was a former boxer. Herb Gillespie fought under the name Herb Sullivan.

John Herbert Gillespie
Above: 1942 'HERB. SULLIVAN RECALLS OLD DIGGER DAYS', Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 - 1954), 27 May, p. 15. (Edition1), viewed 23 Apr 2016,

As a family member had sent me a photo of Herb Gillespie in military uniform and gave me permission to use it I selected Herb for my post for the 2016 Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge.

Prior to enlisting in 1917 Herb worked as an Engineer's Machinist, his next of kin was Violet (nee Baker) whom he had married in Sydney on December 4, 1915. A search on Trove indicates that Herb spent a lot of time in the boxing ring from around 1913 and turned Pro in 1915.

Herb was able to pursue his interest in boxing on the journey to England in January 1918 on Miltiades. He recounted some experiences in a letter home.

1918 'FUN ON A TROOPSHIP', Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 - 1939), 2 January, p. 9. , viewed 24 Apr 2016,
Herb was one of the lucky ones as he saw little action on the Front. After arriving in England he undertook some training and became a Physical Instructor for the forces. His background in the boxing ring and level of fitness would have equipped Herb  for this role
1918 'From England.', Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW : 1900 - 1954), 8 June, p. 7. , viewed 24 Apr 2016,
1918 'No title', Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 - 1939), 14 August, p. 7. , viewed 24 Apr 2016,
Finally in July 1918 Herb was shipped from Southampton to Rouelles, France. As a member of the 13th Battalion Field Artillery and then the 5th Field Artillery Brigade Herb would have seen action on the Western Front until the time of the Armistice.

Portion of Herb's service record  Source: NAA: B2455, GILLESPIE J 
It is not known how Herb sustained a fractured fibula but this injury in December caused him to be sent to hospital in England and repatriated to Australia. An Australian sporting newspaper details some of Herb's boxing activities during his time in England. Herb was fortunate that most of his battles were fought in the boxing ring against a known opponent.

1919 'HERB SULLIVAN'S RECORD ABROAD.', Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 - 1939), 21 May, p. 12. , viewed 23 Apr 2016,

Sometime after his return to Australia Herb re-entered the ring and became the Welterweight Champion for New South Wales.

1920 'WELTER CHAMPIONSHIP', The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), 2 February, p. 1. , viewed 24 Apr 2016,
One of Herb's passions was Rugby League. He was involved with the Saint George Rugby League Club for many years.

1947 'OLD FRIENDSHIP RENEWED', The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser (NSW : 1856 - 1861; 1863 - 1889; 1891 - 1954), 18 June, p. 15. , viewed 24 Apr 2016,

Not only was Herb rewarded for his efforts in the ring he also was honoured in 1952  for his commitment to his employer.

1952 'Boxer Gets I.S.O.', Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), 1 March, p. 5. , viewed 23 Apr 2016,
Another interest of Herb's was growing Gladioli as reported in the the following article, first section is below.

1947 'OLD FRIENDSHIP RENEWED', The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser (NSW : 1856 - 1861; 1863 - 1889; 1891 - 1954), 18 June, p. 15. , viewed 24 Apr 2016,
Details of Herb's Boxing career can be found here:

This post has been prepared for the 2016 Trans-Tasman ANZAC Blog Challenge


Alex Daw said...

What a fascinating story. I got a bit confused with the Gillespie/Sullivan thing, but went back and re-read it. It's a bit like a stage name isn't it I guess? Well done on entering a post for this challenge.

GeniAus said...

Thanks Alex, I've added another sentence about the name so that it is clearer to the reader.


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