Brigadier General James Heane

29 December 1874 - 20 August 1954

ART03345 Quinn, James, Brigadier General James Heane (1918), oil on canvas, 67.4 x 51 cm, AWM copyright

James Heane was born in Sydney on 29 December 1874, the son of a grazier and commissioning agent. He was educated at Dubbo Superior Public School and Sydney Boy's High School. He became a certified auditor and then a farmer in the Dubbo district.

Heane served in the Cadet forces and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Australian Infantry Regiment. in February 1899. In 1903 he joined the 2nd Light Horse Regiment as a lieutenant. In 1910, with the introduction of compulsory military training, he was appointed area officer in Dubbo. He was promoted to captain on 22 June 1911.

On 3 September 1914, Heane was appointed to the AIF with the rank of captain as a company commander in the 4th Infantry Battalion. After the battalion was reorganised in Egypt on the new four company establishment, Heane was given command of D Company and promoted to major.

Heane came ashore at Anzac late in the morning of 25 April 1915 and formed Major General W. T. Bridges' last reserve until it was committed to the fighting at Lone Pine late in the afternoon. Heane earned the nickname "Cast Iron Jimmy" for his gallantry under fire in the fighting at Lone Pine on the 26th, when the 4th Battalion moved across the 400 Plateau and occupied Johnson's Jolly for a time, Heane only returning from there after dark. On 1 May, Heane led a company forward under fire to support a small force. for this he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and mentioned in dispatches for the first two of what would be seven times at Gallipoli. He was wounded three times: in the thumb on 2 July; in the mouth; and then in the attack on Lone Pine on 7 August 1915. He was wounded so badly at Lone Pine that he was evacuated and hospitalised, only rejoining his battalion at Tel El Kebir, Egypt, in January 1916.

Heane was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of the 1st Infantry Battalion, which he took to the Western Front. On 23 July 1916, the battalion was committed to the line at Pozieres, advancing through the town itself. Afterwards, Heane personally walked the whole front and carefully thinned out the line so that the minimum number of men would be exposed to the enemy artillery when it discovered their location. In the fighting, the 1st Battalion lost 13 officers and 473 other ranks, about half its strength. For his leadership at Pozieres, Heane was made a Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG).

Twice in 1916, Heane had been acting commander of the 1st Infantry Brigade, of which the 1st and 4th battalions were part. On 3 December 1916, he was promoted to full colonel and temporary brigadier general and given command of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. But on 7 December, after going up to the front line and crossing several empty and apparently unused saps that were little more than ditches half filled with muddy slime, Heane found himself in a trench occupied by figures in grey uniforms. Realising that he had made a grave mistake, Heane headed for the Australian lines but was wounded in the head before he regained it. He was evacuated to England.

Heane rejoined his brigade in January 1917, and led in in the Battles of Bullecourt (May 1917), Menin Road (26 September 1917), Broodeseinde (4 October 1917), Passchendaele (12 October 1917) and the Lys (April 1918), Lihons (9 August 1918) and Chuignes (23 August 1918). For his services in command of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, Heane was made a Companion of the Bath (CB) and mentioned in dispatches five more times.

In March 1919, Heane took over the 1st Division Demobilisation Group at Tidworth, England. He returned to Australia where his appointment to the AIF was terminated on 7 January 1920. In July 1920 he took over command of the 11th Infantry Brigade. From April 1921 to June 1926 he commanded the 5th Infantry Brigade. He was also honorary colonel of the 4th Battalion from 1926 until he was transferred to the retired list as an honorary brigadier general in 1935. During World War II he was commander of the Volunteer Defence Corps in New South Wales from 1940 to 1942.

Heane settled on a large citrus orchard in West Pennant Hills, NSW. From 1922 to 1941 he was also president of the Fruitgrowers' Federation of New South Wales. He died on 20 August 1954 and was cremated.

Always popular with his men, it is said that Heane was "the archetype of the higher level Australian commander in World War I" and "one of the great field successes of the war".

Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1899-1939, Vol 9, pp. 248-249; Bean, C. E. W., The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. Volume I: The Story of Anzac pp. 491-498; Volume III: The AIF In France 1916, p. 950

Page created by Ross Mallett
Last update 30 August 2001