William John HOULAHAN #1128

Jack Houlahan

Indigenous Australian, Jack HOULAHAN, 42nd Infantry Battalion, 3rd Division Salvage Company.

William John (Jack) HOULAHAN (Houlihan) was born in Thargomindah in 1895 to William Houlahan and Lizzie an Aboriginal woman. Jack had been employed as a stockman on Ray Station, before volunteering to serve with the first AIF in February 1916.

He travelled to the training camp at Enoggera, just outside Brisbane and was assigned to the 42nd Infantry Battalion, B. Company, destined for the Western Front.  Jack embarked on board the troopship ‘Borda’ bound for England, but on arrival he was admitted to the camp hospital seriously ill with Pneumonia.

After several months Jack Houlahan embarked for France to join his battalion in the field enduring the harshest of winters in the front lines. In March 1917 Jack was transferred to the 3rd Division Salvage Company which had recently been formed, and operated on the Western Front.

Men of the Salvage Companies recovered items which could be reissued, repaired, or recovered for scrap. By 1917 both sides were very short of raw materials, especially metal such as spent cartridge cases and shell cases were recycled.

The ‘War diary and Intelligence Summary’ for 12 July 1918 not only gives a detailed account of their duties but an insight into their intent – “A party of the Salvage Coy. was detailed to collect Agricultural machines from abandoned farms … [for] the cutting of the crops for the French.”

As the Salvage Divisions were demobilised at the end of the war, Jack Houlahan was appointed Temporary Driver attached to the 3rd Divisional Train and transferred to operations in England.

Jack arrived home in Australia in October 1919, he married Ethel Hooper from New Angledool in 1928.

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