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Hervert, Vincent (Vince) (1927–2008)

by Chris Hervert

Vince Hervert, n.d.

Vince Hervert, n.d.

Vince [Vincent] Hervert was born on the 14th of August 1927 at a home in Tusarova Street Prague, part of the newly created Republic of Czechoslovakia. The son of a Czech father and German mother he was one of five kids growing up in a time of world depression. After his father left and his mother died in 1938 the kids all ended up separated, into either foster care or homes for children. Vince’s life though materially and socially a step up was not a life he would have wished on any of his own children. He spent many a day walking from one end of Prague to the other visiting his brothers and sisters, saving his tram fare for something more important than transport.

Vince finished primary school then attended the ‘classical gymnasium’ style high school where in his own words he studied ‘handy subjects like Latin and classical Greek’. While he went through primary school with high marks he struggled through high school as the subject matter held little interest for him. It didn’t help that the war was on and the Germans occupied in March 1939.

It was during this time that Vince met up with the relatives of his guardian, whom it turned out were forestry folk. He immediately started spending all his vacations with them, and having a son the same age (who is now a retired forester) their interest in forestry grew twofold. In 1943 he left high school and went to a private Forest at Lnare to undergo two years of field experience prior to entering formal forestry school. Those two years were the most enjoyable of his early life.

May 1945 saw the end of the war, the Germans retreated and the U.S. Army arrived. It was a time to remember, free after six years of occupation and cruel oppression. The euphoria would only last three years until the next oppressor arrived.

Vince then spent four years at the Higher Forestry School at Trutnov in north east Bohemia. Good times were had until the communist takeover in February 1948. Vince had been an outspoken and active member of the Christian Democratic Party so he knew that sooner or later he would attract attention. May 1949 was when the crunch came, he was arrested, interrogated and accused of unfounded activities such as weapons smuggling. Eventually he was let go but was then kicked out of Forestry School two weeks before graduation, this despite four years of passing with distinctions. So no diploma for all his hard work and when he was drafted into the army and no doubt headed for places undesirable, he crossed into West Germany during September 1949.

He crossed the border with a good friend, Vaclav Link, whom he went to Forestry school with (Vaclav now lives in Cairns and remained friends). They were given train tickets and access to Reception Camps by the German police, where they remained for over twelve months. Chances to emigrate were few, and the most likely destinations were Canada or the USA, but things moved slowly. In spring 1950 a chance to go to Australia arose and after a train trip to Italy they boarded a ship bound for Fremantle.

In Vince’s words ‘my first impression of Australia was that of a coastline covered in stunted scrub’ and upon reaching land ‘one long wooden jetty and a few tin sheds’. This was the then port of Fremantle. It would have been very different to the forests and cities of Europe.

After a few weeks acclimatising Vince then put his name on the list to go to South Australia where the forest service was on the look out for labourers in the pine plantations around Mt Gambier. This was part of the pay back for the Australian Government funding the voyage. After two weeks of hard labour Vince was picked out by a forester named Norm Lewis who had heard about his forestry training, to be part of a section dealing with working plans. His training was not recognised as sufficient to be employed as a forester so Vince worked there for two years and moved to NSW where there was a system of progression to officer status regardless of a persons attained education level. Vince studied hard (again) and passed many state exams and by 1959 managed to reach the status of professional forester. In his own words ‘I achieved this in spite of the system although with help from a few very good friends’.

Vince moved around the state a lot, from Newness near Lithgow, to the plantations near Orange and the Glenn Innes region where he served for five years. It was here he met his wife to be Judith, and when he left for the hardwood forests of Batemans Bay in 1958 Judy went with him. They married in 1959 and by the time they left the Bay in 1966 had been blessed with two sons, Stuart and Chris. The next two years were spent at Urbenville which Vince loved and Judy not so much. So from there to the pine plantations of Moss Vale in 1968, where Vince and his family stayed for eleven years. During this time Vince and Judy had their third child, a daughter named Leanne, and the family was complete. Once Vince ran out of substantial projects in Moss Vale he asked for transfer and subsequently was promoted to District Forester at Batemans Bay.

He retired on the 14 August 1987 at the age of 60 (as was the policy in those days), after a final two years as Deputy Regional Forester for the South Coast Region. As an observer it was obviously far too early and the sudden removal from the work force affected him deeply. It seemed such a waste of knowledge and human resource. At the retirement bash many fine speeches were made but it was a simple yet down to earth remark by one of the forest foreman that really outlined Vince’s impact on his adopted homeland. ‘Vince was the best boss I had and rue the day he left the region’.

In retirement Vince returned to the Czech Republic three times after the Velvet Revolution. He was glad to go back and see the country free again. While catching up with his brothers and sisters was extremely important to him he always said he was glad to come home to Australia. He travelled many parts of Australia and he loved to fish, especially for trout but his real passion was his family and during this time five grandchildren were added. In 2002 Vince and Judy moved to Canberra because of Judy’s ill health, she died in January of 2003. Vince having contracted Parkinson’s battled on bravely till November 2008 when he finally passed away. During all this time he remained at home (as was his wish) with support from family and friends. I think in the end he decided it was time to go, on his own terms. It was mentioned at his funeral ‘he was a man born to be in the bush, not one to look at it through a nursing home window’. He is greatly missed.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 52, no 1, March 2009, pp 26-27

Citation details

Chris Hervert, 'Hervert, Vincent (Vince) (1927–2008)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hervert-vincent-vince-18330/text29942, accessed 24 November 2017.

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