Charles Turner Bird is my Great Uncle and was born at Goondiwindi in 1895 to Harry and Lennie Bird. At the onset of WW1, Charlie was shearing in NSW, later enlisting in Cootamundra on 19 July 1916. Unfortunately, my family doesn’t hold any photos of Charlie, however his attestation form gives the following description: 5 foot 7 inches [170cm] and weighing 160 pounds [72.5kg] with dark complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. Charlie enlisted around the same time as two mates from the Euraba Aboriginal Station – Jack Stacy [Service No 2056] and George Bennett [Service No 4243].
Following basic training at Victoria Barracks in Sydney, Charlie embarked on HMAT Sydney on 17 November, 1916. His mates were assigned to other units – Jack 12th LHR and George 41st Bn.
After a short stint in Fargo Military Hospital, Charlie was assigned to the 8th Infantry Battalion and saw service on the Western Front, notably Pozieres, Ypres, Amiens and the Somme. These sites were some of the intensive battles of the First World War with significant casualties and heavy losses until the Allies’ offensive in August 1918. During this battle, Charlie was gassed and hospitalised rejoining his unit in September 1918.
In November 1917, members of the AIF began to return to Australia for demobilization and discharge. Charlie returned to Australia in June 1919 aboard the Port Darwin and returned home to a Heroes Welcome at Euraba, the Aboriginal Station via Boomi on the Queensland-NSW border. This event was reported in several newspapers, including The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural & Mining Advocate, 1 September 1919. The article highlights a welcome home for two Aboriginal Soldiers at Euraba Aboriginal Station – Charlie Bird [Service No. 6709 8th Bn] and George Bennett [Service No 7469 41st Bn]. The third soldier Jack Stacy contacted malaria in the Middle East and returned home early in March 1919. All three were commemorated on an honour board at Euraba which was later moved to Toomelah Aboriginal Mission, via Boggabilla.
And what a welcome – the proceedings with an old time tribal feast followed by a program of songs, recitations, speeches and step-dancing. Jacob Armstrong and King Bungo drew applause for their native songs; then Mrs Grace Waters, daughter of one of the returned soldiers sang a very nice patriotic song. This small article shows why the site is called Trove – as well as my Great Uncle; Jacob Armstrong is another ancestor; Mrs Grace Waters had a son 5 years later at Nindigully – his name was Len ‘Black Magic’ Waters, the Aboriginal pilot from WW2! King Bungo was the grandfather of Jack Stacy and signed many of the official papers, including birth, death and marriage certificates for many of my ancestors.
After the war, Charlie returned to shearing for a short while before using his war gratuity to purchase a truck and operate a carrier business in the Mungindi District. In 1928, Charles Turner Bird was given the honour of being the first vehicle to cross the newly constructed Boonanga Bridge which was an important border crossing on the Barwon River. The following year, Charlie married Margaret Bartman and his family lived in the Goondiwindi region.
Charlie passed away in September 1939 and is buried at the Goondiwindi Cemetery – his descendants still live in South-West Queensland.
Read more …
NAA Service Record George BENNETT
NAA Service Record Charles BIRD
NAA Service Record Jack STACY
One of the soldiers featured in SLQ’s HistoryPin Collection
Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen Digital Story and Oral History
Marg Powell & Des Crump | QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland