Saturday, 4 November 2017

Henry John (Harry) Porter - 1887 to 1919

We're back with more information about the Killion, Quinn and Hand families.  We're also welcoming members of the families of Edward and Thomas Feeney but more on that in the next post.....

Henry John (Harry) Porter died 98 years ago today.  He was the victim of "an unprovoked one punch attack" in George Street Sydney a few days short of his 32nd birthday.

Harry Porter was the second son and fourth of the five children of Henry and Rose (nee Killion).  He was born on 30 November 1887 in Kempsey.  The family had moved to Sydney in the early 1900s and lived in Glebe. 

Harry enlisted for the First World War on 8 September 1914 but these papers are marked as "deserted" on 23 November 1914.  He re-enlisted on 27 July 1915 and joined the 4th Infantry Division of the 20th Battalion.  He is described as 5 feet 5 3/4 inches, 136 lbs, ruddy complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair with tattoos on both forearms.  

Harry served as a stretcher bearer in France and was awarded a distinguished conduct medal for his service.  He spent short periods in hospital but was not wounded. 

A September 1917 letter written by Margaret Mary (Cissie), the oldest of the Porter children, is held in Harry's papers.  In this letter, Cissie is asking about Harry's well being as the family had heard that he was "very ill".  She says that the family would like to hear as their mother is "in the most delicate health".  Rose did see her son's return to Australia on 3 January 1918 and discharge on 20 February 1918.  She died on 29 April 1919.  

A newspaper report covers the circumstances of the attack on Harry by James Campbell on 3 November 1919.  Harry died two days later at Sydney Hospital and did not regained consciousness after the attack.  Campbell was charged with having "feloniously slain" Harry.  

"(L)ate in the afternoon of November 3 Porter was outside the Star Hotel at the corner of George and Dalley streets talking to some friends. Accused was near the group. During the discussion about the military ribbons Porter was wearing, including the D-C.M. decoration, accused, it was alleged, struck a violent blow. Porter fell and struck his head against an electric light post.  Accused then went Into the hotel, and when questioned denied that he hit Porter on the jaw. Taken to Sydney Hospital with a fractured jaw, Porter died two days later. 

The evidence went to show that the accused was under the Influence of drink when he struck Porter.

In a statement from the dock the accused said he had no knowledge of the fatal occurrence. Having been paid off from the steamer Victoria he had £20 on him and so went on a drinking bout. He expressed regret for what had happened, having no ill will towards the deceased.

The Jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter, with a strong recommendation for mercy. His Honour sentenced Campbell to 12 months goal"  with a recommendation for release after six months.  (CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT. (1919, December 2). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved November 4, 2017, from

Harry was buried with his mother at Rookwood Cemetery.

Sadly, we don't have a photo of Harry.  We do have a photo of Campbell taken when he entered Long Bay Goal.  One wonders what Campbell's sentence would have been for the same offence in 2017!  

Today is the time to think about Harry and his immediate family.  He lived through the horrors of the First World War only to be killed close to his home while spending time with his mates...wearing the medals he'd been awarded for his service to our country......


  1. Hi Martyn and all the family. My name is Sue. I met you some years ago on the north coast. My adult children are Aussie Killion's great grandchildren. I was so pleased when I found your Killion website. I've learned so much more about the family. Thanks for sharing all your great research. What a sad ending for that brave young Anzac.

  2. Hello Sue Good to hear from you. We also have a Facebook group under the same if you or your family are interested in joining. Chris