Arthur Quong Tart wounded at Pozieres courtesy Lois McEvoy

Arthur Malcolm Quong Tart, Brisbane, 1917. Courtesy Lois McEvoy

The public image of the men of the first AIF given currency by Charles Bean, the editor of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 and author of some of its volumes, was one of bushmen – white men – from rural Australia, like those he had met when he wrote the series of articles published in book form in 1910 as On the Wool Track. In this he spoke of ‘these large-hearted, intelligent, simple men of the Far West – the best material in Australia, the truest mates in the world’. Translated into the AIF they were mates of British origin fighting for King and country – and also for a white Australia. Bean saw Australia as an Anglo Saxon country and wrote approvingly of the ‘White Australia’ policy. Introducing the AIF in Volume 1 of the Official History he wrote

The Australian was half a soldier before the war; indeed throughout the war, in the hottest fights on Gallipoli and in the bitterest trials of France or Palestine, the Australian soldier differed very little from the Australian who at home rides the station boundaries every week-day and sits of a Sunday round the stockyard fence (p.47).

On the Wool Track does mention ‘natives’, ‘blacks’, ‘black fellows’ and Chinese but not as part of the bush work force whose qualities Bean saw as so formative of the Anzac legend.

In reality many of the men in the AIF came not from the bush but from the cities and urban areas. Moreover not all were white. As well as men of Aboriginal heritage there were men of other ethnicities. Amongst these were men of Chinese heritage. While Chinese have been part of the Australian story since the early days of the colony of New South Wales, their presence was boosted in the 1850s by the influx of thousands of Chinese following the discovery of gold in South Eastern Australia. By 1914 their descendants and those of later Chinese immigrants were amongst those who volunteered for the AIF. In doing so they were faced with the same enlistment problems encountered by Aboriginal men, stemming from Australia’s restrictive race based legislation and their acceptance or rejection followed similar patterns – and was just as inconsistent. This is apparent from the service records of AIF volunteers of Chinese descent which closely parallel those of Indigenous Australians – often recording initial rejection because of race followed later by acceptance or in other cases simply rejection.

One of those who did not succeed in joining the AIF was George Kong Meng born in Victoria, the son of a Chinese British citizen from Penang and a mother born in Tasmania. His brother Herbert was able to enlist in 1914 and was already overseas when Kong Meng was rejected twice for lack of substantial European descent. The experience of his second rejection in January 1916 is recorded in a letter of protest he wrote to the Melbourne Argus.

I attended the recruiting depot at the Melbourne Town Hall on Friday, the 14th inst. and after giving my name, age, and religion to the recruiting sergeant was taken in with some others to the examining room and told to undress, preparatory to the officer examining me as to my physical fitness. After my height, weight, and chest measurement had been taken by one the officials there I was sent to the medical officer. Upon going before him I was told to get dressed again, and when I asked if I had failed to pass the medical officer he said he would not swear me in. When leaving the depot I received a certificate with “not substantially of European origin” written on it, and signed by the medical officer. 

George Kong Meng was a British subject and an Australian citizen by birth who had already spent six years military service in the Victorian Mounted Rifles and the 8th Light Horse. His rejection for service in the AIF left him embittered, diminished and disillusioned with his country:

Evidently the authorities at the Melbourne Town Hall depot seem to think I am not worthy of helping to defend the Empire. The Prime Minister has appealed to every man of a military age to join the colors; but, if this is the treatment the native-born are to receive, I am afraid the appeal will fall on deaf ears. England and France deem it fit to use coloured troops to defend their shores, but the great Australian democracy denies its own-subjects the same opportunities. I might state that I have gone to Melbourne on two occasions to offer my services to my King and country, and, after paying all travelling expenses, to be treated like this does not give one any encouragement to go again.

Kong Meng’s words are equally applicable to the Aboriginal men who shared similar experiences. Aboriginal Australians were ‘natural born British subjects’ and required to attest to this when applying to join the AIF.

When Kong Meng complained in the press of his exclusion a correspondent replied pointing out that another Australian Chinese man, Arthur Quong Tart with ‘origin … about the same’ had recently embarked for the front. Both Tart and Kong Meng , whose father was Lowe Kong Meng of Melbourne, were the sons of well known and respected Chinese businessmen. Tart’s father, Mei Quong Tart, a naturalised Australian, was born in China and his mother was an Englishwoman, Margaret Scarlett.

Arthur Quong Tart although accepted for service in the AIF was no stranger to  discrimination. He had experienced racial taunts as a school child and at an official level when visiting New Zealand in 1910 he was detained because of his race by Customs officials. He was only released when it ‘was shown that Mr Tart was a half caste’ and not subject to the New Zealand Immigration Restriction Act.

Arthur Tart also experienced rejection before he was finally accepted for the AIF in August 1915 aged 23 but this rejection was, ostensibly at least, not because of his race but his height.

Pte. Arthur Quong Tart of the 7th Reinforcements of the 19th Battalion is the eldest son of Mrs and the late Mr. Quong Tart, of ‘Gallop House,’ Arthur-street, Ashfield. Prior to enlisting he was engaged in wool classing and wool buying, having gained his experience In New Zealand, Queensland, and New South Wales, He has been educated at Petersham Public School, Ashfield College, and Burwood Grammar School, and finished his studies at Riverview College. Private Quong Tart made [several?] attempts to enlist, but was not successful in joining the ranks until the height standard was reduced to 5ft 2in.  

His service however did not last long and by February 1917 he was back in Australia.

Pte. Arthur Tart, the talented young soldier at present convalescing at the Booloominbah Home, Armidale, is the son of the late Mr. Quong Tart, the well known Sydney business man. Pte. Tart was blown 20ft into the air in France by a shell, and is now making good progress from the severe shock he received.

He had been buried four times by exploding shells at Pozieres between 22 and 26 July 1916 and was left temporarily without power in his legs, hysteria, a stutter and later a limp and not surprisingly suffered from shellshock. His mother died on 27 July 1916 only a day after Arthur was being assaulted by shell fire at Pozieres.  Grief on eventually learning of her death contributed to ongoing trauma on his return home. After recuperation he went to Queensland where he attempted to resume his pre-war career as a wool classer but was plagued by depression. Photographs he sent to his family, taken in Queensland after his return, show him in uniform, a diminutive figure who stands legs apart as he appears to steady himself with a cane. The stripes on his uniform do not correlate with his service and indicate that the uniform was borrowed for the photograph but that it was important to him to be seen to be wearing it – perhaps because of his early return home. A literary work he registered for copyright in 1925 gave his Ashfield, New South Wales address – no doubt used as his principal address when away. It also shows that he was in Sydney in 1925 when he applied for registration. The work itself titled The Living Dead is a story of murder and passion set in north west New South Wales, Queensland and South America with brief references to the war. Possibly writing it was one way of exorcising some of the demons which his war time experiences summoned up for him.

In later years information about Arthur’s life was lost by his family and it was only relatively recently that Lois McEvoy wife of his nephew John McEvoy and his first cousin once removed James Errol Lea-Scarlett, were able to locate a record of his death. He died in Brisbane in May 1927 just ten years after his return from the war. He was unmarried and it is reasonable to assume that like so many others his life and expectations were blighted by his horrendous war time experiences.

Arthur Quong Tart as a wool classer and buyer in country New South Wales and Queensland lived in the bush environment and communities described so vividly by Bean in On the Wool Track and himself belonged to one of the range of bush workers Bean features in his observations. But Bean had no place for men like Arthur Tart or for the Aboriginal men who also inhabited and worked in this environment. Although these men were part of the world Bean saw as the wellspring of the behaviours of Australian men at Gallipoli and beyond, they were not for Bean and writers who followed him, amongst those who were the cornerstones of the legend called Anzac.

Some men of Chinese heritage, or who according to their attestations were born in China, successfully enlisted in the AIF even though they lacked the European descent required by the Defence Act. Yet others, despite the fact that recruits were urgently needed as the war progressed, could not gain acceptance, their rejection showing that the urgency for recruits was not always sufficient to overcome the negatives which led to the strict adherence to the provisions of the Defence Act.

The digitisation of the records of World War One service by the National Archives of Australia and their availability online have facilitated research into the diversity of the AIF. More information about Chinese in the AIF can be found in Alastair Kennedy’s 2013 study  Chinese Anzacs.

Philippa Scarlett 6 April 2014 

My thanks to Lois McEvoy for permission to reproduce the photograph of Arthur Quong Tart and for her comments on his life.  

