Robert SHEPHERD #4445

Robert Shepherd

Indigenous Australian, Robert SHEPHERD, 11th Light Horse Regiment.

Bob SHEPHERD son of Billy Shepherd was born in Darwin, in 1898 and was working as a labourer when he volunteered to fight for his country, 12 December 1917.

He was one of 23 volunteers who were farewelled at the Darwin town hall, and after rousing and patriotic speeches were offered a gift of either a wristwatch or a shaving kit, before they sailed for the South.

Farewell to volunteers

Shepherd was sent to Rifle Range Camp, Enoggera just outside Brisbane for initial training, this is where his portrait was taken by one of the ‘tent studios’ set up just outside the camp. It was published in the Queenslander Pictorial 23 February 1918 just a short time before he left Australia aboard the troopship ‘Port Darwin’ in the company of another identified Indigenous soldier Niney McDonald #4441.

During their journey to the Middle East, Shepherd contract influenza and was admitted to the ships hospital and was transferred to a military hospital and isolation camp at Moascar when they landed at Port Suez, where he stayed for the next two weeks.

Shepherd was finally discharged to join the other reinforcements at the Light Horse Training Regiment, and was later selected to attend the Signal Training School before being allotted to the 11th Light Horse Regiment and joined them in the field early October 1918 where the regiment was deployed at Kuneitra [Quneitra], Syria.

At this time several officers including the Commanding Officer and the second in Command of the Regiment and all three squadron leaders were taken ill with an epidemic of influenza that was running through the Regiment and where the weather conditions at the time were unpleasantly cold and wet.

Four weeks later Shepherd was evacuated and admitted to hospital and by the time he returned to his unit the German Armistice had been announced. After hostilities ceased the Light Horse remained on duty to assist with keeping order during the Egyptian Uprising in 1919, Shepherd was attached to several units during this time as well as being treated several for malaria, commonly contracted by soldiers who served in field in the Middle East.

Robert Shepherd

Shepherd returned to Australia aboard the troopship ‘Morvada’ which left Kantara, Egypt in July, landing in Sydney in August 1919.

Bob Shepherd was not able to find substantial employment when he returned to his community in Darwin although he had been employed in the military police for a time. There are several records of his arrest for drunkenness during the 1920’s. One article published in the Northern Standard (NT) decried the practice of the authorities who when Shepherd applied for rations, withdrew the cost from his father Billy’s wages which it held in trust, without permission.

In February 1937 his wife Maggie had recently left him stating that he was drunk every day. Soon after Bob Shepherd was found by local boys at the bottom of a cliff at Kafcaloudes Quarry, where he had apparently fallen and broken his neck. The Darwin community gave Bob Shepherd a soldiers funeral, several returned servicemen carried his coffin draped with the Union Jack and he was farewell by a bugler playing the ‘Last Post’ he died age 39.

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Marg Powell & Des Crump | QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland