John Douglas Campbell Hammon

  • 1Caps
  • 309Wallaby Number
PositionCentre
Date Of Birth2 March 1914
Place Of BirthInvercargill, NSW
SchoolAuckland Grammar School
Other ClubsOld Boys (Melbourne), Auckland Grammar Old Boys (NZ)
ProvinceVIC
Other ProvinceAuckland (NZ)
Died7 January 2004
Service NumberVX46251
Debut Test Match1937 Wallabies v South Africa, 2nd Test Sydney

Biography

‘Bill’ Hammon was a classy New Zealand-born winger turned inside back who emigrated to Australia, played Test rugby and fought on the battlefields of World War II. Educated at Palmerston North Boys’ High School and Auckland Grammar School, two of New Zealand’s great rugby institutions, Hammon played on the wing when the AGS 1st XV won successive championships in 1929 and 1930. After school Hammon played senior representative rugby for Auckland and was a member of the side that defeated Hawkes Bay to secure the Ranfurly Shield in 1934.

He then left New Zealand ahead of the trials for the tour to Great Britain and settled in Melbourne. Given his pedigree it was not surprising that several clubs sought his services however he eventually linked up with St. Kilda. At the time competent judges believed he would go a long way towards compensating Victoria for the loss of Dave Cowper and Gordon Sturtridge and they were proved correct when he was rushed straight into the Victorian side for their series against New South Wales. Shortly thereafter Hammon received medical advice to sit out the rest of the season after he suffered from a weakened heart.

He returned for the 1936 season with a move to Old Boys but soon found himself back at St Kilda when his clearance was withdrawn by the VRFU. Later, despite limited opportunities during the interstate matches, he ‘stamped himself as a born footballer during the trials for the New Zealand tour’ and duly won a spot in the team. Hammon played in four of the ten matches however Tom Pauling, Bill McLaughlin and Ron Rankin at centre, and ‘Shirts’ Richards and ‘Wally’ Lewis at fly half, were preferred for the Tests. A year later he started at fly half for Victoria against a rampaging South Africa and despite the one-sided 11-45 score-line Hammon was one of the few home players to walk away with his reputation intact.

Although initially overlooked for the Test series he was named for a debut in the second Sydney match with the Springboks when Pauling withdraw due to fluid on the knee. In 1939 Hammon missed selection in the crucial Australia XV v. The Rest trial for the Second Wallabies and as a result ‘Blow’ Ide, Len Smith, Lewis and Des Carrick were the centres named for the tour. He retired from rugby early the next year and enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force. Hammon joined the Machine Gun Battalion where he went on to attain the rank of captain.

Captured in 1942 Hammon became a POW in Java and was later appointed as Camp Adjutant. There he displayed, to a marked degree, his exceptional qualities of leadership and initiative. On numerous occasions his firm attitude to the Japanese authorities resulted in sick and weakened men being relieved from working parties but at the cost of cruelty meted out to him personally. His disregard of his own welfare, his consistent care and attention to the health of the POWs and his steadfast maintenance of his dignity did much to relieve other POWs from the brutal treatment of the Japanese guards. After the war Hammon was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire for ‘meritorious service and devotion in Syria and Java’ with his ‘personal courage and leadership being an inspiration to his men”.

Highlights

1937

Hammon won his first Test cap at inside centre, in combination with Cyril Towers, for the 2nd Test, 17-26 loss to South Africa at the S.C.G.
John Douglas Campbell Hammon