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David Huggonson has been at the forefront of the movement for recognition of Aboriginal war service. Not only is he the author of numerous articles both journal and press which tell the story of Aboriginal men in the AIF but his efforts to locate photographs of Aboriginal servicemen, involving contacts all over Australia, led to the creation of a unique record of Aboriginal war service. The photographs collected by him and made available to the public in the exhibition Too Dark for the Light Horse toured Eastern Australia between 1986 and 1995 and were later shared with the Australian War Memorial. Now the phrase ‘Too dark for the Light Horse’ taken by Huggonson from a Bulletin cartoon (31 August 1916) is synonymous with Aboriginal service in World War One. The images in the Huggonson Collection of Aboriginal men in the uniform of the AIF send a powerful visual message about the Aboriginal presence in this conflict.

Most recently he has sought to identify men of Aboriginal heritage who fought at Gallipoli. The thirty two men he has identified to date are listed below. They are from all Australian states and not all survived.

 Some Men of Aboriginal Descent Who Served at Gallipoli

Compiler David Huggonson 2014 

BINDOFF, Edgar George 1720, Sydney, New South Wales

BOLTON, Arthur John (served as Lee, Arthur John) 1040, Rooty Hill, NSW

BOLTON, Alfred Frederick 682, Windsor, NSW

CAMERON, Alfred 1173, Meningie, South Australia

CROUGH, Kenneth 1125, Warrnambool, Victoria

DICKERSON, James 392, Gin Gin, Western Australia

FARMER, Larry 62, Katanning, Western Australia

FARMER, Lewis 421, Katanning, Western Australia

FIRTH, Francis Walter 1162, Pilliga, New South Wales

HUTCHINS, Charles 307, Busselton, Western Australia

JACKSON, William John 1952, Bunbury, Western Australia

KARPANY, George 3502, East Wellington, South Australia

KELLY, Alfred William 590, Macksville, New South Wales

MARTIN, Richard, 1359, Brisbane, Queensland

MAYNARD, Edward 2294, Flinders Island, Tasmania

MAYNARD, Frank 1153, Flinders Island, Tasmania

MAYNARD, Leo 3992, Flinders Island, Tasmania

MCCALLUM, Arthur Edward 165, Albury, Western Australia

MILLER, John William 1227, Peppermint Bay, Tasmania

MUCKRAY, Hurtle 757, East Wellington, South Australia

NALEY, Charles Gordon 1310, Eucla, Western Australia

OLSEN, Andrew 736, Toowong, Queensland

PATTERSON, Hurtle Austin 34, Townsville

PERFECT, Joseph 200, Rockhampton, Queensland

PRIESTLY, Norman 2786, Gordonbrook Station, New South Wales

ROBINS, Alfred Arthur 1424, Junee, New South Wales

ROWAN, John 1506, Healesville, Victoria

SLOANE, John 783, Forbes, New South Wales

STOW, Albert Edward, 2162, Dungog, New South Wales

TRIPP, Hubert Frank 1428, Victor Harbour, South Australia

WALKER, Arthur Thomas 2466, Goolwa, South Australia

WALLER, Charles Stephen 1337, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

To date this is the only public list of Aboriginal men who served at Gallipoli of which I am aware. It concretely links a group of Indigenous men with the World War One campaign which features most prominently in Australians’ war remembrance. It is very likely incomplete and the names of more servicemen can be added as they come to light.

Philippa Scarlett 29 March 2014 

My thanks to David Huggonson for permission to reproduce his list. Some of his publications can be found in the Australian War Memorial’s reading list of material related to Indigenous war service.

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The play Black Diggers opened the Sydney Festival at the Sydney Opera House on 18 January 2014 and concluded with standing ovations. Individual reports and reviews also attest to its success. It consists of a series of stories crafted to portray the  range of experiences of Indigenous men in World War One and in the post war period. The writer is Tim Wright and the director Wesley Enoch with a cast of Aboriginal actors playing a multitude of parts. I was unable to attend but look forward to catching up with it elsewhere in Australia.

The recognition which Black Diggers will generate in the wider community is long overdue – despite the efforts of individuals over the last four decades. Black Diggers follows in the tradition of David Huggonson’s Too Dark for the Light Horse, an exhibition of photographs of Indigenous World War One service men. The exhibition which showed Indigenous men in the uniform of the AIF, collected by Huggonson toured south eastern Australia and Queensland from 1988 before later being shared with the Australian War Memorial. The impact on the eye of the photographs has proved so much more compelling and immediate than the printed word. In the same way this production which presents Aboriginal  soldiers to audiences as flesh and blood, combining visual appeal with dialogue, will be invaluable in getting across the message that despite prohibitive legislation Indigenous men actually volunteered and served in World War One. The play will tour within Australia from September.

In the centenary year of World War One, as a visual and verbal presentation, Black Diggers will go a long way towards raising the general public’s awareness of the service of Indigenous men – both in World War One and following wars. This has been either neglected, ignored or buried by the racist Australia in which these men volunteered and which they returned to and their descendants continued to endure. Hopefully things are changing but there is still some way to go. Black Diggers is the most important milestone to date in the process of recognition and reconciliation with the men and their descendants. It is now recognised that the history of Australia is a shared one between black and white. Within this so is the history of the AIF and its sister services. Black Diggers eloquently makes this point.

Philippa Scarlett 29 January 2014

Meyne Wyatt, Isabella Edquist  and Wesley Enoch Black Diggers 18 Jan 2014

After the performance: Opening night 18 January, actor Meyne Wyatt, Isabella Edquist and director Wesley Enoch

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Warangesda etching 1883 Illustrated Sydney News

Warangesda Mission 1883

The following account is based on reports of the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board and entries in the Warangesda Mission Managers Diary. The authors of both sources are white officials and the picture they paint is basically one of contrived good cheer. Never the less they do give some idea of the experience if not what the people at the mission actually felt. The life span of the mission was 1880 – 1924

Records of the Christmas season at Warangesda in the 1890′s show it to have been a busy period.

In the days before Christmas in preparation for the holiday to follow, the people were occupied cleaning up their yards and cottages.  The mission buggy went back and forth from Darlington Point Station, meeting children of the white staff coming home for the Christmas holiday and any other Christmas visitors, as well as picking up the Christmas parcels sent from Sydney which contained food and  toys for the children.  While the men went shooting for game for the Christmas table, the manager as well as attending to his usual duties spent time selecting prizes and planning the sports to be held on Boxing Day and New Year.

By Christmas eve, the church had been decorated with pine boughs and other greenery and a Christmas tree set up by the men. Christmas day was celebrated with church services, Christmas cards were given out and Christmas fare – roast beef and plum pudding (quality unknown) was distributed to the people.  The Christmas period was usually very hot, 108°F in 1892 and 114° in 1896.  In 1892 the awful heat was put to a sudden end in the evening by a southerly buster so severe that it forced the evening church service to be abandoned.10  The 1896 heat was unrelieved, causing the death of one child  – Julia’s baby – probably from heat exhaustion and dehydration.  That evening there was a terrible dust storm “and as the lamp in the church would not burn there was no service.”

Boxing Day was a day of organised sports at the river, but on Boxing Day 1894 many instead had attended the Darlington Point races and were considered unfit for the dancing Mr Nash (the school teacher) had arranged in the school that evening. On Boxing Day 1896 those who did not go to the races “partook of a tea which had been provided by the matron, consisting of fruit cakes, lollies and coconuts which were afterwards scrambled [for].”

The sports usually continued into the next day – 27 December and were followed in the evening by a concert and prize giving.  The next day, 28 December, could be taken up with a cricket match. In 1893 there then followed an exodus of the visitors from Cummeragunja mission who had spent some of the Christmas holiday at Warangesda, as well as Warangesda families leaving to pay a reciprocal visit.

In the last days of the year preparations were made for New Year’s Day and the men cleared ground by the river for the New Year’s Day picnic.  The New Year was welcomed in with “rough music” into the night, and on New Year’s Day, there were more sports by the river, followed by the usual prize giving ceremony on 2 January, so ending the festive season.

This is an extract from Warangesda Daily Life and Events 1994

Men from Warangesda or with Warangesda connections volunteered for World War One. James Smith, Walter Bright, Joe Gotch, Thomas Lyons, Tom and Dick McGuinness, Alex Little, Arthur Weston, Allan Gowans, David Kennedy and John Heland all volunteered for service with the first AIF as did John and Duncan Ferguson, two sons of William Ferguson. David Kennedy over 40 years old, John Heland and Duncan Ferguson did not serve overseas, Dick McGuinness lost his life. The others returned to Australia, in Walter Bright’s case after a period in a German prisoner of war camp. John Ferguson was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry.

Philippa Scarlett 30 December 2013

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On 15 October 2013 Russell Downey, a great nephew of Christopher and Charles Gage, placed a poppy beside their names on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial. In doing so he paused to wonder what these two men looked like. No photographs of them had been found to date. Amazingly, this changed only a few days later when on-going research by Russell’s wife Gayle, located a photograph of Charles Gage in the pages of the Forbes Advocate. A striking family similarity to Frederick Clinton Gage who served in World War Two (shown on a younger brother of Christopher and Charles, is immediately obvious. So this goes a long way towards granting Russell’s wish.

C A Gage Forbes Advocate

Both Christopher and Charles Gage are named in the survey of Aboriginal men who were ex-members of the AIF published in the RSSILA (now RSL) journal Reveille in 1932. They were the sons of Christopher and Mary Gage, nee Sloan of Eugowra, New South Wales. Charles volunteered for service in the first AIF on 11 March 1916 and Christopher on 4 April the same year. Both lost their lives. The shock of losing two sons led to the mental collapse of their father who never recovered from their deaths.

Charles Gage was killed on 3 December 1916 only days after arriving in France and transferring to the 56th Battalion.  His death was described in the Western Champion by a fellow soldier, Frank Reid.

They were marching into the firing line on the night of December 3rd, and when 100 yards off the trench shells were falling all around them. One burst and killed a number of men, among them Gage.

Frank Reid was also wounded by a shell burst which followed.

Christopher, who served with the 54th Battalion, outlived his brother by almost a year and died in 1917 in Belgium. The Forbes Advocate gave details of a letter to his parents written ‘somewhere in France’ on 20 March 1917, reporting that he was

in good health and ” In the thick of the fray.” His company was doing good work, notwithstanding that they were fighting against big odds and under trying and uncomfortable circumstances. Corporal Gage was bold enough to say that he did not think that the war would last much longer. Corporal Gage is a son of Mr and Mrs C.H. Gage, of “Pine Vale,” Eugowra, and a brother of Private Charles Gage, who was killed in action recently.

Following five more months of war on 24 August 1917, in a further letter to his father published by the Forbes Advocate, Christopher was not so optimistic. After giving news of some of the ‘Eugowra boys’ he concluded by saying ‘they had been having a good time lately, but did not think it would last long as “good things didn’t last long in France!” ’. By this time Gage had been on the Western Front all year, and experienced the death of his brother. One month later he himself was dead – killed in action on 26 October, the date of the 54th Battalion’s major battle at Polygon Wood.

The Gage brothers’ Aboriginality was located in the Wiradjuri of the Lachlan river via their mother Mary Sloan, whose Sloan family is recorded as in receipt of an individual reserve near Eugowra. Unlike some other Indigenous volunteers, the Gage brothers did not grow up on a managed Aboriginal station like Warangesda or Erambie or live in a reserve community. The newspaper reports relating to their war service make no reference to Aboriginality and give no indication that their family – Eugowra farmers – were not accepted in the community. Moreover, while technically under the control of the Aborigines Protection Board and noted by the Board in the information given for the Reveille article, practically this was not so. Their case is not isolated and just one example of the fact that a great variety of backgrounds are shared by men of Indigenous heritage who volunteered for the AIF. These range from mission to farm, urban to country town and outback station and more. This information can be found in the service records of these men which are digitised and available online at the National Archives of Australia. The names of identified Indigenous volunteers are listed in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF:  the Indigenous Response to World War One.

My thanks to family historian Gayle Downey for telling me of her discovery of the photograph of Charles Gage.

