Indigenous Australian, John Geary, 11th Light Horse Regiment.
Just 22 years old, John Geary volunteered to serve with the first AIF in August 1917. Born in near Bundaberg in 1894 to William Geary and Rosie Broom, Geary was stockman on Tantitha Station near Bundaberg. His skills as a horseman were well suited to the Light Horse where he was assigned, and he joined quite a number of similarly skilled indigenous recruits for the 20th Reinforcements.
They trained at the Light Horse camp, at Rifle Range, Enoggera, just outside Brisbane and make ready to embark for overseas in December 1917. John Geary took the opportunity to marry sweetheart Alice Bond in a joint service with fellow soldier James Lingwoodock and his bride Daisy Roberts at St Luke’s Church of England, in Charlotte Street, Brisbane.
After a train ride to Sydney they embarked on board the troopship HMAT Ulysses and arrived in Port Suez in January 1918, five weeks later. The new reinforcements were encamped at Moascar outside Cairo and underwent further training with the 4th Light Horse Training Regiment, before being allowed to join their units in field.
In March 1918 John Geary was court martialled for assault and spent 7 days confined to the Field Punishment Compound for his offence, but on 12 April joined the 11th Light Horse Regiment, where they were deployed near the village Selmeh near Jaffa.
On 7 May 1918 they were encamped in the Jordan Valley. During an early morning raid by enemy airplanes, bombs were dropped on their camp resulting in many casualties. John Geary was severely wounded, receiving a large wound to his head. At first treated by the 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance stationed closed by, he was transferred seriously ill to the 14th Australian General Hospital, in Port Said.
John Geary underwent surgery twice, suffering severe headaches, fits and partial paralysis to his left arm and leg. Although he made a good recovery, the medical authorities decided he should be sent home, and be discharged from any further service.
Trooper Geary left Egypt in July 1918 and returned to his family at Tantitha Station. His son John Robert was born a year later. Sadly during 1921 his mother Rosie, son John Robert and wife Alice passed away. In 1925 John Geary married Warri Adelaide Drumley, they and their family lived and worked in the Beaudesert area. John Geary died in 1953 aged 60.
* John Geary was one of more than 20 Aboriginal men who formed the 20th Reinforcements for the 11th Light Horse Regiment, later known as the ‘Queensland Black Watch’.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: GEARY, John
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 20th Reinf. 11th Light Horse
- Unit War Diaries, 11th Light Horse Regiment
- REPATRIATION RECORD: GEARY, John
- Register of marriage applications 1908-1936
- Image: The Queenslander Pictorial, 22 December 1917
- ‘Queensland Black Watch’, Western Mail 12 November 1931, p.2
- 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