HINES, John 'Barney'  (Johann Heim)  [1878-1958]


In 1917 the noted Australian war photographer, Frank Hurley, published a photograph which was to become one of the most well-known Australian images of the First World War. In the photo, which Hurley entitled Wild Eye -The Souvenir King, Private John "Barney" Hines of the Australian 45th Battalion is surrounded by German equipment he looted during the Battle of Polygon Wood in September 1917. He is counting money stolen from German POWs, wearing a German Army field cap and sitting amidst German weapons and personal equipment. Many of his comrades identified with Hines, and the use of the photograph for propaganda made his face well-known in his adopted country. But the bizarre tale of John Hines began nearly 40 years earlier, when he was born Johannes Heim in Liverpool to immigrant German parents.

His father was Jacob Heim, a German immigrant, who had come to Liverpool with his wife Dora to work in the sugar-refining industry. At the time of Johannes’ birth on 11th October 1878, the family were living at 16 Grosvenor Street L3, later moving to 69 Bevington Hill L3. By 1891, Jacob having died, they were living at 9 Arley Street L3.

On 27th September 1895 he enlisted in the King’s Liverpool Regiment, giving his address as 114 Bond Street L5 and his occupation as blacksmith. His time in the army was very short and in April 1896 he enlisted in the Royal Navy only to be discharged a few months later as “objectionable”. Towards the end of the 19th century Johannes was working as a merchant seaman appearing on crew lists of the Ottoman (1899) and Majestic (1901). His addresses appear as 4 Burlington Street L3 and 4 Sylvester Street L5. (All of his former addresses have long since been demolished although most of the streets remain).

He married Hannah Maher in 1899 and they had two children, but for reasons not known in 1904 he set off for a new life, alighting in New Zealand. He stayed in New Zealand for 11 years during which time he was repeatedly before the courts for a variety of offences spending a good deal of the time in prison. (His many crimes and misdemeanours are set out in a very thorough  paper by the Military Historical Society of Australia).

He arrived in Australia in 1915 and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1915. He was discharged on health grounds but re-enlisted in 1916. Piecing together from various reports it seems that Hines’ character made him a spirited soldier in battle and an ill-disciplined burden on the army the rest of the time. On the one hand he was court martialled on no less than nine occasions, on the other he showed great courage charging enemy positions with his beloved Mills bombs. His looting seems to have been on an industrial scale and years later in Australia he was still selling items to supplement his meagre income. In the middle of 1918 he was again discharged from the army on medical grounds on account of haemorrhoids.

Back in Australia he was soon in trouble with the courts again and seems to have lived the life of a troubled vagabond until his death in 1958.

A memorial to John Hines in Mount Druit, New South Wales, where he lived until his death in 1958.


The article on Hines by members of the Military Historical Society of Australia gives very detailed information on his early life in Liverpool and his extensive criminal record in New Zealand and Australia. The Wikipedia entry is quite thorough and there is an interesting note on his Liverpool origins on the Scottie Press website.