In a corner of the Martin Street Cemetery in Cairns lies the grave of Trooper Harry Doyle (Service No. 2426). Harry Doyle passed away in 1967, but it was not until 2008 when friends in the Cairns Community raised funds to replace the unmarked grave site, that Harry and his service in WW1 were honoured.
One of Harry’s friends Rose Colless donated the above photograph to the State Library; Rose was a driving force in ensuring that Harry received proper recognition. In the photo, Harry Doyle stands alongside his friend Albert Burke (Service No. 6620) from Mitchell. Trooper Harry Doyle was a member of the 20th Reinforcement for the 11th Light Horse Regiment.
There is some uncertainty around Harry Doyle and his family origins. On his attestation form, Harry indicates that he was born in Charters Towers in 1897; however it is believed that Harry Doyle’s family were originally from Fraser Island and removed to Yarrabah in the late 1890’s. The form also states that both of his parents were dead and there was no guardian.
While his attestation form (above) shows his age as 20, it is believed that Harry was only 16 years at the time of enlistment!
At this time, Harry was working at Behana Siding, via Gordonvale but his permanent address was given as Yarrabah. The next of kin was not a family member but a ‘friend’ by the name of George Madden, also residing at Behana Siding. This locality, south of Gordonvale, was a railway siding for the sugar cane farms in the district and is best known today for Behana Creek and Behana Gorge as well as the numerous waterfalls and swimming holes.
Following basic training at Enoggera, Harry was assigned to the 20th Reinforcements, 11 Light Horse Regiment which embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A38 Ulysses on 19 December 1917. Trooper Doyle and the 11LHR were engaged in numerous battles across Egypt during 1918-1919 and saw action in Sinai and the Jordan Valley, including the Battle of Beersheba. Doyle returned to Australia in September 1919 and returned to North Queensland.
After the war, Harry received his exemption from the Protection Act and worked in mostly labouring jobs in the Cairns area. Due to his exemption and war service, Harry was entitled to vote and appears on the Electoral Rolls between 1949-1963; he is listed as living at the Soldier’s Home, McLaughlin Street, Cairns. This Soldiers Home was originally a gift of a block of land by the then Cairns Mayor for ex-servicemen who had nowhere to go. This haven had no running water, power or sewerage – there were no permanent residents, but soon there were a series of huts built along with a basic amenities block. This site later evolved into Warhaven operated by the RSL and became a block of units for returned soldiers by the 1990’s.
Harry Doyle spent his final years at Warhaven and was buried at the Martin Street Cemetery, Cairns on 29 October 1967.
ABC Far North Queensland compiled a short digital story on Harry Doyle and the opening of his headstone in 2008.
If you are a descendant of Harry Doyle or know more of his life, the State Library encourages you to share this and add to the untold story.
Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory
State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Participation in WW1 webpages
References and Further Reading
P 940.403 pra Pratt, R. (1993) Biographical register of Queensland Aborigines who served in the Great War, 1914-1918.
Q 940.40994 SCA Scarlett, P. (2011) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers for the AIF: the Indigenous response to World War One.
MFS0318: The Northern Herald.
Harry Doyle & Albert Burke, JOL Photograph 29395.
Behana Creek, JOL Negative 58588.
HMAT Ulysses, JOL Negative 118658.
Australian Light Horse Studies Forum: Education Centre – Harry Doyle.
National Archives of Australia, Service Records: B2455 – Doyle, Harry.
NLA/Trove – Northern Herald, 7 September 1917.
Queensland Electoral Rolls – Ancestry.com.au
RSL Northern District – History of Warhaven.