Indigenous Australian, Gale SIMPSON, 49th Infantry Battalion
Gale Henry John SIMPSON was born in Wondai to John (Jack) Simpson and Francis Maud Law in 1895.
Gale first stepped forward to volunteer with the first AIF in October 1916 at the Kilkivan Shire Offices, with another local man Hervert Kitt, when Assistant Registrar Anderson along with Captain Rye AAMC visited Kilkivan seeking names of those keen to be included in the “military call up”.
It is not clear why he was not immediately required to report, but he again put up his hand during show week at Kilkivan, June 1917, along with two others, and were described as ‘fine specimens of manhood, who should make a good account of themselves at the front’.
This time he travelled to Rifle Range Camp at Enoggera Barracks, just outside Brisbane. The clerk who filled out his registration papers had fun with his name – misspelling it ‘Gala’ initially.
With two months basic training in weaponry, drill and horsemanship, he was assigned to the 10th Reinforcements for the 49th Infantry Battalion, and left Sydney 1 August 1917, aboard HMAT Medic along with a number of other identified Indigenous servicemen from Queensland – William Perrott #3704, Edward Walker #3754, Albert Burke #3620, George Foster #3641, George Hill #3655, Charlie Morgan #3679 and Tom Smith #3724.
Their journey took them via the major British Naval Base at Halifax, Nova Scotia where they were transferred to the Steam Ship Orita and finally landed at Liverpool early October 1917.
They were transferred to one of the Australian training camps at Codford, but shortly after Simpson was admitted to hospital with pneumonia, quickly followed by influenza, which kept him away from his battalion until March 1918 when he proceeded to France.
Simpson officially joined his battalion early in April 1918, and was wounded in action a few weeks later during their advance to Blangy-Tronville, part of the 2nd Battle of Villers-Bretonneux. He received shrapnel wounds to the face and was at first treated by the 47th’s Casualty Clearance Station, before being evacuated to hospital at Le Havre.
Simpson spent several weeks recovering at the Australian Infantry Base Depot before returning to the front lines on 4 June 1918 at Sailly le Sec in the Somme Valley. On 30 June he was wounded a second time receiving a bullet to the left leg, for which he was evacuated to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, Southampton, in England.
It would be four months before he was discharged from care and returned to the military camp at Weymouth. It was here that he waited for his repatriation home, in the meantime the war had ended and thousands of men waited their turn. The sick and wounded were given priority, Simpson was one of the many that boarded HMHS Takada on Christmas Day 1918.
Gale Simpson returned to his family in Kilkivan and married Maud Murray in July 1919. Undeterred by his experiences overseas he again volunteered to serve for his country during World War II, and was attached to No.1 Garrison Battalion a militia unit that remained in Australia to carry out garrison duties and training. Gale Simpson died in March 1956, age 61.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: SIMPSON, Gale
- First enlistment: Gympie Times and Mary River Mining Gazette 14 October 1916, p6
- Second enlistment: Gympie Times and Mary River Mining Gazette 2 June 1917, p3
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 10th Reinf. 49th Infantry Battalion
- Unit War Diaries: 49th Infantry Battalion
- 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