Story: Hulme, Alfred Clive

Page 1 - Biography

Hulme, Alfred Clive

1911–1982

Soldier, transport operator, prospector

This biography was written by Richard J. Taylor and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 5, 2000

Alfred Clive Hulme was born in Dunedin on 24 January 1911 to Florence Sarah Matthews and her husband, Harold Clive Hulme, a clerk. Clive, as he was known, was educated at Eastern Hutt School, where he passed the proficiency examination. On 3 May 1934 he married Rona Marjorie Murcott in Nelson. They were to have a son and a daughter. An Anglican, Hulme was 5 feet 10 inches tall, with fair hair, fair complexion and blue eyes. He was physically strong, and in his youth was a keen amateur wrestler. In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, he was working as a farm labourer in Nelson.

Hulme enlisted on 22 January 1940 and during training reached the rank of corporal. He embarked for Egypt with the 23rd Battalion as part of the 2nd Echelon of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 1 May, and was promoted to sergeant while at sea. The battalion was diverted to England and stationed there during the Battle of Britain. It joined the 2nd New Zealand Division in March 1941, shortly before the New Zealanders’ first engagements in Greece and Crete.

During the Crete campaign of 20–31 May 1941, Hulme performed a number of acts of gallantry. At Maleme airfield he led a series of counter-attacks against pockets of German paratroops, and later led his men with distinction during the counter-attack at Galatos. Afterwards, he heard that his brother, Corporal H. C. Hulme, had been killed. He then waited behind his withdrawing unit and shot pursuing Germans in revenge. He was most renowned, however, for his work stalking snipers, which he volunteered for and carried out with coolness and determination. His courage, which amounted to recklessness, amazed his fellow soldiers. When his unit came under heavy sniper and mortar fire during the final withdrawal from Stylos on 28 May, Hulme infiltrated enemy lines and stalked and shot their snipers from the rear. In all he killed 33 snipers, before himself being seriously wounded. For his ‘outstanding and inspiring qualities of leadership, initiative, skill, endurance and most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’, he was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross.

Hulme was evacuated to New Zealand immediately after the Crete campaign. He arrived home on 10 July, and commenced a rehabilitation programme at Rotorua. Although discharged from the army as temporarily medically unfit on 17 February 1942, he was recalled for home service from May 1942 to September 1943. During this time he reached the rank of warrant officer, class two. He also gained some prominence for his forthright, and sometimes controversial, public comments: in 1942, for example, he lambasted striking freezing workers for ‘absolutely hiding behind our women folk. They should be sent to the war’. He attended the victory celebrations in the United Kingdom in 1946 with other New Zealand VC winners.

After the war Hulme made his home at Pongakawa, near Te Puke, where he worked as a general carrier. He eventually became the manager of a carrying company. In addition to this work he displayed considerable interest in water divining and claimed to have sunk 3,000 successful water bores in New Zealand and overseas. He was also involved in oil prospecting. In 1970 he was granted petroleum prospecting rights for 110 square miles of the Whakatane River valley area. In his later years the sporting achievements of his son Denis (Denny) attracted public attention, particularly when he became the world motor-racing champion in 1967.

Hulme died at his home on 2 September 1982, survived by his wife and children. After a service at the St John the Baptist Church in Te Puke on 6 September, he was interred at the Dudley Vercoe Drive cemetery.