ABORIGINAL SERVICE IN WORLD WAR ONE: 63 MORE AIF VOLUNTEERS NAMED.

Anzac march 2017, Canberra. Courtesy Enlightning Productions

It is now ten years since the publication of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers for the AIF: the Indigenous response to World War One. This contained, as well as analysis and commentary, a list of 800 men who volunteered to serve in the AIF. In the following years this number has been augmented and now stands at 1,190 of whom 929 served overseas. To add to the updates in the fourth edition (2018) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers for the AIF and to further updates published in this blog, the names of the 63 additional men most recently uncovered are published below.   While information from Indigenous Liaison Officer Michael Bell of the Australian War Memorial, (ably aided by volunteers including Des Crump, Marg Powell and Sandra M Smith) has in recent years been of extraordinary value – the lion’s share of the new identifications has been the result of the efforts of Leura genealogist Christine Cramer.

The names published in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers for the AIF in its 2011 and subsequent editions, constitute the first publicly referenced list of volunteers. This was constructed after a careful review of available lists circulating in previous years. Review and revision of these lists was supplemented by intensive scrutiny of service records in the National Archives of Australia‘s Series B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920, digitised on the NAA web site. Basic tools used were searching with appropriate name and place keywords in Series B2455, plus consultation with biographies, autobiographies, local histories, historical societies, newspaper articles and information in archives other than NAA, including birth, death and marriage records.This is to name just some of the sources used – which as always have been under pinned by information given by families of the men themselves. In April 2021 the current total of over a thousand men (a number  predicted in the first edition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers for the AIF) is a massive increase on earlier years. This is despite, in a few cases, the removal of men, who in a review of the references, have proved to be non-Indigenous. The reason for this major leap from the 245 men named 90 years ago by the RSSILA journal Reveille (a listing which had limited circulation and impact) is discussed by Indigenous Histories in https://indigenoushistories.com/2016/03/29/understanding-the-numbers-the-reveille-lists-and-aboriginal-men-in-the-first-aif/.  

What does this increase mean?

Even with these additions, in comparison with total first AIF numbers of c. 432,000, the numbers of Aboriginal volunteers remain small. However the significance lies not in the numbers but in the fact that these men freely chose to serve in the face of prohibitive legislation and against the back ground of the official and unofficial discrimination which dominated Aboriginal lives. In doing so they suffered all the penalties of service: the trials of separation, the fear, and emotional and physical impairment and death, all of which were compounded by the lack of recognition which followed their return to life in Australia. Their service is symbolic of the fact that Aboriginal people belonged to Australia prior to invasion and that it is their country and they are entitled to fight for it and did so. Aboriginal men are not recorded as seeking to serve in order to achieve better living conditions and equality during the war itself but this motive is a theme of post war correspondence and is also reflected in public comments by Aboriginal communities. In fact many Aboriginal communities all over Australia supported the war and in some cases raised funds to assist the war effort. However just prior to the commencement of the Second World War, Aboriginal activist William Cooper, who had lost a son in France, probably summed up the feeling of many when he described the World War One service of Aborigines as ‘a thankless task’ unrewarded as it was by any official change to his people’s disadvantaged status.

The records held by the National Archives no doubt still have more names to give up, to add to those acknowledged to date, but it is probably safe to say that the majority of volunteers have been identified. While individual stories are now being told – in this blog and proliferating elsewhere, there are many more still to be unfolded. Identifying and listing the names of those Aboriginal men who volunteered and in most cases went on to serve their country, is a tangible way of pointing to their existence and providing a pathway to recognising Aboriginal men’s individual service and the contribution of their Aboriginal comrades.

I wrote in the Australian War Memorial’s publication Wartime in 2016 that in the years following the war ‘racism persisted and non-Aboriginal Australians remembered only that they had fought to “keep Australia white” as the national legend which excluded Aboriginal service gained ground in Australia’s war remembrance’ and that when ‘in the early 1970s the first significant but tentative steps were taken to recognise the service of Aboriginal men, many were already dead, often prematurely and full recognition for those who gave their services so willingly was still decades away.’

In the 20th century, following the First World War, memorials and honour boards were created by Aboriginal people, compensating for omissions on country town and city monuments. Now In 2021 the picture has changed. Not only are there official Aboriginal war memorials in several states – and in the Australian Capital Territory, at the Australian War Memorial – but symbolically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans and their families were invited to lead the Anzac Day march in Canberra in 2017. Today we are the richer as a nation for the inclusion of Aboriginal war service in Australia’s Anzac commemoration and for the fact that Aboriginal service has at last achieved its rightful place as an identified part of Australia’s history.

Philippa Scarlett and Christine Cramer

 22 April 2021

AIF VOLUNTEERS IDENTIFIED SINCE 2019

NOTE. Records for names without an asterisk are held in NAA Series B2455. Those with an asterisk are held in NAA MT1486/1. Not all of this series is digitised.

