NSTHS and KHS: a historic connection

Due to a population drop in the North Sydney area, the historic North Sydney Technical High School (NSTHS) was closed in 1969.

The first Principal of Killara High School was Mr T.E. Hornibrook, who had been Principal of North Sydney Technical High School. Quite a few of the teachers at the new Killara High School also came from that school.

It was also decided by the students, the Parents’ and Citizens Association and the ‘Old Boys’ of North Sydney Technical High School to donate their entire library book collection to the new Killara High School.

NSTHS’s ‘lion’ motif also has significance to Killara High School.  

Killara High School’s library was named the ‘Lion Library’ in honour of NSTHS and their generous donation.

Above: North Sydney Technical High School’s predecessor school – St Leonards Public School, circa 1882.

North Sydney Technical High School to Killara High School ~ a chronology:

1844: North Shore Presbyterian School (St. Peters) – managed by the trustrees of the Church of Scotland

1874: Management taken over by the Council for Education for the British colony of New South Wales and renamed St Leonards Public School (St. Leonards in those days was a vast area that included most of the lower north shore – from the harbour at Milson’s Point to Mowbray Rd, Willoughby and east toward Mosman.)

1877: Construction completed on considerably larger schoolhouse

1878: Students move to the new premises at Blue Street

1882:  First extension wing added at right angle to original building

1886:  Upgraded to St Leonards Superior Public School

1890:  Wing extended for separate girl’s classes (cooking)

1891:  Second single level wind added to handle enrolment demand

1893: Wing built up to two-storey

1910: Renamed North Sydney Superior Public School

1912:  Upgraded to North Sydney Primary School and North Sydney Intermediate High School

From 1912, pre-vocational secondary classes in shorthand, bookkeeping, building and constructions (trades) were introduced (State Archives 17175-B). The number of pupils at the school tripled to 820.

In addition to North Sydney Primary School and North Sydney Intermediate High School, three distinct and specialist curricula were offered, each operating with varying degrees of independence:

1912-1920: North Sydney Commercial School and North Sydney Junior Technical School

1912-1932: North Sydney Household Arts School

Staff and girls were transferred in 1932 to be the initial student population of the new Willoughby Home Science School in Mowbray Road (State Archives 17175-B)

 

Jan 1914: Intermediate girls wishing to study to a higher lever were transferred en bloc to populate the new North Sydney Girls High School on Lane Cove Road (now Pacific Highway)

Jan 1915: Intermediate boys wishing to study to a higher lever were transferred to the new North Sydney Boys High School in Falcon Street

Jan 1932: North Sydney Primary School – infant and primary students were transferred to new premises on the Lady Hayes estate forming the nucleus of North Sydney Demonstration School (State Archives 17175-B)

1936: Chatswood Intermediate High School merged with North Sydney Intermediate High School to form North Sydney-Chatswood Junior High

1942: Population growth in North Sydney – Chatswood Junior High School upgraded and renamed North Sydney Technical High School. Headmaster Mr R. Giltinan appointed

(For many years, as one of only two selective high northern shore schools for boys, it actively sought the best students from primary to secondary schooling, from as far away as Palm Beach and Mount Colah).

1969: The growing commercial density of metropolitan North Sydney and corresponding shift in suburban living foreshadowed the school’s closure in 1969.

1969-1970: Approximately 60% of NSTHS Faculty accepted positions at the new Killara High School including Headmaster Mr Thomas Hornibrook, who became Killara High School’s first Principal. The extensive “Lion Library” was also transferred.

The Greenwood Hotel occupies the National Trust and Australian Heritage-listed schoolhouse.

2000: A special church service was held at St Peters where the Cadet Colours were layed up. Old Lions, the Rev. Dr Andrew Thompson and Rev. Lloyd Bennett conducted the service. The colour party of three was comprised of Old Lion career senior military officers – Col. James Hull, Lt. Col. Gerald Mc Cormick, Lt. Col. Ken Broadhead.

[Source: Old Lions webpage. Used with permission by Old Lions President, Alan Maclean]

A further connection:

The rear of Killara High School (Wentworth Avenue side) is retained by large boulders of sandstone and back filled with crushed sandstone to level off the slope of the land (Churchill Road slope) to make a level playing field/playground area. The sandstone came from excavation of the NSTHS site to make way for the Greenwood Shopping Centre and a car park underneath, as well as the Optus building on Miller Street, North Sydney.

 [Source: Ian Thom, Old Lions. Photos: Tony Collins]

BLAIR ANDERSON WARK (1894 – 1941) VC, DSO.

Blair Anderson Wark was a student at one of NSTHS’s preceding schools.

Here is his story ~

‘…it was said that he liked the wind in his face and lived the life of three men’

Above image: Portrait of Blair A. Wark, VC, DSO, 32nd Battalion, 1st AIF., 1919 [Source: Australian War Memorial]

Acknowledgements:
Much of this information has been kindly sourced and donated by
Delma Wark – wife to David John Wark (known as John).
David John Wark was the nephew of Blair Anderson Wark.
Lesley Turner assisted with compiling many of the wonderful resources here.  
​We thank her also for her generous time and work on this
.

From Delma Wark:

“Blair was awarded the VC in 1918 while serving in Bullecourt, France, – rank Major – aged only 23. He was only 22 when awarded the DSO.

My husband John was given for safekeeping by his father Alec, personal war time letters from his Grandfather, written to his father from the Boer War. 

John was also given for safekeeping from his father Alec, a First World War album of sepia photos his father had compiled and in beautiful handwriting recorded the details of each photo.”

Early life:

Blair Anderson Wark was born in Bathurst, New South Wales, on the 27th July 1894. He was the fourth child of Alexander Wark, who was a gas engineer from Scotland, and his native-born wife, Blanche Adelaide Maria (nee Forde).

He was educated at Fairleigh Grammar School, Bathurst, and at St. Leonard’s Superior Public School [one of Killara High School’s preceding schools, which later became North Sydney Technical High School]. He then attended Sydney Technical College, where he studied quantity surveying.

In the twelve months prior to July 1912, Wark was a senior cadet in the Australian Army Cadets, rising to the rank of sergeant within his unit.

During this time, he was working as a quantity surveyor before he enlisted in the 18th North Sydney Infantry, Citizen Military Force.

Promoted to Corporal in early 1913, he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant on 16th August, and for the subsequent year, was assigned to full-time defence duties in the port of Sydney.

First World War:

On the 5th August 1915, Wark enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and was posted as a Lieutenant to C Company of the newly raised 30th Battalion. 

​​He proceeded to the Sydney suburb of Liverpool, where he attended an infantry school before training at the Royal Military College Duntroon.

Above image: AIF badge 1914-1918 [Source: The Australian War Memorial]
Above image: The Royal Military College Duntroon, circa 1915.​ [Source: Flickr]

Blair Anderson Wark was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry “in the face of the enemy”  that can be awarded to members of the British and other Commonwealth armed forces.

Wark enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force  on 5 August 1915, for service in the First World War. 

After initially being employed in the defence of the Suez Canal, his battalion was shipped to the Western Front. It was here that Wark would be twice decorated for his bravery and leadership.

Having received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO)  in 1917 for his actions at the Battle of Polygon Wood, Wark was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) in 1918 for his leadership and gallantry when in temporary command of his battalion over a three-day period, while conducting operations against the Hindenburg Line.

Above image: Blair Wark's medals
Above: Portrait of Major Blair A. Wark, VC, DSO, 32nd Battalion 1st AIF., 1919 [Source: Australian War Memorial]

'...his work was invaluable..."

Blair Anderson Wark received the Victoria Cross for the following:  

“For most conspicuous bravery, initiative, and control during the period 29th September to 1st October, 1918, in the operations against the Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt and the advance through Nauroy, Etricourt,
Magny La Fosse and Joncourt.


On 29th September, after personal reconnaissance, under heavy fire, he led his command forward at a critical period, and restored the situation.

Moving fearlessly at the head of, and at times far in advance of, his troops, he cheered his men on through Nauroy, thence towards Etricourt.

Still leading his assaulting companies, he observed a battery of 77mm guns firing on his rear companies, and causing heavy casualties. 

Collecting a few of his men, he rushed the battery, capturing four guns and then of the crew.
Then moving rapidly forward, with only two NCO’s he surprised and captured fifty Germans near
Magny La Fosse.


On 1 October 1918, he again showed fearless leading and gallantry in attack, and without hesitation; and regardless of personal risk, dashed forward and silenced machine guns which were causing heavy casualties.
Throughout he displayed the greatest courage, skillful leading, and devotion to duty, and his work was invaluable.
[Source: Commonwealth Gazette No. 61. Date: 23/5/1919.]

Image:

This particular gun was one of thirteen ’77’s captured near Bellicourt by the 32nd Battalion AIF during an attack on the Hindenburg Line between 29 September and 1 October 1918.

The battalion commander, Major Blair Anderson Wark DSO, was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery and devotion to duty during these operations.

The muzzle of this gun is shattered, either deliberately, to prevent its use by the captors, or by faulty ammunition. It is possible, but not yet proven, that this gun was the same one for which Lt Crain of the same unit was awarded the MC for ‘bringing into action an enemy field gun. About 30 rounds were fired and one hostile tank gun was silenced. Their good work was stopped only by a direct hit on the position.’

[Source: Australian War Memorial  4 23/49/38 folio 21

Further details on Blair Wark’s actions which lead up to him receiving the Victoria Cross, September 1918:

​”From 29th September to 1st October 1918, Wark assumed temporary command of the 32nd Battalion, leading the unit in the 5th Division’s attack against the Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt (part of the Battle of St Quentin Canal), and the subsequent advance through Nauroy, Etricourt, Magny La Fosse and Joncourt.

This series of battles became the 32nd Battalion’s final actions for the war, and it was during this period that Wark earning his Victoria Cross.

The 32nd Battalion was to commence its attack at Bellicourt at 9.00 on the 29th September, and moved south through the village.

Due to mist and smoke from a preceding artillery barrage, visibility was poor.

When the advance was held up by two German machine guns, Wark ordered a tank to neutralise them. On reaching the southern end of St Quentin Canal tunnel, Wark came across two hundred troops of the American 117th Infantry Regiment who appeared leaderless, and attached them to his own command.

A short time later, with visibility still poor, he appropriated armoured reinforcements and began an advance on the village of Nauroy.

As the fog began to lift, Wark organised his troops for an attack on the village from a southerly direction.

By 11.30, the battalion had taken the village, along with forty Germans as prisoners of war.

Shortly afterwards, Wark observed a battery of German 77 mm guns firing on his rear companies, causing heavy casualties. Collecting a party of his men, he rushed the battery and succeeded in capturing four guns in conjunction with ten crewmen.

With only two men, he pushed forward and surprised fifty Germans near Magny-la-Fosse who subsequently surrendered.

At 15.00, he halted his battalion near Joncourt, and sent out patrols which found the town still occupied by enemy forces. The 32nd Battalion responded by withdrawing slightly and strengthening its line. At 17.30, the German’s launched a counter-attack that was repulsed with the assistance of the 31st Battalion, together with some men from the 46th (North Midland) Division.

At 7.00 the next day, the 32nd Battalion attacked once more, advancing 1,500 metres to a point just north of Etricourt. Under heavy shelling and machine gun fire, they established a line between Joncourt and Etricourt. On the 1st October, at 6.00, with a company attached from the 30th Battalion, the 32nd battalion launched an attack that cut through Joncourt.

Leading from the front, Wark dashed forward and silenced machine guns that were causing heavy casualties; this enabled the 5th Division to complete its task of forcing through to the Beaurevoir Line….

The 32nd Battalion was resting and retraining away from the frontline when the Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918.

On the 5th January 1919, Wark was granted leave to the United Kingdom, where he accepted his Victoria Cross from King George V on the 13th February. Returning to his unit six days later, Wark was then assigned to the 30th Battalion, and sent back to England in preparation for demobilisation…..”    

[Sources: 

  • Arthur, Max.(2005). Symbol of Courage: The Men Behind the Medal. Chatham, England: Pan Books.
  • Gliddon, Gerald (2000). The Final Days 1918. VCs of the First World War. Sparkford, England: Sutton Publishing. 
  • Staunton, Anthony (2005). Victoria Cross: Australia’s Finest and the Battles they Fought. Prahran, Victoria: Hardie Grant Books.]

