Indigenous Australian, Jack NORMAN, 6th Reinforcements Egypt & Field Engineers.
John Henry Norman was born in Croydon, Qld in 1899, and worked near Bundaberg on a cane farm, prior to enlisting. Jack was employed by Martin Wessell, having been hired out from the Barambah Mission station at the age of 13.
Jack volunteered to serve with the first AIF in August 1918, and with no known living relatives he named the Chief Protector of Aborigines, as his next of kin. Mr Bleakely also supplied permission for him to enlist.
Jack Norman left Brisbane on board HMAT Malta in October with several other Indigenous men assigned to the 6th General Reinforcements, bound for Egypt – including Charlie Smith, Albert Jones, Bob Roberts and Martin Blyth. During the journey Norman was admitted to the ships hospital suffering from Influenza, which commonly spread among troops in confined quarters.
They arrived in the Suez 10 days after the armistice in Europe had been declared, but there was no thought of returning home. They trained for 4 weeks at the Moascar depot, after which Jack was assigned to D Field Troop and Bridging Train [Field Engineers.]
Jack Norman was among 15 reinforcements that joined the troop on Christmas Day 1918 while they were encamped at Richon, Syria. They were issued with Xmas comforts, showed their tent accommodation and made to feel ‘at home’.
The troop remained at Richon until the end of the month, before moving to Bir Salem. As units were reorganised and disbanded at the end of the war, Sapper Norman was absorbed into the 1st Field Squadron Engineers, where they were employed maintaining services and infrastructure for the remaining troops.
By June 1919 the squadron had moved closer to the Divisional Headquarters area, in East Kantara, while they waited for their ship to take them home. Jack Norman returned on the same ship he arrived in, HMAT Malta and disembarked in October 1919, almost a year to the day he had left.
1st Field Squadron, January 1919
Jack was granted exemption on his return, from the limitations of the ‘Protection Act’ and eventually relocated to New South Wales. In 1936 while living at New Angledoon he wrote to the authorities asking for his service medals, which were subsequently issued to him. He died in 1972 age 78 at Brewarrina.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: Norman, Jack
- AIF Unit War Diaries: 1st Field Squadron January 1919
- THE DISTRICT COURT. The Bundaberg Mail 7 August 1918 p. 4.
- 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