During the course of WW1 and immediately after, an unknown number of members of the AIF who were stationed in England, on leave or convalescing, met and married English women. In most instances details of the marriage are contained in a serviceman’s record – in AIF form 517. In some cases marriages were recorded in studio portraits like that of Gordon Naley, following his return from POW camp in Germany. After the war ended these war brides and sometimes fiancées travelled to Australia on His Majesty’s Transports, usually with their husbands and often accompanied by children. The arrival of one such ship was reported in the West Australian on 3 November 1919:

 Monday 3 November 1919. HMAT Mahana arrived at Fremantle late yesterday afternoon, She had on board 1,151 passengers of whom 46 were civilians, 124 soldiers, 431 female dependants of soldiers and 110 children … Three infants died on the voyage out and two were born. Otherwise, the voyage was uneventful. The ship is stated to have been a very happy one. It is expected that the Mahana will continue her voyage to the Eastern States this morning.

A Miss Campbell, known affectionately to the soldiers as ‘the girl with the flags’, gained fame during the course of the war for the welcome she gave to troop ships passing through Durban, South Africa. She described in verse the arrival in 1920 of the last ship to Australia, the Shropshire. After heralding the ‘Dear Aussie Soldier men and English Brides,’ she went on to write

And now the last one goes a family ship
Fair English faces smile beside
The lean tanned faces of those hero men,
And baby faces peer between the rails,
Or wave a wee hand from their vantage place,
High in their father’s arms the last ship sails
Oh! may those babies never have to cross
The world, in years to come for such a war

What she may not have known was that some of the men returning with their wives were of Aboriginal heritage. Aboriginal men who married overseas so far identified are Arthur Andrews, Ernest Andrews, Walter Coe, Joseph Crowley, Harold Frazer, Charles Miller, George Morley, Gordon Naley, Arthur Ruttley and Alfred White. Miss Campbell’s wish was not granted and the sons and some daughters of veterans of the First World War did ‘cross the world’ to fight in other wars. Amongst these were sons of Indigenous servicemen Walter Coe and Gordon Naley.

Philippa Scarlett 29 March 2013

About Indigenous Histories

Author & Publisher of Australian history, art and culture.
This entry was posted in WW1. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Vicki Brogan says:

    Only one son of Gordon Naleys left Australian shores to fight for his country,his name was Edgar William Naley.

    • Thank you for this Vicki
      I looked up Edgar’s WW2 record (online at the National Archives of Australia website) and see that it includes a photograph.
      One interesting thing about this photograph is that it clearly shows his Aboriginal heritage. The photograph of his father taken after his wedding in England does not make this so clear. It is an example of the way photography in many cases for various reasons some technical does not reflect reality.

  2. Diane Brown says:

    My grandfather, Charles Hutchins ( an Indigenous solder from Busselton WA) arrived back on15.3.1919 on the Lyartina with his English bride, Rose Edith ( nee Elsley). Thanks for the information, I have only recently discovered his indigenous heritage. Diane Brown

    • Thank you for this information. I will include your grandfather in the referenced list of Indigenous WW1 soldiers in the third edition of my book Aboriginal and Torres Strait Volunteers for the AIF: the Indigenous Response to World War One. Your discovery is another example of the fact that there are more men whose service is yet to be recognised.

    • Pat Clarke says:

      Hi Diane I have been looking into our family history from the Military side and was told that Charles Hutchins is a relative in our family, would like to have more information of his parents and siblings if that is okay with you. His name is in the Forever Warriors book as is my mother I have found 16 people so far out of this book, I am going over to the display at the War Memorial in Canberra this month and trying to get up to date information. Hope you can help. I live in Australind WA
      Thank You
      Pat Clarke

  3. Diane Brown says:

    Correct Information should be; My grandfather, Charles Hutchins ( an Indigenous solder from Busselton WA) left England on 19 4 .1919 on the Marathon English bride, Rose Edith ( nee Elsley). They disembarked at Fremantle at the end of May. He evaded the planned embarkation to marry my grandmother. Thanks for the information on war brides. I have only recently discovered Charles’ indigenous heritage. Diane Brown

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s