Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Anzac Memorial Centenary Project

Kenley Park, Normanhurst

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-r ing-gai ) ( 17:50 :00 ): Recently I arranged for a soil sample to be taken in Normanhurst as part of the Anzac Memorial Centenary Project. After the First World War, a large memorial to commemorate the courage, endurance and sacrifice of Australians from New South Wales during the Great War was erected in Hyde Park. A new Hall of Service will be created at the Hyde Park cenotaph, which will have wall plaques, each signifying one of the 1,300 different towns, suburbs and localities around New South Wales that enlistees for the First World War gave as their place of address. A sample of soil will be collected from every one of those places and will be displayed alongside the relevant plaque.

Normanhurst is one of the areas that World War I enlistees came from, and part of Normanhurst is in the electorate of Ku-ring-gai. The collection ceremony was held at the Hornsby Shire Historical Society Museum because it contains an honour board of World War I enlistees from South Hornsby Methodist. I assume that is a church. Joining me during the ceremony were Mr Terry James, AICM, JP, who is a Vietnam veteran and the President of the Hornsby RSL; Mr David Cooper and Mr Owen Thomas from the National Servicemen's Association; and Councillor Nathan Tilbury representing the Mayor of Hornsby, as well as councillors Janelle McIntosh, Joe Nicita, Mick Marr and Warren Waddell. Mr Joseph Cosentino, surveyor, oversaw the taking of the sample.

Also present were Graham and Ann Brown, who are the parents of a recent local war hero, Trooper Jason Brown of the Australian Special Forces, who tragically fell in active service in Afghanistan in 2010. Graham is a former member of the Armed Forces. In attendance also were representatives from Hornsby Girls High School, Barker College, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School, Knox Grammar School and the Hornsby Shire Historical Society. After the names of the enlistees who appeared on the honour board were read, I shared with those assembled some of the stories of the men as they were related in the celebrated local publication titled, "Rallying the Troops", which was researched, written and published by the members of the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society.

Three men on the honour board were brothers. Frederick Lipscomb was born in Hornsby, Eric Lipscomb was born in Wahroonga and Neville Lipscomb was born in Mount Colah. Their parents, William and Jessie Lipscomb, had seven sons and one daughter. The three brothers on the honour board attended Warrawee Public School and Hurlstone Agricultural High School. Their father was a butcher with a business on Coonanbarra Road, Wahroonga, between the railway line and the Pacific Highway—where the Wahroonga shopping village is today. Of the three brothers, only Frederick Lipscomb survived the battlefields of Europe. Frederick was 23 when he enlisted. He saw action at Gallipoli before fighting on the Western Front at Pozieres, where he was wounded for the first time.

After Pozieres, he was commissioned and promoted to second lieutenant. After being hospitalised again he was promoted to lieutenant in 1917. In early 1918 the German Army launched its offensive on the Somme. Lieutenant Lipscomb was on the front line about 1.5 miles south of Villers-Bretonneux. His battalion was tasked with assaulting Hangard Wood and capturing German positions on the far side. The planned supporting artillery either never came or was ineffective and the Anzac battalions charged the German lines without it. Enemy machine guns took their toll on Lieutenant Lipscomb's men as they plunged towards and into the wood. Lipscomb was left with just six men. He and his men joined with another small group of five led by Lieutenant Percy Storkey.

The 12 Anzacs made their way eastwards, hooking from the north to emerge from the wood almost behind the entrenched enemy machine gun post that had mowed their men down. There were nearly 100 Germans, both riflemen and machine gun crews, with their backs to the 12 Anzacs and the Germans were still firing on the Australian assault company still struggling across the open battlefield. Storkey and Lipscomb got in quickly with bombs, bayonets and revolvers, catching the enemy from behind by surprise. Storkey's confident and aggressive manner made the Germans think more attackers were following and many surrendered. In all, three German officers and about 50 men were taken prisoners while 30 others were killed. Lipscomb personally accounted for eight Germans. For his conspicuous gallantry he was awarded the Military Cross.

Storkey was given an even higher award, the Victoria Cross, for his leadership and bravery. The next day, Lipscomb was wounded again, this time so badly that ultimately he was repatriated to Australia. However, that was not before he found some happiness by marrying an English nurse he met at the Wandsworth Military Hospital.

On his return to Australia, he discovered that his war wounds prevented him from continuing as a farmer. He became an RSL representative for soldier settlement and a Federal land valuer for the Government. He again served in the Second World War, as a captain, from 1942 to 1945 in the Volunteer Defence Corps. He ultimately died at the age of 60 in 1952. These are stories of just a few of the men and women of Ku-ring-gai who served in the Great War, displaying courage, sacrifice and endurance. It is important that we remember them. Lest we forget.