Philippa Scarlett 7 November 2013

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During World War One 3141 Canadian nurses served overseas and on the home front. Included in this number was Marion Smith. What distinguishes her from other nurses was her particular Australian connection. Although resident in Canada since childhood she was born in Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia in 1891. Marion’s grandmother, Lucy Leane belonged to the Cabrogal (Liverpool) clan of the Darug.  In 1893 two years after Marion was born Lucy Leane  petitioned the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board describing herself as

The only surviving Native Woman of the Georges River and Liverpool District, residing here ever since her birth Fifty Three Years ago, as the undersigned witnesses can vouch for and attest. Being a bona fide Original Native of Australia & of this District, your Petitioner requests of you the supply of a boat as granted by Government in all such cases, for the purposed of carrying on trade on the Georges River.  Sydney Morning Herald 9 June 1893  

Lucy Leane’s daughter Elizabeth, Marion’s mother was also born in Liverpool. After marrying an English cousin George Smith and Marion’s birth, Elizabeth and her husband moved to Canada.

Marion Smith trained as a nurse at New England Hospital, Rosebury, Massachusetts USA and after graduating in 1913 joined the Victoria Order of Nurses in Montreal. On 7 March 1917 she volunteered for World War One and became a staff nurse with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. She sailed soon after for England to begin active service and embarked for France on 30 March 1917, joining No. 41 Ambulance Train on 9 December 1917. She served in France until 1 September 1918 then Italy with the [British] Italian Expeditionary Force.  Her service record shows that during her war service she became known as Marion Leane Smith.

Ambulance Train. France WW1

A ward on a British Ambulance Train  in France

Ambulance trains like No 41 were specially fitted trains which were used in France and Belgium to transport injured soldiers from casualty clearing stations to base hospitals. Some included theatres for emergency operations. Patients were crammed into triple layered bunks either side of a narrow aisle. This combined with the movement of the train, the over all cramped nature of the converted carriages and lighting issues made for very difficult conditions for both the patients and the medical staff attending to them. One nurse described difficulties associated with the movement of patients onto an ambulance train at a clearing station in France:

Patients lying everywhere in the grounds of the clearing station, the walking wounded were in hundreds and were fighting to get on the train, they had to be kept back by a Guard to enable the bearers to get the more serious cases on the train.

Sister Leila Smith, No. 15 Ambulance Train

Such conditions would have tested Marion’s skills and nerve but her service record shows she more than adequately met this challenge. Comments in her record state that she was ‘a very good surgical nurse most attentive to patients.’   Another report of 2 August 1918 says more.

Staff Nurse Smith has given complete satisfaction in the carrying out of her duties whilst on the train. Her work is both quickly and efficiently done. She is most capable in every way. Power of administration satisfactory as also tact and ability to train others. 

Although her contract expired on 7 September 1918 she sought an extension and moved to the University War Hospital Southampton on 5 October 1918. She remained there until 4 May 1919 when she returned to Canada. Here she resumed life with her family at Home Farm New Brunswick but later married Victor Walls. He also had served in WW1 and some speculate that the two first met during the war years.

The couple subsequently left Canada for Trinidad where they took up positions at a missionary school, Naparima College. Victor went on to become Head Master and Marion supervised extra curricular activities at the boarding house. The Naparima school hymn which is still sung was written by Marion.

Marion maintained her connection with the Red Cross and was responsible for bringing the Red Cross to Trinidad. She also served in World War Two in Trinidad where she was commandant of the Red Cross and awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Her trajectory from her Indigenous ancestral lands at Liverpool New South Wales eventually to Trinidad and the responsibilities she undertook there (and before) was an amazing testament to her own abilities and strength and no doubt also to the spirit inherited from her grandmother, petitioner Lucy Leane, ‘bona fide Original Native of Australia’.  In addition to Marion, three other descendants of Lucy Leane served in World War One. Marion’s cousin Albert Edmund Leane known as ‘Darkie’, his brother  William Arthur Leane and her uncle Albert Charles Leane all served in France with the AIF. Another uncle Edmund William Leane volunteered in 1918 at the age of 43 but was unsuccessful. However of the descendants of Lucy Leane, Marion Leane Smith is unique in that she is so far the only woman of Australian Aboriginal heritage who is known to have served in World War One.

Although Australian, Marion Smith’s training was overseas and her service not with the army of her own country. The questions remains would she have had the opportunity to acquire nursing skills if she had not left Australia and, given the lack of uniformity in acceptance of men of Indigenous heritage into the Australian army, would she have gained acceptance as a nurse in the AIF.

My thanks again to Marion’s niece Judy Joyce for telling me that Marion had served in World War One enabling me to seek further information from the National Archives UK and also for directing me to information about her time in Canada and Trinidad.

