WALTER COLEMAN: AIF MEMBER AND WARMULI CLAN DESCENDANT

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

About Indigenous Histories

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2 Responses to WALTER COLEMAN: AIF MEMBER AND WARMULI CLAN DESCENDANT

  1. doug mackaway says:

    my mother Mary Therese (Molly) was a sister to Wal – she has a twin sister Kitty – other siblings I know of were – Jack, Frank, Nelly, Jean, Florence, Jim – I have a photo of Catherine Sarah Budsworth – a beautiful woman

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