b. 27/10/1884 Northam, Western Australia. d. 13/11/1933 Greenmount, Western Australia.
Hugo Vivian Hope Throssell (1884-1933) was born on 27th October 1884 at Northam, Western Australia, the youngest son of thirteen brothers and sisters to George and Annie Throssell. His father was a self-made man. One of three brothers who arrived at the Swan River Settlement from Ireland in 1850, he rose to become the Honorable George Throssell, commissioner for Crown Lands in the Western Australian Government and, briefly, its second premier. He was also Mayor of Northam for nine years.
Like his brothers, Hugo, known as “Jim” in the family, was educated at Prince Alfred College, in Adelaide, South Australia. He was more sporting than academic in his abilities. Returning to Northam, he took a job in the office of his elder brother Lionel’s store and flour mill business. He did not last long there. In late 1909, “Jim” moved to Ashburton Downs, in the north west of Australia, where he worked as a stockman. A year later, in partnership with his brother Ric, he took over a 1,000 acre property at Cowcowing, a gift from their father. They were farming there when war broke out in 1914. Selling off their team, and hiding their farm equipment, they rode 60 miles to Northam to enlist. It was 29th September 1914 and they were both posted to the 10th Australian Light Horse. Promotion was rapid: made a sergeant a week later and commissioned second lieutenant on 3rd February 1915.
When his unit embarked for Egypt, “Jim” Throssell was left behind in command of C Squadron. Two weeks later, he sailed aboard HMAT Itonus together with his squadron and fifty men of the 2nd Reinforcements. The 10th Light Horse took no part in the actual landings at Gallipoli in April 1915, but the unit volunteered to serve as infantry to fill gaps caused by the heavy casualties. To his annoyance, Throssell was left in charge of 150 men and 560 horses. The unit had been on the peninsula for nearly three months before he arrived at the head of 81 reinforcements on 4th August. They were just in time to take part in the diversionary attack on the Turkish positions at the Nek, “that fool charge” as he later described it.
On 29th–30th August 1915 at Kaiakij Aghala (Hill 60), Gallipoli, Turkey, Second Lieutenant Throssell, although severely wounded in several places, refused to leave his post during a counter-attack or to obtain medical assistance until all danger was passed, when he had his wounds dressed and returned to the firing line until ordered out of action by the Medical Officer. By his personal courage and example he kept up the spirits of his party and was largely instrumental in saving the situation at a critical period.
Throssell was evacuated to begin his long struggle against ill health brought on by his wounds. Though his wounds to the neck and shoulder appeared to heal swiftly and his hearing improved, he showed disturbing signs of restlessness while soaring temperatures left him delirious. Eventually, he was diagnosed with meningitis and in March 1916 doctors found him “still somewhat nervous” and suffering from “continuous headaches” and recommended extended leave. The following month he was invalided back to Australia where further treatment was proposed. Months of treatment followed, until he was well enough for recruitment duties. Finally, on 1st November 1916, a medical board in Fremantle declared him fit for light duties and less than three months later he was re-embarked for service abroad. He re-joined his old unit on 18th March 1917 and in the fighting that followed on 19th April he was seriously wounded again in the left thigh and left foot. Worse still was the discovery that his brother Ric, an officer in the same unit, was among the dead. This was a huge blow to him.
After recovering in Egypt, he went back to his unit. Promoted to Captain, he commanded the guard of honour from the 10th Light Horse at the triumphant parade through Jerusalem in December 1917. His war, however, was almost over. The following year, his health, undermined by wounds, climate and sickness, failed again. After a spell with a training unit, he returned to Australia. He left the Army on 13th February 1919. A fortnight earlier, on 28th January, at the Collins Street Registry Office, in Melbourne, he married the Australian writer, Katharine Susannah Pritchard. The couple had met in England while he was recovering from his wounds sustained at Gallipoli. They had one son, named Ric after his brother, who later was Director of the Commonwealth Foundation.
They settled on a small farm at Greenmount, near Perth, and he joined his wife in supporting striking workers and the unemployed. During the 1920s he moved into real estate but his money making ventures ran into trouble. At the same time his health began to fail, and suffered recurrent attacks of malaria, heart flutters and was in more or less constant pain from his various wounds. Sadly in 1933, tragedy struck. While his wife was in Russia, he staged a costly rodeo which left him in severe debt, forcing him to sell equipment and livestock. The following morning, 19th November 1933, he was found on his verandah, with a revolver in his hand, and a pool of blood. Carried inside, he died 15 minutes later, having “died by a bullet wound in the head self-inflicted while his mind was deranged due to war wounds.”
“Jim” Throssell, the only Light Horseman to receive the VC in the Great War, was buried with full military honours in Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth. The VC which he had almost had to sell to ease his financial problems, was donated to the People for Nuclear Disarmament by his son in 1984. Later his medals were purchased by the Returned Services League of Australia and presented to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA
BURIAL PLACE: KARRAKATTA CEMETERY, PERTH, AUSTRALIA.
Hugo Throssell's medals courtesy of Memorials to Valour
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
ANGLICAN SECTION 2B, PLOT 304.
Hugo Throssell's memorial stone laid at the National Memorial Arborteum, Alrewas (Picture - Steve Lee)
Greenmount, Western Australia
War Illustrated, 20th November 1915
Freemasons Memorial, London (Brian Drummond)