Hugh Spencer Kentish (2 April 1892 – 26 February 1985) was a World War 1 soldier in the Australian Imperial Forces, serving in Egypt and Palestine from 1917-1918 in the 3rd Regiment of the 1st Light Horse Brigade. He enlisted in Adelaide and attended Mitcham Training Camp before embarking HMAT A45 Bulla on 16 January 1917 and departing Outer Harbour for overseas service on 19 January 1917. He remained on active duty until the war ended in November 1918 and returned to Australia in May 1919.

Photographic Portraits of South Australian Soldiers, Sailors and Nurses who took part in World War One
Number 2120 KENTISH, Hugh Spencer
3rd Light Horse
Place of birth: Laura
Residence: Beverley
Photo courtesy State Records of SA via Flickr bit.ly/CC2BSO

Spencer, as he was known, was born on 2 April 1892 in Laura, South Australia, the son of Frank Butler Kentish and Evangeline Julia Kentish (nee Tuck).

Frank Butler Kentish went to Laura in the mid-north of SA in around 1885 to farm with his cousin Albert Stow Kentish, while another cousin, Edward, went further north near Orroroo. Around this time three sisters, Evangeline, Annie and Edith Tuck, went to Laura to set up a private school, as their aunts Sophy, Harriet and Elizabeth Tuck had done in 1855 in Kenton Valley.

Frank Butler Kentish

Frank and Evangeline were married. Their first son, Frank Keith died soon after he was born (29 April 1891 – 2 May 1891). Hugh Spencer was born a year later, followed by four sisters, Marjorie Hope in 1893, Ruth Evangeline in 1894, Dorothy Grace in 1896 and Salome Blanche in 1902.

Hugh Spencer Kentish

In 1906 Spencer went to Adelaide to attend school at Kyre College, later Scotch College, at that time located in Unley Park. A few years later the whole family relocated to Adelaide so that the girls would also have good educational opportunities. They lived on Port Road, Beverley where Frank worked as a carter, transporting goods to and from Port Adelaide.

L-R: Dorothy, Frank, Salome, Spencer, Marjorie, Evangeline, Ruth c 1908

Spencer completed his secondary education in 1908 and subsequently took up a position in the Commercial Bank of Australia. He worked for a time in Two Wells from where he cycled to Beverley for weekends at home. He played tennis and other sports in Two Wells and established friendships with many people in the area, some of whom enlisted and served overseas with him later on.

In late 1914 he was transferred to the Commercial Bank in Boulder, Western Australia. After the commencement of the war he went to Perth to enlist but was rejected at the medical examination on the grounds of having a ‘weak heart’. The story goes that he was late for the appointment and therefore ran and arrived with an elevated heart rate. There was no evidence of heart trouble at any time during his long life. He returned to South Australia in 1916, passed his medical, was recruited to join the AIF and undertook training as a light horseman at the Mitcham Training Camp.

He served in Egypt and Palestine in the 3rd Regiment of the 1st Light Horse Brigade from February 1917 until the end of the war in November 1918 and arrived back in Australia in May 1919.

After the war Spencer returned to the Commercial Bank and was obliged to sign up for 3 years in Darwin, travelling there and back by ship. While there he met Jessie Millicent Tomlins (1890 – 1982) who had served in the war as a Staff Nurse, and later as a Sister, in the 14th Australian General Hospital in Egypt. After their marriage in 1925 they returned to live in South Australia. They had 4 children – Dorothy, David, Stow & Margaret, and lived in Balaklava, Murray Bridge, Mount Gambier and Adelaide.

Spencer in uniform ready to leave for Egypt. He embarked HMAS Bulla at Outer Harbour on 16 January 1917. Front row: Father, Frank Butler Kentish and mother, Evangeline Julia Kentish, sisters Sally (with kitten) and Dorothy; behind: sister Marjorie and friend Lena Thompson