The above image is from the Herberton War Memorial and is one of the few known memorials that identify the Aboriginality of a soldier. There are 199 names of all the men from the Herberton district who enlisted in WW1, including 21 who were killed and 7 who died in service. Sadly, William Perrott was one of those who died.
William Perrott (Service No. 3704) was a stockman on Evelyn Station via Herberton when he enlisted in Cairns on 31 May 1917. The previous year, William applied for and was granted an Exemption from the Protection of Aborigines Act. The following photo from the State Library collections depicts some of the Perrott family at Evelyn Station in 1913 – Robert Perrott was the Manager of the property when the Robinson family stopped there overnight at the time this photo was taken. Unfortunately, the names of people in the photograph are not provided so it is uncertain whether the Aboriginal man on the left is definitely William Perrott.
Perrott was initially ‘unallotted’ with a note on his Attestation Form indicating Light Horse to make the most of his skills. Following his disembarkation in Liverpool on 3 October 1917, William was placed in the 10th Reinforcements for the 49th Battalion based in France. At the end of the same month, Private Perrott was suffering from pleurisy which later deteriorated to bronchitis.
The first three days of March were spent resting and regrouping at their camp in Locre. The weather continued wet, cold and windy during March when the 49th Battalion was warned to be ready to move in response to a German offensive on the Western Front. On the 26th March, after receiving news that the Germans had broken through at Hebuterne, the 49th commenced a night march at 9.00pm to join the battle. After 9 months of heavy battles, Pte Perrott had suffered a bout of influenza which triggered a relapse of his bronchitis; he was admitted to hospital on 14 October 1918.
Pte Perrott passed away on 5 November 1918 – his bronchitis was attributed to his war duty. William’s father Robert Perrott was duly notified at Evelyn Station and began the heartbreaking task of arranging a headstone for his son in Wimereux Communal Cemetery, near Bologne France.
Interestingly, William’s name and Aboriginality also appear on another War Memorial in the district – Tumoulin Evelyn Scrub War Memorial. This war memorial records the names of 41 men from the district and is all that remains of the township ravaged by the loss of their young men during WW1, a cyclone, two droughts and later the Great Depression. The memorial now stands on a private farm as a poignant reminder of the impact of WW1 on a small community.
Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory
State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Participation in WW1 webpages
References & Further Reading:
J940.41294 CRA Cranston, F. “Always Faithful”: The history of the 49th Battalion.
JOL Negative No. 38746 ‘House party at Evelyn, August 12 1913’
Australian War Memorial (AWM): www.awm.gov.au
Monument Australia: www.monumentaustralia.org.au
National Archives of Australia (NAA) Record Search: B2455, PERROTT William
Queensland War Memorial Register: www.qldwarmemorials.com.au/pages/home.aspx
Herberton War Memorial photo courtesy of Louise Denoon.
Tumoulin-Evelyn Scrub War Memorial photo courtesy of Monument Australia.