Above image: France. 1914-1918. Officers of the 29th and 32nd Battalions, which were amalgamations to maintain strength. At the front is the Brigade Cup.
Front row: Captain Weaver, Quarter Master; Captain Allen, MC and Bar; Captain Davis, DSO, MC; Major Wark VC, DSO; Colonel Davies, DSO, Croix De Guerre; Captain Derham, MC; Padre Eva; Lieutenant Hardy, Adjutant, MC and Bar; Captain Woods. (Donor D. Woods).
​[Source Australian War Memorial.]

Above imageMajor Blair Anderson Wark VC, DSO greeting the Duke of York at Government House, Sydney in 1927. [Source of image: Australian War Memorial. Copyright expired – public domain]

Later life:

On the 31st May 1919, at the parish church Worthing, Sussex, Wark married Phyllis Marquiss Munro and returned to Australia where his AIF appointment was terminated in September.

He became principal of Thompson & Wark – quantity surveyors, a director of several companies, a councillor of the National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA), a committee member of the Hawkesbury Race Club and a life governor of the Benevolent Society of New South Wales.

Divorced in 1922, Wark married Catherine Mary Davis on the 10th December 1927 at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Sydney.

In April 1940, he was appointed to the 1st Battalion, AMF, and assumed command on the 26th July with the rank of temporary Lieutenant-Colonel.

While bivouacked in Puckapunyal, Victoria, he died suddenly of coronary heart disease on the 13th June 1941.

Wark was cremated after a military funeral at which it was said that he ‘liked the wind in his face and lived the life of three men’.

His wife, their son and two daughters survived him.”


Blair Anderson Wark’s brothers,  Alexander and Keith, also served in the AIF. Keith won the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Above image: circa 1940. Party of Senior military personnel on horseback, probably at Puckapunyal, Victoria. Third from the left is Lieutenant-Colonel Blair Anderson Wark, VC, DSO, then Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, City of Sydney’s Own. [Source: Australian War Memorial]

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald – Tuesday 17th June 1941.

“Thousands of people gathered in Taylor Square and in Flinders Street yesterday to watch the military funeral of Lieutenant Colonel Blair Anderson Wark VC DSO who collapsed and died at Puckapunyal military camp Victoria on Friday.

A service at the Kinsela Chapels was conducted by the Rev. A.P. Campbell of the Binwood Congregational Church and was attended by many senior military officer’s representatives of the Australian Armoured Division of which Lieutenant Colonel Wark was an officer, representatives of the 1st Battalion A.M.F. which he commanded and representatives of the NRMA and other bodies with which Colonel Wark was associated.

Among those who attended were the General Officer Commanding Eastern Command Lieutenant General C.G.N. Miles; Major-General A. Fewtrell the Director-General of Recruiting; Major-General H.W. Lloyd; the Lord Major Alderman Crick; the president of the NRMA Mr J.C. Watson; and Sir John Harrison.

The pallbearers were Lieutenant-Colonels G.H. Anderson, B.V. Stacey, C.E. Morgan, A.G. Morris, J. Anchau, W.J. Smith, H.W. Davies, I.G. Fullerton and R.J. Downing. The bearer party from an infantry brigade was commanded by Lieutenant W. Engleson.

Near the cemetery, the procession was joined by the 2nd Garrison Band and an escort from the 1st Battalion commanded by Major L.W. Casier. A firing party from the 9th Infantry Brigade School fired three volleys at the cemetery. Several other VC winners were present.”

Some brief information:

Discharge date:  28th September 1919

War service:  Egypt, Western Front

Embarked from Sydney:  9th November 1915

Disembarked in Suez: 11th December 1915

Promoted to Captain: 20th February 1916
 
World War I:

Detached to 30th Battalion under amalgamation for demobilization.
Marched out to England for return to Australia on 23rd April 1919
Commenced the return to Australia on board HT Port Lyttleton on 10th June 1919.
Appointment terminated on 28th September 1919.
 
World War II:

Served in World War II. Appointed to command 1st Battalion with rank of Lt-Colonel on 26th July 1940.
Date of death:  13th June 1941

[Source: Commonwealth Gazette No. 173. Date: 7/11/1918]

Compiled by Francie Campbell, Teacher-Librarian, Killara High School, 2019.
Copyright remains with the authors.