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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Whatmore, Hugh Edward (1860–1939)

by L. M. Heath

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Hugh Edward Whatmore (1860-1939), Salvation Army officer, was born on 6 April 1860 in London, son of John Whatmore, shoemaker, and his wife Elizabeth, née Westgate. After schooling, Hugh was apprenticed to a leading firm of optical, surveying and instrument makers. In 1877 at Whitechapel he was converted by the Christian Mission which next year became known as the Salvation Army. Joining as a soldier, he was commissioned in 1882 and rose rapidly to staff captain. Posted overseas by General William Booth, Whatmore served in Sweden and in the United States of America where he married fellow English Salvationist Mary Woodward on 8 August 1886.

Promoted major in 1892, Whatmore pioneered the army's work in Italy before returning to England in 1896 to become successively junior field secretary, provincial secretary, commander of the North London and Western provinces and in 1904 field secretary for Great Britain. Appointed international secretary in 1911, he visited South Africa and in 1914 attended the Swedish annual congress; he was en route to Finland when war was declared. Evacuated from Berlin, in 1915 he toured Korea, Japan, southern India, Ceylon and the Dutch East Indies before taking command of work in Holland. He was appointed commissioner of international training at Clapton, England, in 1919.

Following James Hay's separation of the Australian administration into two territorial commands, Whatmore was appointed commissioner of the 'eastern territory' (New South Wales and Queensland). Hoping to create a revival of 'red-hot' religion, he arrived in Sydney with his wife on 7 January 1922 to find that a more practical Christianity was required. He expanded the League of Mercy, extended slum work, opened the William Booth Memorial Institute for Men, Albion Street, and homes for the aged at Burwood and Collaroy, and organized free seaside holiday camps for poor city children. He purchased a large new building in Elizabeth Street for territorial headquarters, was closely involved with training subordinates, and opened several new corps and the Sword and Shield brigade to promote Bible reading. Travelling extensively throughout his territory, he regularly visited Brisbane.

Whatmore addressed the annual congresses of the 'southern territory' (Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia) early in 1926 and learned of his transfer there as territorial leader. He arrived in Melbourne in July and began touring his vast area of responsibility, campaigning vigorously against gambling, intemperance and smoking. Although he gave priority to 'relief work' over 'developmental work', he continued to hold officer-training sessions and established successful annual congresses for young people.

Exhausted and in ill health, Whatmore was recalled to London in June 1928 to attend a meeting of the Salvation Army High Council. He then went to Canada for the Toronto congress and visited San Francisco and Los Angeles before returning to London for further meetings. Back in Australia, in April-May 1929 he conducted the centenary congresses celebrating William Booth's birth and in September opened the Gill Memorial Home for Men, Melbourne. A regular contributor to War Cry and other periodicals, he began wireless broadcasting of army meetings. By his retirement in April 1930 he had extended the Bethesda Hospital, Melbourne, and opened more than thirty new halls and homes in his territory. He was farewelled affectionately when he sailed for England.

Described as 'a great spiritual leader', Whatmore was a gentle yet determined man in whom a shrewd administrative ability was combined with kindness, sympathy and tact. He died at Hackney, London, on 29 March 1939, survived by his wife, who had ably assisted him throughout his long years of service, and by four daughters, two of whom were Salvation Army officers.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Sandall, The History of the Salvation Army, vols 1-6 (Lond, 1947)
  • H. P. Dale, Salvation Chariot (Melb, 1952)
  • L. Tarling, Thank God for the Salvoes (Syd, 1980)
  • Salvation Army Yearbook, 1933, 1935
  • War Cry (Adelaide), 1 Sept 1921, 10 Apr 1926, 10 May 1930, 15 Apr 1939
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Jan 1922, 2 May 1930, 10 Aug 1936, 31 Mar 1939
  • Argus (Melbourne), 1 Feb 1930.

Citation details

L. M. Heath, 'Whatmore, Hugh Edward (1860–1939)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 30 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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