Indigenous Australian Alick (Alex) RILEY, 25th & 26th Infantry Battalions.
Alick RILEY, born in Winton in 1887, had been removed from his community in Longreach in 1913 and placed at the Barambah Aboriginal Mission, now known as Cherbourg. When he volunteered to serve with the first AIF in September 1917, he had been working as a cane cutter in Bundaberg.
Riley was medically examined and passed as fit when he presented himself to the recruiting office near Gympie. The examining officer noted that he was of ‘doubtful parentage’ and ‘appeared to be half caste’.
He was re-examined when he arrived in Brisbane and the Enlisting Officer noted “he has been working with white men and has had two brothers killed at the front in the Light Horse. He speaks intelligently and is very anxious to join the AIF” and recommended he be permitted to serve.
Riley was accepted as a recruit and trained at the ‘Rifle Range’ camp at Enoggera, he named as his next of kin his brother-in-law Alex (Alick) Craven, who was also working in Bundaberg at the time.
Riley embarked for overseas with the 21st Reinforcements for the 25th Infantry Battalion on board the troopship ‘Canberra’. They arrived in Egypt in December 1917 and transshipped for England several weeks later.
The voyage to Egypt was not without incident for the new soldier. Riley was ‘crimed’ for missing parade and ‘confined to barracks’ for two weeks, he was admitted to the ships hospital with Influenza towards the end of the journey, and when they arrived at Port Said, he was hospitalized with Mumps.
Finally he arrived in England late January 1918 and after several months coming to strength at the training camp in Fovant he was shipped to France to join his unit in April 1918.
At this time the 25th Infantry Battalion was heavily involved in the spring offensive, participating in the battles of Morlancourt, Hamel and Amiens. Alick Riley was wounded on 18 May after a mustard gas attack and was badly burnt, he was evacuated to a military hospital in England for treatment.
When he was fit enough to return to the front, he was transferred to the 26th Infantry Battalion and promoted to temporary Driver. He was taken dangerously ill with Influenza in February 1919 while on leave in England. The authorities attempted to contact his brother-in-law but were unsuccessful. Instead they were contacted by a Miss Topsy Croydon, working in Brisbane, in May 1919. They were able to tell her of his recovery and imminent return to his Battalion.
Private Alick Riley returned to Australia in July 1919 and married Topsy Croydon soon after. They had a son Alick Herbert, who died in infancy. Alick and Topsy were removed from Brisbane and Southport in 1920 and placed at the Barambah Aboriginal Mission.
- SERVICE RECORD: RILEY, Alex
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 21st Reinf. 25th Infantry Battalion
- Aboriginal women in service
- Queensland removals 1912-1939
- One of the soldiers featured in SLQ’s HistoryPin Collection
- View the whole Collection: Indigenous enlistment
- Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen Digital Story and Oral History
Marg Powell & Des Crump | QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland