Title: Love Letters of an Anzac
Author: Hogue, Oliver (Trooper Bluegum)
Condition: Very Good
Edition: 3rd Edition
Publication Date: 1916
Cover: Hard Cover without Dust Jacket – 219 pages
Comments: The author describes the life of the soldiers fighting at Gallipoli during 1915.
Oliver Hogue (1880-1919), journalist and soldier, was born on 29 April 1880 in Sydney, second son of native-born parents James Alexander Hogue and his wife Jessie, née Robards. The family comprised six boys and four girls.
Oliver was educated at Forest Lodge Public School, Sydney. Tall, active and wiry, an all-round athlete and a skilled horseman and rifle-shot, he considered himself a ‘bushman’. After leaving school he cycled thousands of miles, exploring most of Australia’s eastern and northern coast, and worked as a commercial traveller before joining the Sydney Morning Herald in 1907.
He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in September 1914 as a trooper with the 6th Light Horse Regiment. Commissioned second lieutenant in November, he sailed for Egypt with the 2nd L.H. Brigade in the Suevic in December.
Hogue served on Gallipoli with the Light Horse (dismounted) for five months, then was invalided to England with enteric fever. In May 1915 he was promoted lieutenant and appointed orderly officer to Colonel (Sir) Granville Ryrie, the brigade commander. Charles Bean observed: ‘Day after day the Brigadier … tramped round the front line with his enthusiastic and devoted orderly officer, Oliver Hogue’. In letters to his family and to the Sydney Morning Herald from Gallipoli, he was always cheerful, enjoying ‘a scrap’. Insisting on fair reporting, he denied incorrect reports of mutilations by the Turks. His letters and articles present a well-perceived picture of events and good understanding of the soldiers. In a letter to his father he remarked: ‘I might be rather angry with Captain Bean first because he beat me to the post for the big job, and second because he seems to have ignored our Brigade all along, but I find him so absolutely straight and sincere and honest that I like him immensely and always have’.
As ‘Trooper Bluegum’ he wrote articles for the Herald subsequently collected in the books Love Letters of an Anzac (London, 1916) and Trooper Bluegum at the Dardanelles (London, 1916). Sometimes representing war as almost a sport, he took pride in seeing ‘the way our young Australians played the game of war’.
Hogue returned from hospital in England to the 6th L.H. in Sinai and fought in the decisive battle of Romani. Transferred to the Imperial Camel Corps on 1 November 1916, he was promoted captain on 3 July 1917. He fought with the Camel Corps at Magdhaba, Rafa, Gaza, Tel el Khuweilfe, Musallabeh, and was with them in the first trans-Jordan raid to Amman. In 1917 Hogue led the ‘Pilgrim’s Patrol’ of fifty Cameliers and two machine-guns into the Sinai desert to Jebel Mousa, to collect Turkish rifles from the thousands of Bedouins in the desert.
After the summer of 1918, spent in the Jordan Valley, camels were no longer required. The Cameliers were given horses and swords and converted into cavalry. Hogue, promoted major on 1 July 1918, was now in Brigadier General George Macarthur-Onslow’s 5th L.H. Brigade, commanding a squadron of the 14th L.H. Regiment. At the taking of Damascus by the Desert Mounted Corps in September 1918, the 5th Brigade stopped the Turkish Army escaping through the Barada Gorge. (Sir) Henry Gullett wrote: ‘A handful of Australians of the 14th Light Horse Regiment under Major Oliver Hogue occupied a house at the entrance of the gorge, and poured galling fire at a few yards’ range into the now distracted Turks’.
Oliver Hogue went through the whole campaign of the Desert Mounted Corps, but died of influenza at the 3rd London General Hospital on 3 March 1919. He was buried in the Australian military section of Brookwood cemetery. He was unmarried. His twin sister Amy had died the previous year.
As well as the articles sent to Australia, and some in English magazines, Hogue wrote a third book, The Cameliers (London, 1919), also some verse. His contributions to Australia in Palestine (Sydney, 1919), edited by H. S. Gullett and C. Barrett, were two poems and an essay on the Camel Brigade.
Hogue’s verse was not, according to Bertram Stevens, poetry ‘in the serious sense of that word’. His first two books, Stevens wrote, ‘contain the impressions of a buoyant and generous soul—a healthy athlete enjoying life thoroughly, and regarding danger as absolutely necessary to give it zest’. His letters ‘conveyed a good deal of the happy-go-lucky spirit of the Australians, their indifference to danger, and laughter when in difficulties or in pain’.