Research earlier this year by Hamilton historian Peter Bakker has located another Aboriginal man who fought in the Boer war. Bakker has found that Jack Alick was in the pre-Federation New South Wales First Australian Horse and has also been able to locate an attestation for Alick in the name of John Allick for service in the 1902 Australian Commonwealth Horse. Information in this record links Alick with a well known Aboriginal family originating in the Braidwood area of New South Wales.
Detail from a photograph of the Federal contingent before it sailed for South Africa in 1902 . It was published in the Town and Country Journal and shows Jack Alick (bottom right). The photo and its caption combined with information found in contemporary newspaper articles were the keys to Peter Bakker’s discovery of the Boer war service of Jack Alick.
John/Jack Alick (and spelling variations) also known as Jack Bond (service number 1063 ) was one of a group of Braidwood volunteers who left Australia on 17 January 1900 with the second contingent of the First Australian Horse. The contingent arrived in Cape Town, South Africa on 23 February, 1900 and joined up with the first contingent in March. The group advanced to Pretoria and beyond, taking part in action ranging from minor skirmishes to battles including engagements at Poplar Grove, Zand River, Diamond Hill, Zilicats Nek, Kameel Drift and the battle of Belfast. They arrived back in Australia, in Sydney on 2 May 1901 after almost a year and a half of war. Jack Alick’s arrival with the second contingent was mentioned in passing by another Braidwood volunteer in a letter home.
The last contingent of Australian Horse joined us a fortnight ago with Captain Thompson, Vaughan, and a few more Braidwooditcs, but none of my old mates whom I expected. Jack Alick was telling me that the Kings tried hard to come, but luck was against them Well, I was disappointed at hearing that.
The experience of the non Indigenous Kings contrasts with Jack Alick’s own. Jack Alick’s experience also contrasts with that of the other identified Aboriginal men in the Commonwealth Australian Horse. F King and E Davis are referred to as ‘Black Trackers’ while Jack Alick who was also a tracker is not referred to as such and was enlisted as a trooper. The enlistment of all three was before the question of service overseas of men not of substantial European origin had been addressed by the newly established Commonwealth of Australia. Jack Alick elaborated on some of his pre-Federation service in a letter home published by the Braidwood press in September 1900.
The following letter from the black tracker, Jack Alick, who joined the Australian Horse and went to the war, will be interesting. It is addressed to Mr George Larkins, Krawarree, and was received on Tuesday last :—
Korvall Pont, Convalescent Camp, September 4, 1900,
DEAR George,— I now take the opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know I am still alive and kicking. I have been unfortunate enough to take an attack of fever from which I fell sick at Johannesburg just three months ago, but I am pleased to say I have almost fully recovered and am feeling well again. I have not seen the regiment since I fell sick and I am not particularly anxious to rejoin them as I am quite satisfied where I am now having an easy time here, doing no duty. I have seen quite enough fighting and have had some very narrow squeaks. It is a very healthy place here and we are close to the Orange River and also the bridge which was blown up some time ago. We are surrounded on all sides by kopjes, and after 10 o’clock in the morning we are free to roam wherever we like and sometimes I take a turn at climbing, but not often as I have seen enough of these kopjes. I have been amongst all sorts and sizes of troops since my sickness, regulars and volunteers from almost every regiment out here and I must say they are as a majority a most lively and jolly lot of chaps and damned good company, especially in the tent where I am now. I understood yon bad a good days races at Snowball on Easter Monday and hope yon all enjoyed yourselves. Of course it wasn’t my luck to be there, but I enjoyed a night out in the rain on the veldt on Easter Monday without tents, and also the two following nights, after which I felt slightly washed out. I haven’t space enough to go into details of all the fighting, &c I have been through, but will give you all particulars when I return home, which I hope won’t be long, as I reckon it has lasted just long enough. Give my kindest regards to the Mrs. and the children and accept same yourself,
from your old friend JACK ALICK
The letter was probably written on his behalf as Jack Alick signed his 1902 Attestation with ‘his mark’. The fact someone took the trouble to write it for him as well as the letter’s contents indicates that Jack Alick’s experience with his fellow soldiers was a positive one. It also shows he was beginning to tire of war. However this did not affect his willingness to serve again and he joined 1 Battalion of the Australian Commonwealth Horse on 20 January 1902 (service number no. 356). This second foray into the South African war was of much shorter duration. The Commonwealth Horse left Sydney on 17 February and returned to Australia on 11 August 1902. It’s main duties had been to clear the district north of Klerksdorp. Peace was declared on 31 May 1902.
Attestation of John Allick 1902. NAA:B4418, ALICK JJ.
Jack Alick’s Braidwood community was supportive of him and his colleagues and the local paper recorded his leaving and his first return, when a welcoming reception was held by the mayor of Braidwood. For some reason there seem to be no reports relating to his service with the Australian Commonwealth Horse or of his second return – one possible reason being the change in the mood in relation to the war in some quarters following the discovery of the mistreatment of Boer civilians.
