Book Review: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF: The Indigenous Response to World War One (Second Edition) 2012 Philippa Scarlett
I first came across Philippa Scarlett’s name as part of my research into World War One Australian Aboriginal soldier Douglas Grant. Philippa was a guest on an ABC Radio program with two other researchers, Garth O’Connell and David Huggonson. Garth and David had led the way some years earlier by documenting the neglected area of Australia’s Indigenous war service record.
The radio program had the well known portrait of a WWI Aboriginal soldier, standing next to Private Harry Avery and an unknown British soldier, as a prominent image on it’s website for the interview. This photo, said to be of Aboriginal WWI soldier Douglas Grant, is a key element of my own research – as I do not believe it is Douglas Grant, but another unidentified Indigenous serviceman. About a year later, David Huggonson put me into contact with Philippa, who he said had just completed the most recent published book on the subject, had reviewed many photographs and was applying a solid analytical approach to her research.
After several discussions and emails, Philippa agreed to take a more detailed look at the photo in question and became the first independent researcher in the area to agree with my hypothesis: the Aboriginal soldier standing next to Private Harry Avery in the WWI portrait is not Douglas Grant, 13th Battalion, Atherton Queensland. Unfortunately, this particular tale is yet to be resolved, the Aboriginal companion of Private Avery is still yet to be identified.
While Philippa documents this question about the mis-identification of Douglas Grant (page 50 and page 155), this instance is only one in a multitude of issues, only one face and one name amoung hundreds of WWI Indigenous Diggers who served this nation. The Douglas Grant example is symbolic of the complexities involved in historical research in this area and demonstrates the importance of referenced rolls like that in “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF”.
Just ahead of the Centenary of ANZAC and WWI, Philippa’s work ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers of the AIF’ provides a wonderful resource for future generations of Australians.
Adding newly discovered soliders to the honour roll, and refining the works of earlier historians, the book represents the most current and comprehensive referenced list of over 800 men of Indigenous heritage who volunteered for service in WWI.
The accompanying notes include comments on locating Indigenous men in service records, reasons for volunteering and the growth of interest in Indigenous service since the 1930s. The discussion of Indigenous involvement in World War One uses the words of Aboriginal soldiers and community members, contemporary non-Indigenous commentators and newspaper reports. There are 84 illustrations, 79 of which are individual and group portraits of Indigenous servicemen.
HOW TO OBTAIN COPIES
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers for the AIF: the Indigenous response to World War One is published by Indigenous Histories, price $30 plus $10 postage.
For more information contact:
PO 686 Jamison Centre Macquarie
ACT Australia 2614
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @WW1Scarlett
National Library of Australia Trove: http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/37036090
Other works by Philippa include How Soon They Forget and The Lock Family in World War One
Andrew McIntosh 7 January 2013
Here’s a list of known highly decorated Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Servicemen & Women.
WORLD WAR ONE
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Corporal Albert Knight DCM
Lance Corporal Richard Norman Kirby DCM
Private William A Irwin DCM
Belgium Croix de Guerre
Corporal Ewan Rose
Sergeant Vivian Augustus Andrews MM
Corporal Augustus P Farmer MM
Corporal Harry Thorpe MM
Lance Corporal William A Knight MM
Lance Corporal Frederick Prentice MM
Lance Corporal Hector Ernest Brooks MM
Private William Reginald Rawlings MM
Private John Pearce MM
Private Raymond C Runga MM
Private Maitland Madge MM
Private Frederick J Briggs MM
Private Augustus Davies MM
Charles Hearps MM
Jack Roy Johnson MM
John Ferguson MM
Mention In Dispatches
Corporal William J Jonas MID
Private Frank Steward MID
Private Garnet Eustace Wilson MID
WORLD WAR TWO
Distinguished Flying Cross
Flight Lieutenant Dave Valentine Paul DFC
Corporal Timothy Hughes MM
Corporal Inky Ferguson MM
Trooper Clive Upright MM
Distinguished Service Medal
Sister Marion Leanne Smith DSM
Corporal Charles Mene MM
Mention In Dispatches
Sergeant Cecil Anderson MID
US Bronze Star
Warrant Officer Jim Geedrick
Warrant Officer Clarence Upton
Mention In Dispatches
Corporal Roy Mundine MID
Corporal Norman J Womal MID
WAR IN AFGHANISTAN
US Army Commendation Medal
Captain Chloe Dray
OUTSTANDING MILITARY SERVICE
Order of Australia Medal (Military Division)
Warrant Officer Roy Mundine OAM MID
Lieutenant CCommander Bertram Slape OAM
Matthew Charles Burke OAM
British Empire Medal (Military Division)
Flight Sergeant Harold James Allie BEM
Know doubt there is more waiting to be discovered.
The Aboriginal man standing beside Harry Avery is now recognised by the Australian War Memorial as unidentified – and not Douglas Grant. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P01692.001. However in May 2016 a new website on Indigenous servicemen http://indigenous.ww1anzac.com/a.html erroneously names Harry Avery as an Aboriginal man and as the Aboriginal man in the photograph. There are no contact details or information as to who posted this material on the website but investigation shows it belongs to a Faithe Jones http://www.gravesecrets.net/wwi-pictorial-honour-rolls.html who has diversified from documenting WW1 Australians to the often complex task of specifically singling out Indigenous men. Because there is no contact is not possible to comment directly and correct this and other misinformation about men said to be Aboriginal on the site. Few of the photographs on the site are attributed to their source although this image and some others show their source to be the Australian War Memorial. The Memorial description clearly shows that Avery is the seated white man in the centre of the photograph. Attribution is important not least because it enables those interested to inquire further and possibly to seek permission to reproduce from the actual source not Jones (if contact details which are not on the site can be found) who has copyrighted the whole site – and if necessary to verify identities.