Indigenous Australian, Charlie PARKES, 11th Light Horse Regiment.
22 year old Charlie PARKES volunteered to serve with the first AIF in May 1917 at the recruitment stand at the Mitchell Show and Races, along with Tommy Smith and Harry Harper. Born in Charleville in 1895, Charlie was a stockman working on properties in the Maranoa region before he put his hand up to enlist.
Charlie initially named his brother ‘Paddy Parkes’ of Cunnamulla as his next-of-kin but shortly after married Nellie Pollard, before embarking overseas. He left Australia on board HMAT Ulysses with a number of other Indigenous recruits assigned to the 20th Reinforcements for the 11th Light Horse Regiment.
26 of these reinforcements were of Aboriginal heritage, and later became known as the ’Queensland Black Watch’. During the voyage Charlie injured his back and was admitted to the ships hospital for three days for treatment.
The ship arrived at Port Suez in January 1918 and the troops were taken to the Reinforcements camp at Moascar, just outside Cairo, for further training. Trooper Charlie Parkes and nine ‘other ranks’ joined their regiment in the field in April 1918 where they were conducting operations out of Selmeh, near Jaffa.
Within a few weeks they moved into the Jordan Valley where they participated in the Es Salt raid and subsequent defence of crossing points over the River Jordan.
In August while the Regiment moved off to the actions on the Palestine coast, Charlie Parkes was temporarily attached to the 9th Motor Vehicle section for several weeks, following which he was attached to Details at Damascus before rejoining the Regiment early November 1918.
While the Turkish troops had surrendered on 30 October, the now unoccupied 11th Light Horse were put to garrison duty to quell the Egyptian revolt that erupted in March 1919 but in early April Charlie was admitted to hospital suffering from Malaria. This infectious disease affected many soldiers working in the Jordan Valley and was to keep Charlie Parkes in hospital until he was listed for return in July 1919.
Charlie Parkes returned home and continued the wanderer’s life of a stockman and drover in the Maranoa region, taking up casual employment at Davenport Downs, near Winton, Thylungra Station, Quilpie and Bogantungan. He did enlist to serve in the second World War in May 1940, but was medially discharged just a few months later.
Charlie continued to work in the Maranoa region until his health deteriorated, he died at the Mitchell Hospital in 1959.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: PARKES, Charlie
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 20th Reinf. 11th Light Horse Regiment
- REPATRIATION RECORD: PARKER, Charles
- IMAGE: The Queenslander Pictorial, 15 September 1917
- Mitchell Police Letterbook 1889-1921
- Registration of Marriage Applications 1908-1936
- View the whole Collection: Indigenous enlistment
- Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen Digital Story and Oral History
Marg Powell & Des Crump | QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland