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Town Hall, 333 Bay Street, Port Melbourne
Town Hall, 333 Bay Street, Port Melbourne

Hipper, John Douglas (1285)

Place of Birth: Port Melbourne, VIC

Age: 21 years 2 months

Enlistment Details: Thursday, 15 July 1915 – Melbourne, VIC

Service Number: 1285            view online service record

32 Stanhope Street
Malvern, VIC

Next of Kin:
Matilda Hipper (mother)
32 Stanhope Street
Malvern, VIC

Embarkation Details:
Date: Wednesday, 10 November 1915
Ship: HMAT Ascanius A11
Port: Melbourne, VIC
Unit: 29th Infantry Battalion

KIA: Monday, 29 July 1918
Place: France

Brother: Robert George Murray Hipper

Corporal, 29 Battalion, killed in action 29 July, 1918, France, aged 24, commemorated Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France.

Parents : Parents: Sidney J and Mrs Matilda HIPPER, born Port Melbourne, educated Flemington SS. He enlisted as a 21-year-old rubber moulder, his mother in Malvern as next of kin. No known grave, circular returned by his parents from East Caulfield, the address shown for 61620, Robert George HIPPER who enlisted on his 18th birthday in June, 1918.

Additional research by Brian Membrey

John Douglas (Jack) Hipper was born in Port Melbourne on 2nd June 1894, the second child and eldest son of Matilda and Sidney Hipper. The family later lived in Aspendale and then moved to Malvern, where they settled permanently, and from where Jack enlisted in the army in 1915. His occupation on enlistment was as a Rubber Moulder. Jack was issued with his drivers licence in 1913, a very useful document as, although his father, who was at this time a salesman traveling all through Gippsland, had bought his mother a car she did not drive.

Jack embarked on the HMAT Ascanius from Station Pier on 10th November 1915 with D Company, 29th Battalion. On 24th November one of the Battalion members was buried at sea. Sports were held on board ship on 4th December. The ship docked at Port Taufiq (now called Port Suez) on 8th December and the Battalion now travelled by train to Heliopolis and then on to Serapeum and finally, in February to Tel El Kebir. During this time there were various drills and rifle practices and very many complaints about winds and sandstorms and the resulting uncomfortable conditions with sand in rifles and tents blown down. Still at Tel El Kebir the troops were visited by the Prince of Wales while they were drilling after which they lined the road and gave him three cheers. Finally, on 15th April the battalion traveled to Alexandria and next day embarked on troopship Tunisian for France, arriving in Marseilles on Friday 23rd April. By Monday 26th April the men were within the sounds of the big guns for the first time, five months after leaving Melbourne.

Jack was wounded in action in July 1916 and he later sent home aerial photographs marking the spot where he was wounded. The battalion also served on the Somme for seventeen days then, after a two week break, returned there for a further month. Meanwhile, on the Homefront, his mother, Matilda, worked tirelessly for the “Comfort Fund” and kept track of all the boys in Jack’s battalion. Some of Jack’s letters home have survived including one in which he sent home a piece of the wing of a plane shot down behind the lines.

Unfortunately, Jack was killed near Morlancourt on 29th July 1918 and buried “in the trenches.” His name is on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. His parents learnt of his death via a telegram sent to their church minister Reverend White, with a request that he inform Jack’s mother of his death.

Among the memories of Jack that were kept by his mother were a tiny French dictionary, an embossed brass cigarette lighter, a piece of shrapnel, aerial photographs of the battlefield where he was wounded in 1916 and the piece of the plane wing.

Many new friends were made by some of the men during their war service and Jack certainly was one of these men. In 1919 after their return home some of these young men visited Jack’s parents to offer their condolences. Among these men were Duncan Baker, George Gibbons and Ernest Juliff. Although these men had not met before their embarkation they remained firm friends until their deaths. Ern moved to NSW but visited each year, where possible around Jack’s anniversary. Duncan and George, on the other hand became even closer to the family as they each married one of Jack’s two sisters. Duncan married Minnie, the older sister in 1922 and George married the younger sister Lucie in 1928.

Duncan and Minnie were Val Power’s grandparents. They lived in East Malvern for some time after the marriage, but, during the Depression, work dried up for Duncan, a plumber, and they moved with their young family to his family home in Rutherglen. In 1933, after only ten months in Rutherglen Duncan succumbed to pneumonia exacerbated by a chest wound that the had suffered in France. Minnie moved back to live with her parents in East Malvern for a short time and then moved to Aspendale to raise her four young children alone.

Valerie Power

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Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and work, the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation and pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.