Indigenous Australian, Myrtle DOUGLAS, Light Horse Depot Battalion.
Myrtle DOUGLAS was born in Laura, Queensland in 1885 to Billy and Jessie Douglas. In 1917 Myrtle was living on the Barambah Aboriginal Mission, now known as Cherbourg.
Douglas was among 17 Aboriginal men who were recruited during a drive by the Queensland Recruiting Committee on 14 May 1917. The Committee represented by Chaplain Canon David Garland and Chief Protector of Aborigines Mr Blakeney, travelled by train to the Barambah Mission to specifically recruit men for Active Service.
10 days later in Brisbane, during a patriotic speech given by recruiting officer Lieutenant Colonel [Chaplain] David Garland, a line of Light Horsemen rode past, each leading a riderless horse.
The 17 recently recruited men from Barambah, took up these mounts in a [staged] demonstration of their patriotism and paraded along Queen Street to ‘considerable cheering’.
However their inclusion in the first AIF was short-lived. All 17 recruits were discharged just 30 days later on Wednesday, 13 June 1917, for having been “irregularly enlisted”.
The men were returned home to the mission, under escort, without any receipt of payment or any discharge documents.
The AIF was brutal in its response when queried for their action – ‘a coloured man must have been associated with white people for some time prior to enlistment’ – and those who were considered to dark ‘would not make soldiers’.
Myrtle married Linda Piggott in 1917 and remained at Cherbourg where they made a life for themselves and their family; a keen cricketer he umpired for the Murgon Cricket Association, three of their sons were reportedly excellent players. Myrtle Douglas died in 1957, age 75.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: DOUGLAS, Myrtle
- Image: The Queenslander Pictorial, 28 July 1917
- ‘Old Style Warfare’, Sunday Mail 19 December 1943 p. 6.
- ‘League eyes on Cherbourg star’, The Courier-Mail 13 March 1947 p7
- ‘He’s ready’, The Courier-Mail 26 January 1953 p5.
- ‘Gap primitive years to civilisation’, The Courier-Mail, 26 January 1953 p5.
- 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