First Indigenous Australian decorated in World War One Private Maitland Madge MM Bravery in the Field.

Military Medal. RELAWM06315.006

Guest Blogger: Tilly Geary

Maitland Madge was born in March 1894 at Cooktown, Cape York to Ella an Indigenous woman and Richard Madge an immigrant from Devon, England.

In 1905 possibly to prevent his son from being taken away to a government mission Richard Madge applied for Maitland to be exempted from the Aboriginals Protection Act of 1897. Madge senior registered Maitland’s birth and enrolled him at Kelvin Grove Boys School. The 1905 Annual Report of Queensland Chief Protector of Aboriginals reports Maitland Madge was granted an exemption from the Protection Act at the age of ten.

WW1 Nominal Roll: Maitland Madge.

Madge volunteered in Brisbane in August 1915, his address is recorded on the embarkation roll as Harcourt Street, Teneriffe. After training at Fraser’s Hill, Private Madge left for the Great War on the 21st October 1915 on the HMAT Seang Bee in the company of the 11th Reinforcements to the 15th Battalion. He was 21 years of age.

HMAT Seang Bee in Brisbane October 1915. JOL Negative 82596.

After the voyage to the Middle East the 15th Battalion now part of the 4th Brigade disembarked at Marseilles from Alexandria and Madge was transported through France with many thousands of others to the western front.  The 15 battalion was engaged in some of the fiercest fighting at Pozieres and on the 11th August 1916 Madge is reported as wounded in action North West of Pozieres and taken to a Hospital at Etaples. In the days from the 5th to 11th August with no concern for his own safety, Madge while acting as a messenger had moved between Company and Battalion Headquarters under continued enemy artillery fire. All communication lines were cut and this meant messages about the current operations were carried by hand.

The account given in the Commonwealth Gazette, No. 62 reads:

‘These men [3483 Maitland MADGE and 4580 Sydney MAY] are recommended for conspicuous bravery while acting as messenger during operations north west of POZIERES from 5th to 11th August, 1916. These men were continually moving to and from Company and Battalion Headquarters under intense H.E. artillery barrage. The telephone lines were being continually broken, and the only method of communication was then by messenger. They showed an utter disregard of their own safety, and an admirable contempt for danger, and it was entirely owing to their self-sacrifice that the operations were so well supported by our own artillery and that Battalion and Brigade Headquarters were so closely in touch with progress of operations. Our losses in messengers were very heavy. There were several instances of these messengers being blown up by H.E. shells exploding near them, and some of them were rendered semi unconscious from shell shock, but after a short rest returned to their dangerous work.’

Due to his actions Madge would later be decorated with the Military Medal, which would make him, most probably one of the first Indigenous Australians to receive such an award from the King. [Note: ongoing research has indicated that Frederick Prentice received his Military Medal in July 1916.]

The Military Medal was awarded to Private Maitland Madge on 1 October 1916 while he was still recovering in hospital. On 29th January 1917 he rejoined his Battalion and again was wounded on the 4th July 1918. It is reported that Madge even though wounded for the second occasion remained on duty. Madge remained in France for the duration of the war and returned to Australia on the Ascanius in April 1919, he was discharged from service on 24th May 1919.

Little is known about the life of Maitland Madge after his return from World War One. Maitland Madge is listed on the 1925 Electoral Roll for Maranoa as a Labourer at Gore working in the Lime Quarry. By 1936, Maitland is in North Queensland and listed on the Ingham Electoral Roll working as a Labourer at Halifax.

1925 Electoral Roll, Maranoa.

When again war was declared in August 1939 Madge was working in Townsville as a security guard. In October 1939 Madge again volunteered to serve in the Australian Army. Madge joined up in Townsville to the 1st Garrison Battalion even though he was now over 45 years old. His father had died in 1931 his mobilization papers list his next of kin as Miss Violet Madge of Townsville, his cousin.

By August 1941 Madge as part of the 2/26 Battalion, 8th Division had landed in Singapore. Madge was ill when taken prisoner by the Japanese forces in February 1942. Madge survived over two years at the Changi Camp and it is recorded that he passed away on the 7th June 1944 whilst a prisoner of war.

Maitland Madge Headstone, Kranji War Cemetery.

Private Maitland Madge MM is buried at the Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore. He was survived by his cousin Violet Madge. The State Library would be keen to hear from any descendants of Maitland Madge.

Thanks to Tilly for sharing this amazing story of an Aboriginal soldier.

NAA: B883, QX1836 This image of Madge was taken at the time of his enlistment in 1941.

 

Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Participation in WW1 webpages

 

Sources:

National Archives of Australia: NAA: B883, QX1836; NAA: B883, Q186400, NAA: B2455, Maitland Madge 3483.

Commonwealth Gazette No. 62, 19 April 1917.

1905 Annual Report of Queensland Chief Protector of Aboriginals.

HMAT Seang Bee, 1915. JOL Negative 82596.

Specimen Military Medal, AWM: RELAWM06315.006.

WW1 Nominal Roll, Australian War Memorial.

Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980.

Posted in guest blogger, Qld Faces of WWI | Tagged , , , , , , , WW Browse Queensland's World War 1 Centenary
Conversation Hub
< PREVIOUS STORY
Margaret Thorp
NEXT STORY >
Private Charles George Martyn, 26th Battalion
5
COMMENTS.ADD YOURS
  1. Anthony Staunton

    Please ignore my first attempt with several typos and a missing last paragraph.

    http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ww1/2014/07/15/first-indigenous-australian-decorated-in-world-war-one-private-maitland-madge-mm-bravery-in-the-field

    I really enjoyed the blog on Private Maitland Madge MM and was glad to see an Indigenous soldier profiled.

    One of the delightful problems with military biography is that there is a lot of details although I must admit I would always want more. However, interpreting the information can be a pain.

    Being familiar with these records I offer comments to assist and not as criticism.

    He was not the first Indigenous Australian decorated in the First World War but equal second. Private Jean Louis Michel Gallanty, (what a wonderful name!) 7th Field Ambulance, was awarded the Military Medal in the London Gazette on 27 October 1916 for gallantry on Gallipoli. Private Maitland Madge, 15th Australian Infantry Battalion and Lance Corporal Frederick Prentice of the 1st Australian Pioneer Battalion were each awarded the Military Medal in the London Gazette of 16 November 1916.

    The photo in the first column could be captioned ‘Seang Bee in Brisbane Oct 1915’ (see http://www.dublin-fusiliers.com/ships/seang-bee.html)

    The sentence following the photo in the first column commences: ‘After the voyage to the Middle East the 15th Battalion now part of the 4th Brigade …’ The 4th Brigade should be amended to 4th Division. The 15th Battalion always served with the 4th Brigade but the Australian Divisions were expanded after Gallipoli and the 15th Battalion as part of the 4th Brigade joined the 4th Division in early 1916 before moving to France.

    The section that commences ‘The account given in the Commonwealth Gazette, No. 62 …’ would seem to come from https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=184737 and makes a number of incorrect assumptions. It would be more appropriate as follows:

    On 27 August 1916, after his unit came out of the front line, the General Officer Commanding, 4th Brigade, cited a number of soldiers for the Military Medal and forwarded recommendations to the 4th Division commander who endorsed the recommendations and forwarded them to the Corps commander, General Birdwood. Corps commanders had the authority to approve awards of the Military Medal. He approved the awards for Madge and others and forwarded the recommendations to the War Office that were published in the London Gazette on 16 November 1916 at page 11145. Under the title of Australian Imperial Force was the entry 3483 Pte. M. Madge, Inf. The same details were reprinted in the Commonwealth Gazette on 19 April 1917. For security reasons his battalion was not published. Neither the London Gazette nor the Commonwealth Gazette published citations for Military Medal awards.

    It was common on the First World War for joint recommendations to be submitted and [3483 Maitland Madge and Private Sydney May, also of the 15th Battalion were both recommended and awarded the Military Medal for Pozieres. The recommendation has survived and is online at the Australian War Memorial at https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/awm-media/collection/RCDIG1068746/document/5515948.PDF

    The recommendation: These men are recommended for conspicuous bravery while acting as messenger during operations north west of Pozieres from 5th to 11th August, 1916. These men were continually moving to and from Company and Battalion Headquarters under intense high explosive artillery barrage. The telephone lines were being continually broken, and the only method of communication was then by messenger. They showed an utter disregard of their own safety, and an admirable contempt for danger, and it was entirely owing to their self-sacrifice that the operations were so well supported by our own artillery and that Battalion and Brigade Headquarters were so closely in touch with progress of operations. Our losses in messengers were very heavy. There were several instances of these messengers being blown up by high explosive shells exploding near them, and some of them were rendered semi unconscious from shell shock, but after a short rest returned to their dangerous work.

    Although the Military Medal was not gazetted until mid-November 1916, the Corps Command who approved the award in late September or early October notified that the award was approved in Routine Orders dated 1 October 1916 while he was still recovering in hospital.

    • Des Crump

      Hello Anthony
      Thanks for the additional information regarding Maitland Madge and the details surrounding his recommendation – I will pass these details onto Tilly who was the Guest Blogger. In relation to Jean Louis Gallanty, as you are aware there are difficulties in researching Aboriginal soldiers – unfortunately Jean Gallanty’s heritage is from Mauritius.
      Regards,
      Des.

  2. Hello. I am Howard Macey.Ilive in Coventry England.My Mother Bessie Madge.1907-1974 is a 1st Cousin to Maitland MM.Iam also a1st cousin once removed.I did not know about Maitland untill Nov 2017.Iam so proud of him.I look into his eyes and weep..Richard his fatherRichard and Richard Brother Thomas left England 22 Oct 1881 for Australia.Age 18 and 17.Thomas married and had a Daughter Violet.She is Maitlands Cousin .

  3. I did not know Maitland existed until November 2017.i am so proud of him. He is my Mothers 1st CousinI I am afirst Cousin x1 removed.His Father Richard and his Uncle Thomas sailed to Australia 22 Oct 1881

POST A NEW COMMENT

View our comments policy.Your email address will not be published.