George LAURIE #599

George Laurie

Indigenous Australian, George LAURIE, 42nd Infantry Battalion

George LAURIE was a stockman, born in Comet in 1889 to Harry and Marie Laurie. His father was ‘Cinghalese’ and his mother a half caste Aboriginal woman. When he volunteered to serve with the first AIF in November 1915 he was 26 and named his sister Violet as his next of kin.

George trained at Thompsons Paddock, Enoggera where the 42nd Infantry Battalion had recently been formed.  Assigned to C. Company he travelled to Sydney by troop train then embarked from Sydney onboard HMAT Borda in June 1916, bound for England and the war in France.

They arrived in England six weeks later, and after 3 months of training and returning to strength, Laurie and over 1000 men of the 42nd Infantry Battalion embarked for France, landing at Le Havre in November 1916.

They spent one day in the rest camp before entraining for Bailleul, from here they marched two hours to their camp at Outtersten, and began their ‘overseas service’ in earnest.

Throughout George’s time in the front line he was tormented by the parasitic skin condition we know as scabies, being removed from the lines on several occasions for treatment.  He was also hospitalised for Trench Fever which was caused by the body lice all the men carried in their clothing, as well as falling ill with Influenza.

George rejoined his unit in August 1918 having been treated in hospital for Trench Fever. The Battalion had been deployed at Mericourt and on the eve of 12 August desperate fighting took place as they advanced in the front line, many prisoners and machine guns were taken. It was on this day that George Laurie was killed in action.

There are no first hand accounts of his death, his sister Violet first read that he had ‘died of wounds’ in the newspaper of the day. She wrote to Base Records in Melbourne and they informed her that he had been ‘killed in action.’

Violet was asked as next-of-kin if she wished to supply an inscription for his gravestone, the following is recorded:

“Far away from all who loved him, in a hero’s grave he lies”

George Laurie is buried at Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieires, Villers-Bretonneux.

Curiously George’s younger brother Andrew Laurie, tried to enlist in 1917 several times, but was refused for ‘Not Sufficient European Parentage’.

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