Name and Service NumberPlace of BirthEnlistment PlaceLink to Record
ALLFORD Mervyn Raymond 102Railton TasHobart TasService Record
BARTLEY Frederick N/A*N/A (NSW)Dubbo NSWRecord
BIDICE Alexander 1627Proserpine QldTownsville QldService Record
BLOOMFIELD Norman 5403Bourke NSWDubbo NSWService Record
BLOOMFIELD Clarence Gordon N/A*N/AVictoria Barracks, Sydney NSWRecord
BOWMAN Arthur 234AFremantle WAPerth WAService Record
BOWMAN William 1515Sydney NSWPinjarra WAService Record
BROWN Albert 1522Mungindi NSWNarrabri NSWService Record
BROWN Frederick George N94556 (born Frederick CHUNG)Tamworth NSWSydney NSWService Record
BROWN Leslie Edward N10010Mungindi NSWNarrabri NSWService Record
CAMPBELL Charles Robert 3442Charleville QldRoma QldService Record
COLLINS Albert Roy 3334Mudgee NSWDubbo NSWService Record
COOPER Rufus Paul 3453Moree NSWEmerald QldService Record
DE LAUNEY Henry Albert 716Sydney NSWSydney NSWService Record
DOTTI Tasman N/A*Pelican Island NSWN/ANot Digitised
ETCHELL William Henry 718 (born WEBB)Goulburn NSWKensington, Sydney NSWService Record
FLETCHER Charles Joseph 375ATambo QldRockhampton QldService Record
FRASER Alfred 770Come-By-Chance NSWNarrabri NSWService Record
GILLETT Leslie Frank Sleigh 137Cowra NSWSydney NSWService Record
GRANT William 4691Cowra NSWSydney NSWService Record
HADICKS Edward Andrew 3425Gilgandra NSWDubbo NSWService Record
HALL Godfrey 7717Forbes NSWSydney NSWService Record
HARTMIRE John James 6607Braidwood NSWR A Showground Moore Park, NSWService Record
HEANEY Alfred 22811Dubbo NSWDubbo NSWService Record
HICKMAN Walter Henry 411Moree NSWLiverpool NSWService Record
KENNEDY John William N/A*N/A (address Adelong NSW)N/ANot Digitised
KENNEDY Dennis Joseph 9400Adelong NSWCootamundra NSWService Record
KENNEDY Robert Anthony Mullan N/A*N/A (address Adelong NSW)N/ANot Digitised
LEFFLEY Alfred Arthur N/A*N/A (address Coona-barabran NSW)N/ANot Digitised
LONE Ernest 5418Gympie QldRockhampton QldService Record
LONE Harold 3912Gympie QldGladstone QldService Record
LONG Bert William 3425 (AKA BELL)Coorow WAGeraldton WAService Record
MATTHEWS George Samuel Joshua 5136Quirindi NSWArmidale NSWService Record
MAYERS William 151Bungwahl NSWWest Maitland NSWService Record
McKENZIE Andrew Joseph 1981Gunnedah NSWLiverpool NSWService Record
McKENNA Thomas Edward 2225Cangai NSWArmidale NSWService Record
MILLIGAN John Edward 4524 (alias of Jack Milton)New Zealand [Swansea NSW]Holsworthy NSWService Record
MOORE Ernest 1342Broken Hill NSWBroadmeadows VicService Record
MOORE Frederick 1773Broken Hill NSWAdelaide SAService Record
MOSES William 7295Newcastle NSWNewcastle NSWService Record
MOXON Herbert Victor 3685Tamworth NSWTamworth NSWService Record
NEWCOMBE Henry Redfern 5421Grenfell NSWCootamundra NSWService Record
NEWHAM Vincent Cuthbert DepotCowra NSWLithgow NSWService Record
OAKMAN Marcus Ellery Gordon 851Tumbarumba NSWBroadmeadows NSWService Record
PARSONS Leslie 5158Tamworth NSWArmidale NSWService Record
PAUL George Arnold 3641Dubbo NSWDubbo NSWService Record
PAYNE Roy 584Bourke NSWLiverpool NSWService Record
PEELER John N/A*N/A (address Peak Hill NSW)N/ANot Digitised
REDMOND William Andrew 168Wingham NSWArmidale NSWService Record
RYAN Allan N77901Quirindi NSWTamworth NSWService Record
SEIDEL Albert William 142Braidwood NSWSydney NSWService Record
SEIDEL Alfred George 1276Mongarlowe NSWGoulburn NSWService Record
SEIDEL Edward Henry 2395Braidwood NSWGoulburn NSWService Record
SINN Joseph Bruce 3214Gayndah QldBrisbane QldService Record
SMITH Archibald Charles 22966Launceston TasMelbourne VicService Record
SMITH Clifford Christy 2367Adelaide SAKeswick SAService Record
SMITH Sydney William 5212Brunswick VicAdelaide SAService Record
TATTERSALL Charles Raymond 18266Peak Hill NSWDubbo NSWService Record
TATTERSALL John Francis 7756Tomingley NSWCessnock NSWService Record
THOMAS George Edward 3004Wellington NSWDubbo NSWService Record
THOMAS James William 6157Wellington NSWDubbo NSWService Record
WARNER Albert 3537Chinchilla QldBrisbane QldService Record
WILLIAMS Kenneth Victor 60310Hillgrove NSWTamworth NSWService Record

About Indigenous Histories

Author & Publisher of Australian history, art and culture.
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