Brigadier-General James Heane. Source: Australian War Memorial

ANZAC DAY 2021 | Brigadier-General James Heane

As we commemorate Anzac Day – I’m sharing some local stories to recognise and remember those who sacrificied so much, so we can enjoy what we have today.

Brigadier-General James Heane is Dubbo’s most highly decorated soldier from the First World War.

James was educated at Dubbo Superior Public School, and then Sydney Boys’ High, becoming an auditor and then a farmer in the Dubbo district.

After serving for five years in the Cadet Forces he was commissioned second lieutenant in the 3rd Australian Infantry Regiment before transferring to the Light Horse Regiment as a lieutenant.

In 1910, on the introduction of compulsory military training, he was appointed area officer at Dubbo.

When war came in 1914 Heane joined the Australian Imperial Force as a captain in the 4th Battalion.

It was as a Major commanding ‘D’ Company at the Gallipoli landing that he earned his nickname ‘Cast Iron Jimmy’ – showing no fear as he moved among his men under heavy fire.

For gallantry, when he led a company ‘to support a small, isolated force in a trench without means of retreat’ he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order; he also received the first two of seven mentions in dispatches for his work at Gallipoli.

In 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and transferred to command the 1st Battalion which moved to the Western Front.

He was wounded a few times during his service, but always recovered and rejoined his men.

He led his brigade in the battles of the Hindenburg line, Menin Road, and Passchendaele, and his men performed particularly well in August-September of 1918 during the attacks on Lihons, Herleville and St Martin’s Wood.

At the height of these battles it was not uncommon for Heane to take short cuts across open ground raked by fire.

He remained in command until the Armistice.

Strict, serious, energetic, Heane was popular with his men. He was an archetype of the higher level Australian commander of World War I and ‘one of the great field successes of the war’.

James became an orchardist soon after returning to Australia, settling on a large citrus orchard at West Pennant Hills, and becoming president of the Fruitgrowers’ Federation of New South Wales from 1922-1941.

As Dubbo’s most decorated soldier from the great war, Brigadier General James Heane unveiled the Dubbo War Memorial on April 25, 1925.

Commemorating those who served, and remembering those who died.

Lest we forget.

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