BALD, Hurtle Clifford
Hurtle Bald was born in Hallett, South Australia to parents William James Bald and Florence Catherine Williams on 26 May 1894. He was a scholar at Kadina Memorial High School before joining the Postmaster’s General (PMG) in 1909 as a telegraph messenger at Kadina, South Australia.
Bald was a World War I veteran (service number 17154); on enlistment in June 1916 in Adelaide, he gave his occupation as telegraphist. He served as a sapper signalman in the Special Reinforcements 1st Signal Squadron Engineers, Australian Military Division, and was stationed in Alexandria, Egypt. Bald worked his way up the ranks to Acting Sergeant. At the end of the war he was given permission to attend a commercial course for three months at Skerry’s College, Liverpool, which he passed satisfactorily, before returning to Australia to be discharged in December 1919.
Bald re-joined the PMG on his discharge. On 3 February1921 he married Alice Louisa Parker, daughter of George Henry Parker and Mary Ann Barrett, at the Methodist Church, Brinkworth and in 1925 he was appointed postmaster at Kapunda. In July 1928 he was transferred to Darwin as postmaster for six years, until 1934. By this time Hurtle and Alice had two children, Iris and Peter; they moved into the postmaster’s residence on The Esplanade that was originally built in 1872 and renovated in 1897.
On 4 April 1931 an Imperial Airways Ltd Service left Croydon, England, destined for Darwin, carrying 15,000 letters. This was the first official overseas airmail. It crashed in Koepang, Timor. Charles Kingsford Smith and co-pilot, George Urquhart (Scotty) Allen flew to Timor in the Southern Cross to pick it up. They delivered it to Postmaster Hurtle Bald on 25 April 1931 in Darwin to great cheers from the Diggers celebrating their day.
Bald transferred back to Kadina, South Australia, in November 1934 where a civic reception was held for him; attendees were told by Inspector E. J. Cook of the Postal Department that only two of the one hundred and forty-four officers in the state had held a higher position than Bald and one of them was his grandfather, Mr. David Bald, an old Burra-ite, who was at the reception.
Bald later did stints as postmaster at Port Lincoln and Glenelg. He was the recipient of the Jubilee Medal issued in 1935 to public servants; this was a commemorative medal made to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the coronation of King George V.
In 1940 Bald volunteered for a further service of three years in Darwin and transferred with his wife Alice and daughter Iris, arriving in August. Peter was attending boarding school so remained in Adelaide to complete his education. Both Hurtle and Alice were keen tennis players and had played in championships in Port Lincoln while living there. During their time in Darwin, Bald became President of the Tennis Association which held an Annual Tournament with the Men’s Singles prize being a perpetual trophy, the Parap Cup. He used to officiate as an umpire for the Men’s championships, while Alice used to compete in the Women’s doubles events. In 1939, with war threatening, the tournament was suspended and as President, Bald was the custodian of the perpetual trophy. After the war the Parap Cup was found in the rubble of the bombed post office; it had been badly damaged so was sent south for expert repairs.
Both Hurtle and Alice Bald took a keen interest in the town’s social life and enjoyed entertaining at home. Fletcher James, the manager of the Blackwood Cold Stores which made the ice for Hotel Darwin and the Army, was a weekly visitor who enjoyed their unforgettable hospitality for three months while he waited for his wife and family to arrive from South Australia.
On 19 February 1942 business at the post office was brisker than usual in the morning; people were even waiting at the doors for the 9 o’clock opening. After the initial rush had subsided, the traffic flow returned to normal by 9.45am. When the air raid siren sounded, Bald and the rest of the post office staff took shelter in the trenches that had been dug around the complex. Unfortunately, a bomb landed on the one sheltering Hurtle, Alice and Iris Bald, among others, killing them all instantly.
Survivors of the initial bombing had the unenviable task of retrieving the bodies of the post office staff. They also had to retrieve the post office keys from Bald’s trousers, as the safe contained over £26,000 of cash, stamps and money orders.
Bald was buried in a temporary grave at Kahlin Beach; he was then re-buried at the Berrimah War Cemetery, and his final resting place is the Adelaide War Cemetery.
Hurtle Bald received a Civil Service Medal 1939–1945 posthumously on 9 January 1998. This medal is for civilians who served in arduous circumstances in support of the war effort as part of organisations with military-like arrangements and conditions of service.
Hurtle, Alice, and Iris Bald each have a street named after them in the Darwin suburb of Alawa. Nearby there is also a Bald Park and Bald Circuit named in their honour.
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