Photo found in second-hand shop reveals story of decorated soldier and athlete Fred Hallam
This image of the New Town Harriers in 1906 piqued interest. Fred Hallam is sitting second from left. (Supplied: Paul McIntyre)
A century-old photograph found in a second-hand shop has led to the discovery of a remarkable story about a decorated soldier who until now has never had his service recognised in his home state.
Fred Hallam was an Australian Imperial Force boxing champion who fought at Gallipoli and in France in WWI.
He received a medal for bravery and went on to serve on the home front during World War II.
The framed image that helped reveal Hallam’s story was discovered by ABC Radio Hobart producer Paul McIntyre and depicted a group of athletes from Hobart.
The RSL will recognise the service of Fred Hallam, pictured in 1915. (Supplied: Australian War Memorial)
“There was just something about Fred which seemed to stand out,” Mr McIntyre said.
“Putting a name to the face was one thing, but then to learn of his achievement in the international boxing ring and on the field of battle was completely unexpected.”
The men were identified as the 1906 New Town Harriers, and a second photo in an athletics club’s archives helped Mr McIntyre to identify Hallam.
A ‘plucky’ young man
Hallam was born in 1891 in Glenorchy, and at age 13 he was described by a running coach as “plucky youngster”.
He became an apprentice carpenter and spent time in the cadets and field artillery.
He also took an interest in boxing and started training in New Town.
Historian Stefan Petrow said said Hallam moved to Sydney in his early 20s and continued boxing; at only 5’5″ he tried to make a name for himself in the lightweight class.
“It seemed he was a very brave fighter who just kept fighting and fighting.”
Fred Hallam (left) was a champion boxer and served in Gallipoli and France during WWI. (Supplied: Australian War Memorial)
He enlisted at 23 and left for Gallipoli in 1915 with about 100 other boxers from New South Wales.
Like so many other men he contracted severe dysentery, the professor said.
“He had to go to England to get treatment because it debilitates you so much.”
Records show that Hallam met a woman from Surrey and they married in 1916.
After his recovery Hallam was sent to France but he continued to fall ill and ended up back in hospital for 70 days.
Things appeared to go downhill for him, with records showing he was charged with using improper language to a superior officer, being absent without leave, and for being out without permission.
Award for bravery
Hallam eventually put illness and insubordination behind him and returned to the battleground, where he was to become a decorated soldier.
“He redeemed himself towards the end of the war by winning a Military Medal,” Professor Petrow said.
Fred Hallam (seated right) with the 1919 AIF boxing and wrestling team in London. (Supplied: Australian War Memorial)
The medal was awarded for bravery shown during the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin in 1918.
“His platoon was hit hard by machine-gun fire and there were many casualties,” he explained.
“He disregarded all personal danger and ran into the open to attend to the wounded, all under heavy fire.
“Without help, he succeeded in bringing the wounded back to safety.”
Hallam also volunteered as a stretcher bearer and helped men from other sections.
“The bravery he showed in the pre-war [period], he finally got a chance to show he had that bravery in the war, and he got a medal for it,” Professor Petrow said.
RSL plan to honour ‘unknown’ soldier
RSL Tasmania chief executive Noeleen Lincoln said it had been fascinating to learn about Hallam’s past.
“We’re very interested in his story and look forward to making arrangements with the appropriate branch of the RSL to recognise Fred’s achievements and service,” she said.
“Given his lack of immediate family here in Tasmania anymore, it seems only appropriate that the RSL adopt Fred as one of our own.”
In Tasmania, Fred Hallam’s name is basically unknown, including to his remaining family.
The only mention of him is on the Tasmanian Amateur Athletics Association honour board.
Forty-three men from the New Town Harriers Club fought in the war and nine died.
Hallam continued boxing after returning to Australia.
He gave his medals to his mother, but it’s unclear what happened to his wife.
Professor Petrow said his boxing record was “mixed”, but newspaper ads spruiked him as an ‘Australian Imperial Force champion’.
When World War II came, Hallam joined the 1st Garrison Battalion to support home front efforts.
He lived to the age of 81 and was buried in Brisbane.