P L Murray who documented the names and a little of the events surrounding Australia’s part in the Boer War differentiated between the trained militia and the untrained volunteers whom he called ‘much rougher material’ and noted that
Many of the recruits, however – a large majority in some cases – were mere rough bushmen, countrymen, handicraftsmen, farm labourers, and the like, who had never soldiered before, and had everything to learn in the way of drill and discipline.
in this pre-empting some of the later comments by Charles Bean on the composition of the AIF.
Jack Alick Bond fell into the bush labour force category described by Murray. As well as being a tracker and skilled horseman he was a farm labourer from the country bordering the Shoalhaven river west of the town of Braidwood, overshadowed by an extension of the Great Dividing Range, the Gourock Range also known as the Jingera mountains. His family frequented Mt Elrington, Ballalaba, Krawarree (sometimes spelled Crowarrie and Quarry in service records), Jembaicumbene, Major’s Creek and the Araluen valley and belonged to the Jincro ‘tribe’ of the Walbanja Yuin. He and his father, Alick (Jack) Bond were possibly related to another, older Jack Bond who collected blankets (distributed by the New South Wales Government) at Mt Elrington in 1838 and 1841. This man was named variously Mundula and Mundalie and was recorded as a being a chief or king by the Braidwood community which presented him and his wife with a ‘silver shield’ inscribed.
JOHN BOND, King of Major’s Creek, and KITTY BOND His Queen. Presented to him by his White Subjects.(Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal 4 November 1927 p, 2).
This status may have derived from within his group and but could also have come from the perception of his importance by the local white community which he served as a police tracker or it could have been a combination of both. On her death in 1881 his wife Kitty was referred to as ‘an old Aboriginal, queen the wife of Mr. Jackey Bond, now a trooper in her Majesty’s service.’ It was reported that more than 100 people attended her funeral.
Jack Alick Bond’s father, Alick also sometimes called Jack was the husband of Ellen or Helen De Mestre, a woman of French and Aboriginal heritage. In addition to Jack Alick Bond they had three sons Andy, Joseph and William.
William Bond 1893. He was born at Jembaicumbene according to information with this photograph but in 1917 gave his birth place as Ballalaba when he volunteered for the AIF. State Records of New South Wales NRS2138 [11/1739]
Andy and William volunteered for World War One, only Andy serving overseas where he was gassed in France and invalided home in 1918. William’s attestation contains the information that he too was a police tracker.
Like some other Boer war veterans Jack Alick also volunteered for the AIF putting his age down by six years. His application made in September 1918 was unsuccessful although there is no indication of why. One factor could have been the imminent end of the war. Page one of Jack Alick’s World War One attestation 1918. His place of birth written for him as ‘Quarry’ is actually Krawarree and his occupation written as ‘trapper’ is likely to be ‘tracker’. NAA: MT 1486/1, Alick /Jack.
While there was a movement of Aboriginal people away from Braidwood from the late 19th century, Jack’s attestation shows that he and his brother Joseph were still in the Braidwood area in the early part of the 20th century. Andy’s service record records his move to Wallaga Lake, Tilba Tilba, South Coast by 1916 and also that of his mother. Jack Alick volunteered from Braidwood for South Africa in 1899 and in 1902. He was recorded by the Aborigines Protection Board at Wallaga Lake mission in 1916 and at Kent Farm Tilba Tilba in his 1918 application to join the AIF. Although Jack Alick/John Bond was probably still living at Wallaga Lake and at Bega, South Coast as late as 1936 and 1937 when his name appears on electoral rolls, by the time of his death in 1941, run over by a tram, he was living at La Perouse, Sydney probably at the La Perouse War Veterans home.
A notice inserted in the press on 7 November 1941 showed that he had not let go of his Boer war service. In this the South African Soldiers Association requested its members to attend his funeral – an indication that Jack Alick was probably a member or at least known by the membership.
Jack Alick had no known children but there are many Bond descendants and descendants of his mother Ellen De Mestre from her subsequent marriage to James Ahoy, some still living on the New South Wales South Coast and in the Wallaga Lake area. Genealogies and research on the De Mestre family website and the autobiography The Calling of the Spirits by Eileen Morgan, a granddaughter of Ellen De Mestre and James Ahoy, contain useful information about the Bond and related families, including in the latter case a photograph of Andy Bond being presented with his World War One service medals. Michael Smithson’s detailed study Munkata Yuin, drawn on here, is also an important source of information about the Bonds and the Braidwood Aboriginal community.
Despite all this, there seems to be no surviving knowledge of Jack Alick’s Boer war service. The discovery of this by Peter Bakker and the research he has undertaken make an invaluable contribution to both the history of Aboriginal involvement in the Boer war – and to the story of the Bond family. Peter’s research is ongoing. Anyone wanting to contact him with information can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philippa Scarlett 22 April 2014 (revised May 2016)
Particular thanks to Michael Smithson author of Munkata Yuin for his informed comments