Famous Connections

Some of the Tramway Anzacs had unusual experiences in the war - especially for a Port Melbourne gripman and an Essendon conductor.

Hugh Gillies Cameron SPENCE

Trooper Hugh Gilles Cameron Spence from the 13th Light Horse was attached to the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps in 1916 and commissioned as a Lieutenant in the British Army. He was responsible for supplying arms and ammunition to the Arab irregulars rebelling against the Ottoman Empire – and became well acquainted with their commander, Lawrence of Arabia. Spence received a brief mention in Colonel T.E. Lawrence’s autobiography, and was decorated with the Order of El Nahda after the war by a grateful Hussein bin Ali, King of Hedjaz.

The lack of alcohol in the desert campaign must have had an effect – after the war, Spence became a publican in Prahran.


Francis Cooper PENNY

Private Francis Cooper Penny decided that war in the trenches on the Western Front during the winter of 1916-17 was too damn cold and uncomfortable, so he volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps. He was trained as an Observer, and later became a pilot flying the Bristol Fighter – one of the best aircraft of the war - before he ended up in Ireland flying recon missions against the IRA during the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-21. He also pulled Alcock and Brown’s plane out of a Irish bog after their record-breaking trans-Atlantic flight, and won the high jump at the British Inter-service Athletic Championships in 1920.

Reading his private papers was like reading a Biggles novel!

On returning to Australia, Penny worked for Shell as an aviation officer, and was involved in supporting many pioneering flights in the twenties and thirties.