Aboriginal Soldiers at Gallipoli

“As a soldier who has been in the 15th Battalion of the AIF and served on the Peninsula of Gallipoli, France, Belgium, I object very strongly to the slur cast upon, my half-caste comrades of the 15th Battalion, some of whom paid the supreme penalty, both in Palestine in the light horse units and other spheres of the war.”

These words are from a letter to the Cairns Post[28 January 1933] from James Bennett, Ex-Private, 15th Battalion protesting the treatment of Aboriginal people in North Queensland. In particular, Mr Bennett was referring to the schooling of Aboriginal children in Cairns schools. However, this letter to the editor confirms what many researchers and historians believed – that Aboriginal soldiers landed on Gallipoli.

A Returned Soldiers Protest (Cairns Post, 28 January 1933)

David Huggonson is one such historian who has undertaken extensive research on Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in the Defence Forces. David’s work ’Too dark for the Light Horse’ formed the basis for an Australian War Memorial travelling exhibition and education resource.  David’s research articles are also a key element of the Australian War Memorial’s Reading List for researching Aboriginal Servicemen and women.

'Too Dark for the Light Horse' Resource Book.

The State Library of Queensland has been fortunate to receive a list from David which is a compilation of some of the Aboriginal men known to have been at Gallipoli – the exact numbers are yet to be determined, however there are 32 on this list and it is believed that 5 Aboriginal ANZACs are buried at Gallipoli.

Some men of Aboriginal descent who served at Gallipoli – David Huggonson [Compiler]

Bindoff, Edgar George 1720, 1st Bn, Paddington, NSW (DOW 13/9/1915)

Bolton, Arthur John (served under Lee, Arthur John) 1040, 7th LHR, Rooty Hill, NSW

Bolton, Alfred Frederick 682, 1st Bn, Windsor, NSW

Cameron, Alfred 1173, 3rd LHR, Meningie, South Australia

Crough, Kenneth 1125, 22nd Bn, Warrnambool, Victoria

Dickerson, James 392, 10th LHR, Gin Gin, Western Australia (DOW 29/8/1915)

Farmer, Larry 62, 28th Bn, Katanning, Western Australia

Farmer, Lewis 421, 28th Bn, Katanning, Western Australia

Firth, Francis Waler 1162, 2nd LHR, Pilliga, NSW

Hutchins, Charles 307, 28th Bn, Busselton, Western Australia

Jackson, William John 1952, 28th Bn, Bunbury, Western Australia

Karpany, George 3502, 10th Bn, East Wellington, South Australia

Kelly, Alfred William 590 17th Bn, Macksville, New South Wales

Martin, Richard 1359, 4th Bn, Brisbane, Queensland (KIA 28/3/1918)

Maynard, Edward 2294, 15th Bn, Flinders Island, Tasmania (KIA 8/08/1915)

Maynard, Frank 1153, Flinders Island, Tasmania

Maynard, Leo 3992, 12th Bn, 26th Bn, Flinders Island, Tasmania

McCallum, Arthur Edward 165, 16th Bn, Albury, Western Australia

Miller, John William 1227, 12th Bn, Peppermint Bay, Tasmania (KIA 25/4/1915)

Muckray, Hurtle 757, 3rd LHR, East Wellington, South Australia

Naley, Charles Gordon 1310, 16th Bn, Eucla, Western Australia

Olsen, Andrew 736, 5th LHR, Toowong, Queensland

Patterson, Hurtle Austin 34, 9th Bn, Townsville, Queensland

Perfect, Joseph 200, 25th Bn, Rockhampton, Queensland

Priestly, Norman 2786, 15th Bn, Gordonbrook Station, NSW

Robins, Alfred Arthur 1426, 4th Bn, Junee, NSW

Rowan, John 1506, 46th Bn, Healesville, Victoria

Sloane, John 783, 13th Bn, Forbes, NSW

Stow, Albert Edward 2162, 1st LHR, Dungog, NSW

Tripp, Hubert Frank 1428, 10th Bn, Victor Harbour, South Australia, KIA

Walker, Arthur Thomas 2466, 10th Bn, Goolwa, South Australia

Waller, Charles Stephen 1337, 16th Bn, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Included in the above list are  four Aboriginal men from Queensland  – I will profile these men in future blog posts. The following image shows the 9th Battalion marching through Queen Street, Brisbane prior to their embarkation – Private Hurtle Patterson of Townsville was a member of this group.

9th Battalion marching through Queen Street, Brisbane 1914. JOL Negative 65586.

I will close this post with a further quote from Ex-Pte James Bennett’s letter to the editor:

 ”I have stood shoulder to shoulder with half castes in Hell’s Pit, on Quinn’s Post, and seen them die like the grandest of white men.”

References/Further Reading:

’9th Battalion marching through Queen Street, Brisbane, 1914′. JOL Negative No. 65586

Australian War Memorial (1994) ‘Too dark for the Light Horse’ Resource Book and Travelling Exhibition. [Available online through Australian War Memorial website]

Bennett, James (1933) ‘A Returned Soldier’s Protest’ letter to the Editor, Cairns Post, 28 January, 1933. [Available through NLA/Trove Newspapers website]

Huggonson, D. (1993) ‘Aborigines and the aftermath of the great war’, in Australian Aboriginal Studies, Issue 1, p. 2-9. [Available online through OneSearch for Library Members]

Huggonson, D. (1991) ‘Villers-Bretonneux: a strange name for an Aboriginal burial ground’ in Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, Vol. 14, Issue 7, p. 285-288. S 994.3 005

Huggonson, D. (1989) ‘The Dark Diggers of the AIF’, in The Australian Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 3.  [Available online through OneSearch for Library Members]

Yugambeh: In Defence of our Country. P 940.5404 yug


Des Crump

Indigenous Languages Researcher – State Library of Queensland