Indigenous Australian, Arthur WALSH, 4th Machine Gun Battalion
Arthur WALSH was born on Torella / Tiorilla Station, central Queensland in 1898 and was working as a dairyman on Nindooinbah Station, Beaudesert, when he volunteered to serve with the first AIF in July 1917, just 19 years old.
Walsh stated that he didn’t know the names of his parents and believed they were dead, he named his next-of-kin to be Michael O’Donohoe, the station manager at Nindooinbah.
After spending just a few weeks at Rifle Range camp in Brisbane, Arthur was given ‘home leave’ to say farewell before he travelled with the other reinforcements, to the Machine Gun training camp in Seymour, Victoria in August 1917.
They left Melbourne aboard HMAT Indarra 26 November 1917, arriving at the port of Suez four weeks later. Here they spent just a few days in Egypt, before embarking on HMT Kashgan bound for England, however during the voyage Walsh contracted measles and was put ashore at Taranto, southern Italy and admitted to the 79th General Hospital, where he remained for several weeks.
Discharged fit and well, he sailed for England arriving at Southampton early March 1918 and was assigned to the 47th Battalion Details at Codford Training Camp, Wiltshire.
Gunner Walsh, remained in the relative safety of training camps in England until just before his 20th birthday, when he embarked for France and joined the newly formed 4th Machine Gun Battalion in the field, where they were stationed at Bussey Les Daours, in the Somme Valley.
The battalion, which supported the infantry units, took part in the final stages of the war, seeing action during the German Spring Offensive and then the Allied Hundred Days Offensive, which finally brought an end to the war.
Walsh remained with the battalion until the end of hostilities, and waited his turn to be shipped home to Australia. Eventually he was assigned to the troopship Takada and arrived home in August 1919.
Arthur Walsh returned to Queensland and married Christina Wylie in 1922. Arthur was later employed as a linesman and married Alice Elizabeth Hars in 1938.
Arthur served with the 2nd AIF from September 1942 to January 1945 when he was discharged at his own request. He died in May 1978 age 79 and is buried at the Southport Lawn cemetery.
Arthur Walsh’s younger brother Charles, also volunteered to serve, in 1918 but did not leave Australia, due to the end of hostilities.
Arthur’s mother was later identified as Ettie Walsh, who is recorded as an Aboriginal woman in service, in 1908. Records also show that she had 3 children – Arthur, Charles and Bertha. Ettie who had been working on Torilla station in the St Lawrence district was removed to an Aboriginal Girls Home, ‘Cranbook Place’, West End, Brisbane, and is listed there in 1908 along with her daughter Bertha.
It is not clear where her other children were sent but it was recommended that they be sent to Deebing Creek or one of the orphanages.
One month prior to enlisting in 1917 Arthur placed a notice in the local newspapers trying to make contact with Bertha, asking that she contact him at Nindooinbah station, he had not heard from her for nine years. It would be nice to think that they were reunited.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: Walsh, Arthur WW1
- SERVICE RECORD, Walsh Arthur WW2
- EMBARKATION ROLL: General Reinf. Machine Gun Companies
- Image: The Queenslander Pictorial, 26 January 1918
- Steady flow of recruits. Daily Standard, 25 July 1917 p. 6
- Machine Gun Company Unit Diaries
- Aboriginal women in service, 1908
- Index to Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence relating to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders 1896-1903
- Advertising. The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld), 4 May 1917 p.9
- 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