While researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers in WW1, often we will discover men from a range of diverse cultural backgrounds. Queensland’s shared history includes South Sea Islander histories and stories; however, their involvement in World War One is not found in history texts. The above image shows James Lingwoodock, one of the more well-known soldiers of Australian South Sea Islander background. James was the son of Tabby Lingwoodock from Pentecost Island and Sarah Lloyd, an Aboriginal woman from Bauple, near Maryborough. This blog post will touch on some of the stories of South Sea Islander soldiers as well as encourage families and descendants to add to their involvement in WW1.
At the onset of WW1, many Australian South Sea Islanders volunteered for the AIF. The Defence Act also placed restrictions on their enlistments with many suffering the same fate as Aboriginal volunteers – ‘insufficient European parentage’. Others made it through the first stage of enlistment, only to be later discharged from the Training Depot.Despite these barriers, many did manage to enlist and served with pride. James Murray, the son of Tarry Murray and Julia Stone from Bundaberg was assigned to the 9th Battalion in the Middle East before a medical discharge due to Tuberculosis. James returned to the Bundaberg district after the war. Leslie Thomas Wogas was from Northern New South Wales when he enlisted at Murwillumbah and later trained in Brisbane. Wogas served in the Middle East with the 11th LHR as part of the 20th Reinforcements, known as the ‘Queensland Black Watch’. After the war he lived and worked in the Northern Rivers area.
The Carrisey brothers Thomas and Willie were working as stockmen on Listowel Downs via Blackall in Western Queensland when they enlisted in July 1917. After spending time at the No 1 Depot, both were discharged as ‘having been irregularly enlisted’ with a further note on the attestation form stating ‘No European Parentage’. Following their discharge, the brothers returned to their work on properies in Western Queensland.
On their return to Australia after WW1, South Sea Islander soldiers returned to their lives with little recognition or acknowledgement of their service. Mackay has a memorial for Australian South Sea Islanders who served in Australia’s defence forces. The WW1 column features the name of William Gorman, a labourer from Baker’s Creek via Mackay who served with the 9th Battalion on the Western Front. William was the son of Johnny Gorman (aka Coman) from Vanuatu and Sarah Youngan.
The following is a list of the known soldiers with Australian South Sea Islander heritage:
- Arthur Benjamin BROWN [Depot] Born in Sydney, NSW; enlisted at Lismore, NSW – trained in Queensland.
- Thomas CARRISSEY [Service No Q21121: Depot] Born in Blackall, enlisted at Enoggera (Brisbane). [Note: discharged ‘having been irregularly enlisted’]. Father – Aboriginal, Mother Australian South Sea Islander.
- Willie CARRISSEY [Service No Q21122: Depot] Born in Blackall, enlisted at Charleville. [Note: discharged ‘having been irregularly enlisted’]. Father – Aboriginal, Mother Australian South Sea Islander.
- Arthur COORA [Service No 1772A: 28th Bn and 44th Bn] Born at Rockhampton; enlisted at Rockhampton. Family line from Ambryn, Vanuatu.
- Joseph GAHAN [Service No75: 5th LHR] born in Bundaberg; enlisted at Bundaberg.
- Lawrence GAHAN [Service No1568: 12/5th LHR] born in Bundaberg; enlisted at Brisbane. Australian South Sea Islander from Bundaberg.
- William GORMAN (aka COMAN) [Service No 53351: 9th Bn] Born near Gin Gin; enlisted at Mackay. Name listed on South Sea Islander Memorial at Mackay. Family lines to Vanuatu.
- William Robert LEFIO [Service No 5066: 26th Bn] born Beenleigh.
- James LINGWOODOCK [Service No 2433: 11 LHR] Born in Gin Gin; enlisted at Maryborough.
- James MURRAY [Service No 724: 9th Battalion] Born in Bundaberg; enlisted in Brisbane. Father was South Sea Islander.
- Peter NOELS [Service No 6585: 49th Bn] Born Norton, via Gladstone. Working as a labourer at Buderim when he enlisted in WW1.
- James Edward TANNER [Service No 1381: 5th LHR then 49th Bn] Born in Bundaberg; enlisted in Brisbane.
- Thomas Henry SLOCKEE [Service No. Q21101] born Cudgen, NSW; enlisted Lismore, NSW – trained in Queensland. Family originally from Tanna Island.
- George WATEGO [Service No 5934: 26th Bn] Born in Sydney, NSW; enlisted in Brisbane. Family connections to Mare Island.
- Murray WATEGO [Service No 2178: 41st Bn] Born in Sydney, NSW; enlisted in Brisbane. Family connections to Mare Island.
- William Jacob ‘Jack’ WATRIAMA [Service No 5148: 18th Bn] Born Casula, NSW; enlisted in Sydney NSW. Originally from Loyalty Island.
- Leslie Thomas WOGAS [Service No 2448: 11th LHR] Born Cudgen, NSW and was working at Murwillumbah when he enlisted and trained in Brisbane.
Read more …
Australian South Sea Islander War Memorial and Honour Roll, Mackay: SLQ Accession No. 28873
State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Participation in WW1 webpages
State Library of Queensland Australian South Sea Islanders Showcase Exhibition
State Library of Queensland History Pin: Indigenous Enlistment
Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen Digital Story and Oral History
Thomas Carrissey on History Pin: Indigenous Enlistment
Willie Carrissey on History Pin: Indigenous Enlistment
The State Library of Queensland would love to hear from families and descendants of these men and other Australian South Sea Islanders who served in World War One and discover more about their war service and family life after the war.
Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland