John McKenzie LAURIE #2432

John McKenzie Laurie

Indigenous Australian, John McKenzie LAURIE, 20th Reinforcements, 11th Light Horse Regiment.

Trooper John LAURIE [also Lawrie], was born in 1884 to John Worby Laurie and Jessie [unknown] at Kempsey, NSW. He was working at Duranbah, in the north east of the state when he volunteered to serve with the first AIF in June 1917.

Laurie enlisted in Lismore and like many others from that recruitment centre, he was sent to Brisbane to train at the Enoggera army barracks. It was here that he was selected to compliment the reinforcements currently being mustered for the 11th Light Horse Regiment.

The recruits embarked from Sydney on board HMAT Ulysses in December 1917 bound for Egypt.

John Laurie was in the company of a number of known indigenous recruits which included:

William Brown, Fred Burnett, Edward and Fred Collins, Jack Costello, Harry Doyle, Joe Fitzroy, Frank Fisher, John Geary, John JohnstonJack Kearns, James Lingwoodock, Leonard Lynch, Frank Morris, James McBride, David Molloy, Harry Murray, William Nicholld, Jack Oliffe, Charlie Parks, Jack Pollard, Ed Smith & Joe White.

Nick-named the ‘Queensland Black Watch’ they arrived in Egypt and were assigned to the Reinforcements Camp at Moascar. They honed their skills with the 4th Light Horse Training Regiment before joining the 2nd Light Horse in the field in the vicinity of Jericho in May 1918.

Later that year Trooper Laurie was admitted to hospital in Abbassia with tonsillitis, but discharged fit for service five weeks later. Shortly after rejoining has unit, Laurie fell foul of the authorities, and was found guilty of “conduct to the prejudice of good order & Military discipline” and punished for missing parade and “being under the influence of liquor.”

Laurie’s conduct continued to come under scrutiny, he was fined and ‘confined to barracks’ on several other occasions for it. He was eventually returned home to Australia in July 1919.

John Laurie returned to life in northern New South Wales, gaining work periodically as a labourer, he died in 1952.

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Marg Powell & Des Crump  |  QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland