Indigenous Australian, John (Jack) MOREFIELD, 52nd & 42nd Infantry Battalions.
Private John Morefield, born in 1883 was working as a timber cutter when he volunteered to serve with the first AIF in 1916. With no known living relatives, Morefield named William Dunn as his next of kin, having been brought up with the Dunn family in Mackay.
One of the sons having trained Morefield in athletics, he competed successfully as a foot-runner and broad-jumper in events in Queensland, NSW and as far south as Stawell, Victoria where the Stawell Gift has been run since 1878. Several articles in the papers of the time mention his activities, some describing him as “Darkie from Gympie”.
Morefield was assigned to the 2nd Reinforcements for the 52nd Infantry Battalion and sailed with the other recruits on board the troopship ‘SS Hawkes Bay’ for Egypt in April 1916, arriving four weeks later. Shortly after they were bound for England and after several months in camp, joined their unit in France in August 1916, these soldiers were some of the first Australians to serve on the Western Front.
When they arrived the Battalion was training at Bonneville shortly before moving out to take over the front line, at Kays Dump near Albert. Morefield survived the winter of 1916/1917 one of the worst known in Europe for decades, he was evacuated however in January 1917 for treatment of ‘Trench feet’ a painful condition that develops after prolonged exposure to cold and water in the trenches.
Having returned to his unit, Morefield was wounded action in October 1917, he received a gun shot wound to his left thigh, requiring him to be evacuated to hospital in England. After several months recuperation Morefield was returned to France and transferred to the 42nd Infantry Battalion in July 1918, while they operating east of Messines.
Private Morefield was wounded in action a second time in September 1918, again a gun shot wound to his left leg during one of the Battalions last operations before being disbanded. This would also be Morefields last time he saw active service. Evacuated to England, for treatment by the time he was well enough to travel the war had ended and his Battalion disbanded.
He was temporarily attached to the 15th Infantry Battalion while he waited to be returned to Australia and medically discharged.
Jack Morefield returned to his work on properties in far central and northern Queensland. In 1929 he was employed at Chesterfield Station, near Clermont, where he wrote to the Clermont Town Clerk asking for assistance in gaining his service medals, which were subsequently issued to him. He died in 1958 at Mt Wyatt, Collinsville.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: MOREFIELD, John
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 2nd Reinf. 52nd Infantry Battalion
- ‘Foot racing at Stawell’, The Worker, 23 April 1904, p2
- 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