Indigenous Australian, Edward WALKER, 25th Infantry Battalion
Edward Walker a horse breaker from Lismore, volunteered to serve with the first AIF in July 1917 following in the footsteps of his brothers Thomas and Robert. Walker was born to Susan Robinson (later Davis) and Robert Walker at Kiama, NSW in October 1893.
Initially assigned to the 10th Reinforcements for the 49th Infantry Battalion, Walker trained in Queensland at Rifle Range Camp, Enoggera, before embarking from Sydney in August 1917, bound for England.
On board HMAT Medic, Walker was in the company of several other identified Indigenous servicemen: Albert Burke #3620, William Perrott #3704, Charlie Morgan #3679, Gale Simpson #3732, George Foster #3641 and George Hill #3655.
Their ship stopped at the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia where they trans-shipped to SS Orissa finally arriving in England early October 1917. The reinforcements undertook further training at Codford Camp in Wiltshire before they proceeded to France.
Walker was remustered to the 25th Infantry Battalion and joined the unit in the field in January 1918 at Neuve Eglise, where they had been relieved of their duties in the front lines. Here Walker would have been pleased to find his brother Thomas serving in the same battalion, although assigned to a different Company.
Edward Walker was seriously wounded in action in July 1918 and evacuated to England for treatment to the Southern General Hospital in Plymouth.
Six weeks later Walker wrote from Littlemore Camp, Weymouth, enquiring about his brother Thomas. Sadly his brother had been killed in action 11 August 1918.
Walker was one of many men to contract Influenza also known as the Spanish flu, in 1918 while on leave. No longer fit for active service and with the imminent armistice Walker was slated to return to Australia. He was repatriated home onboard the Bakara, leaving England in December 1918.
Edward Walker was involved in a court case in 1919 when a publican in Casino was charged and fined for supplying liquor to an Aboriginal.
In his defense the publican stated “Walker, who had purchased the liquor, had gone away to fight for them and was entitled to all they could give him … he thought it should be possible for this man to have a glass of beer if he wanted it.”
Edward Walker joined his family on the Aboriginal reserve at Ulgundahi Island located on the Clarence River, in 1919. This reserve for displaced Aboriginals, had been set aside by the Aborigines Protection Board in 1904 as more and more of their traditional lands disappeared to European settlements. Edward later married and worked in the area until his death in 1976, age 82.
Ulgundahi Island is now owned by the Yaegl Local Aboriginal Land Council.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: WALKER, Edward
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 10th Reinf. 49th Infantry Battalion
- Red Cross Wounded and Missing files: Walker, Thomas James
- Soldier portrait: The Queenslander Pictorial, 11 August, 1917, p.27
- A Liquor Case. Casino and Kyogle Courier and North Coast Advertiser, 22 March 1919, p.2
- Maclean Police Court. Daily Examiner 24 February 1923, p.2
- Clarence River Aboriginal Settlement. Daily Examiner 13 June 1936, p.8
- 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