 Philippa Scarlett 30 October 2013

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One of the Aboriginal children placed in Governor Macquarie’s Native Institution in 1814 was Kitty of the Warmuli or Prospect clan of the Darug. After leaving the Native Institution Kitty married, first Coleby, brother of Maria Lock and then convict Joseph Budsworth and moved to the Maitland area of NSW.

By 2012 I had identified four of Kitty’s descendants as serving in World War One, using a combination of Jim Kohen’s Darug genealogies, National Archives and New South Wales Birth, Death and Marriage records and information from Budsworth descendant Jo Rose. Now with more assistance from Jess Holland and Liz Locke, I have been put in touch with Leigh Budden whose grandfather, born a Budsworth, is yet another of Kitty’s descendants to serve in the AIF. He was Robert John Coleman (also known as Walter) born Robert John Budsworth in 1896 and legitimised by John Joacquim Coleman as his son in 1913. His mother Catherine Sarah Budsworth, granddaughter of Kitty, married John Coleman in 1898. Robert volunteered aged 19 on 18 July 1915 and served as Walter John Coleman in the Middle East and France. Catherine Sarah was the daughter of James Bowen Budsworth and the sister of Roderick Budsworth, killed in France on 5 November 1916. Another brother, James Henry Budsworth survived the war as did and two other Budsworths, Wilfred and Joseph, both of whom were cousins of Walter Coleman.

COLEMAN nee Budsworth Wal (Robert John) & Nellie wedding 1_5_1930 courtesy Leigh Budden

Wal Coleman and his second wife Nellie, 1930.

Courtesy Leigh and Joan Budden

I have mentioned boomerangs before in connection with men of the AIF. Walter Coleman also possessed a boomerang (see below) similar in make and material to the one owned by Bert Leane .The precise circumstances of his receipt of this object are unknown but its present owner, his daughter Joan Budden, says that it was a gift from one of his uncles. Although this boomerang may not necessarily have any connection with Walter Coleman’s Aboriginal heritage, it is of interest in the context of war service overseas in general and the use of boomerangs to symbolise safe return. Walter Coleman’s boomerang is asymmetrical and roughly similar to the one belonging to Bert Leane. The dark wood with yellow banding suggests both were made from mulga.

Wal Coleman's boomerang courtesy Leigh Budden

The boomerang belonging to Wal Coleman, a gift from his uncles.

Courtesy Leigh and Joan Budden

Family research by Leigh Budden has revealed another parallel with Bert Leane, known to his AIF friends as ‘Darkie’. He points out that Robert Budsworth was known not only as Walter John, Wal and Wally but also as Darkie Coleman. He also states that according to his mother’s cousin Ray Coleman, his grandfather was nicknamed ‘Nigger’ by many of his friends including some of his family. This was not meant as an insult but a (perverse) term of endearment. A post card sent to his brothers Frank and Bob from Wareham U.K. where Walter was stationed in March 1917 (while assigned to the later disbanded 61st Battalion) demonstrates the affection between the brothers.

Wal COLEMAN sent this Post Card from Wareham UK WWIWal COLEMAN sent this Post Card from Wareham UK WWI  (2)

Card sent to his brothers by Wal Coleman. His realistic appraisal of the uncertainties of his life as a soldier is evident when he writes –  ‘if I get home’.

Courtesy Leigh and Joan Budden

The use of the word ‘nigger’ underlines the ever present casual discrimination faced by men of Aboriginal heritage. However the mateship he enjoyed (like Bert Leane), was implicit on his death in 1944, in the notice placed by the 30th Battalion AIF Association in the Newcastle Herald.

Budsworth Walter John Coleman 1944 death notice 001 crop

The discovery of Walter Coleman is another example of the fact that there are more men of Indigenous heritage to be recognised as volunteering for the first AIF. The Darug people of New South Wales are particularly well documented thanks in great part to the research and personal interaction with families of Jim Kohen. This in turn has assisted in the identification of war service by Darug men. Now the addition of Walter Coleman, yet to be included in Darug genealogies, brings to at least 72 the number of Indigenous servicemen with links to the Aboriginal people of the Sydney basin.

My thanks to Leigh Budden and his mother Joan Budden for family information and photographs

Philippa Scarlett 29 October 2013

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