ART02993 Longstaff, John, Brigadier General Sydney Herring (1918), oil on canvas, 76.8 x 64 cm, AWM copyright
Sydney Charles Edgar Herring was born in Granville, Sydney on 8 October 1881, the second of nine children of the Under Secretary for Lands. After a private school education he became a real estate agent.
Herring was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 1st Australian Infantry on 26 March 1904 and promoted to lieutenant on 1 March 1906. With the introduction of universal military training in 1911 he became area officer for Drummoyne and was promoted to captain on 4 January 1911.He transferred to the 21st Infantry on 1 July 1912.
Herring was appointed to the AIF on 9 October 1914 with the rank of captain in the 13th Infantry Battalion. The battalion left Sydney on 22 December 1914 on the HMAT Berrima for Egypt, where Herring was promoted to major and given command of D Company on 1 February 1915. The 13th Battalion landed at Anzac on the evening of 25 April 1915. Ordered to take his company up to Russell's Top and effect a junction with the New Zealanders, Herring and his men climbed the thick scrub opposite Pope's Hill. They found themselves surrounded by the thick, low scrub. The man on Herring's right was killed. Then the man on his left. Then Herring decided to pull back his line a bit. After they had fallen back some distance, they made contact with a force of Australians and New Zealander under Lieutenant Colonel G. F. Braund. Under heavy fire, contact with Braund was lost and Herring retreated back into Monash Valley.
When the Turks broke into Quinn's Post on 29 May 1915, the temporary post commander, Lieutenant Colonel H. Pope, ordered Herring to make a counterattack, which he fully expected would be extremely costly. Just as Herring was about to order the charge, there was a sudden burst of enemy fire, which abruptly almost ceased. Herring gave the word and his men charged across the open and made it practically unscathed, their attack having coincided with a Turkish one on another part of the post and the Turkish machine gunners could not shoot without hitting their own men. The remaining Turks in the post eventually surrendered.
Herring was slightly wounded on 17 May 1915 but remained on duty. On 27 June 1915, he assumed acting command of the 13th Infantry Battalion after the battalion commander, Major J. M. A. Durrant was evacuated sick. Herring was confirmed as commander on 26 August 1915. On 15 October 1915, he was evacuated to Egypt sick, returning the 13th Battalion at Anzac on 19 November 1915. For his services at Anzac, Herring was mentioned in dispatches.
On 3 January 1916, Herring arrived back in Alexandria with the 13th Battalion following the evacuation of Anzac. On 21 February 1916, the battalion was split, half going to form the new 45th Infantry Battalion. Herring took command of the new battalion, while Durrant resumed command of the old. Shifting some of the battalion commanders to the new battalions was a method to ensure that they did use it as an excuse to dump all their unwanted men. Unfortunately, the new battalions soon had to absorb large numbers of men unwanted by the old battalions and left behind when they moved to France. On 12 March 1916, he became a temporary lieutenant colonel. He was promoted to the rank on 24 June 1916, with seniority backdated to 12 March.
The 45th Battalion departed Alexandria on 2 June 1916, arriving at Marseilles on 8 June. In August, the battalion was committed to the fighting at Pozieres, losing 448 men on its first tour. For his leadership at Pozieres, Herring was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). At Messines in June 1917, the battalion lost 568 men in pillbox fighting on the Oosttaverne Line. Herring, who had ordered repeated attacks on pillboxes that his men could not capture, was mentioned in dispatches. On 24 September 1917 he became a brevet major in the AMF. His majority became substantive in 1 October 1918.
On 7 October 1917, Herring took over command of the 4th Training Group in England. This group was responsible for training the brigade's reinforcements. It was abolished on 8 November 1917. On 11 February 1918, Herring took command of the 3rd Training Brigade. On 7 May 1918, he returned to France where he resumed command of the 45th Battalion. On 26 June 1918 he became commander of the 13th Infantry Brigade and was promoted to colonel and temporary brigadier general on 30 June 1918. The brigade played an important part in the final campaign under his leadership. He was mentioned in dispatches for the fourth time and made a Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) on 3 June 1919.
Herring resumed his career as real estate agent, and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate as a Nationalist in 1924. He was placed on the retired list in 1946 with the honorary rank of brigadier. For many years he led the 4th Division in Sydney's Anzac Day parades. He died on 27 May 1951 and was cremated with full military honours.
Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1899-1939, Vol 9, pp. 273-274; Personnel File, NAA; C. E. W. Bean, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. Volume I: The Story of Anzac, pp. 500-503
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Last update 15 September 2001