Trooper Bluegum: The legend behind the Bluegum brand

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 02/07/2021
Trooper Bluegum: The legend behind the Bluegum brand

When cannons are roaring and bullets are flying,

The lad that seeks honour must never fear dying.

(From ‘Trooper Bluegum at the Dardanelles’)

Every business has a story. Mine centres on the extraordinary life of my great-great uncle Oliver Hogue, or "Trooper Bluegum" – war hero, celebrated journalist and Major during the first world war – and one of 100 ANZACs featured on the Sydney Harbour bridge for the centenary celebrations.

Oliver’s adventurous spirit saw him trekking through the Australian bush and working as a commercial traveller before departing Sydney in December 1914 to serve in Gallipoli – the first of many dangerous campaigns.

As well as years of active front-line service, his articles under the pen name Trooper Bluegum appeared regularly in the Sydney Morning Herald – later to be published as books. I’m so proud to share his name. He saw out the war, surviving so many threats. Sadly, however, he died of influenza while on leave in London on March 3, 1919.

Ah, well! We’re gone! We’re out of it now. We’ve got something else to do.

But we all look back from the transport deck to the land-line far and blue:

Shore and valley are faded; fading are cliff and hill;

The land-line we called “Anzac” … and we’ll call it “Anzac” still!

(From ‘Trooper Bluegum at the Dardanelles’)

Start as you mean to go on

Oliver was born in Sydney on April 29, 1880. A skilled horseman, he completed school then cycled thousands of miles along Australia’s east coast, camping along the way. Work as a commercial traveller was followed by a journalist’s role at the Sydney Morning Herald in 1907. When WW1 broke out in 1914, my great-great uncle applied to become an official war correspondent but was turned down. Instead, he enlisted as a trooper with the 6th Light Horse Regiment, leaving Sydney aboard the HMAS Suevic in December 1914. His demanding war journey had begun.

This last six months, I reckon’ll be most of my life to me:

Trenches and shells, and snipers, and the morning light on the sea,

Thirst in the broiling mid-day, shouts and gasping cries,

 Big guns’ talk from the water, and … flies, flies, flies, flies, flies!

(From ‘Trooper Bluegum at the Dardanelles’)

The arduous war years: 1914-1919

Oliver Hogue was undeniably brave, being mentioned in despatches for his gallantry and outstanding devotion to duty.

The Sydney Morning Herald also referred to his “kindliness or heart and generosity”, calling him “fearless, cool and brave . . . a soldier and a gentleman . . . who won everyone’s regard and affection.”

He had an extensive war record.

  • Served in Gallipoli (dismounted) for five months in 1915.
  • Took part in battle of Romani in August 2016.
  • Transferred to the Imperial Camel Corps in November 1916.
  • Fought the battles of Magdhaba, Rafa, and Gaza in 1917 before the Corps disbanded.
  • Promoted to Major in July 1918, commanding a squadron of the 14th Light Horse Regiment.
  • Took part in Australian advance on Damascus in Syria.
  • Played role in eventual surrender of Ottoman Army in October 1918.

Trooper Bluegum rose through the ranks from Second Lieutenant to Captain then Major.

In days to come we'll wander west and cross the range again;

We'll hear the bush birds singing in the green trees after rain;

We'll canter through the Mitchell grass and breast the bracing wind:

But we'll have other horses. Our chargers stay behind.

(Trooper Bluegum’s poem ‘The Horses Stay Behind’)

Capturing the horror and passion of war

Oliver's articles in the Sydney Morning Herald captured the excitement of battle as well as the horror of loss . . . bringing the Great War home in a way that was accessible to all. According to literary critic Bertram Stephens, Oliver’s poetry conveyed his “buoyant and generous soul . . . regarding danger as absolutely necessary to give it zest”.

He left his legacy in the form of three books - 'Love Letters of an Anzac', 'Trooper Bluegum at the Dardanelles' and 'The Cameliers'."

There's a melody in the changeful sea,

A charm in the battle's thunder,

But sweeter than those the bushman knows

Is the bound of a good horse under.

(From ‘Trooper Bluegum at the Dardanelles’)

My great-great uncle was one of 100 ANZACs featured on the Sydney Harbour bridge for the centenary celebrations. His short life was crammed with enough passion and achievement to exceed the average lifetime. If my business can reflect even a fraction of the Bluegum spirit, I will be happy!



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