Indigenous Australian George WEST, 5th Light Horse Regiment
George West was 27 when he volunteered to serve for his country in November 1917, it was not his first attempt to enlist; he had previously been rejected on the basis of his heritage, being ‘half caste’.
Employed as a horsebreaker on Prairie Station near Gladstone, he named his friend Fred Reed, also an employee of the station, as his next of kin, before he travelled south to train at Rifle Range camp, Enoggera military barracks.
Assigned to the 30th Reinforcements for the 5th Light Horse Regiment, West embarked from Sydney aboard the troopship ‘R.M.S. Ormonde‘.
West became ill during the voyage to Egypt and was admitted to hospital soon after arrival, having contracted measles. Once discharged, West underwent further training, and having recovered his strength, joined his unit in the field in July 1917.
At this time the Regiment was conducting operations at Wadi Mellaha, Palestine and were shortly after engaged in the Battle of Abu Tellul, when Australian Light Horse regiments defending the Jordan Valley were attacked.
They remained in the Jordan Valley, engaging retreating Ottoman troops and attacked Amman in September, where they accepted over 4,500 surrendering enemy soldiers, just prior to the armistice being signed in October.
Trooper West spent December 1918 at Semakh, a small village at the southern end of Lake Tiberias, where he was ‘crimed’ for swearing and awarded 14 days confined to camp.
The Light Horse Regiments were later seconded to assist with the civilian unrest that broke out in Egypt, early in 1919 and West was attached to the Luxor Relief Expedition for several weeks, before finally winding down his military days at the large camp at Kantara, on the banks of the Suez Canal, where they waited their turn to sail for home.
5th Australian Light Horse Regiment embarking for Australia on the Australian transport the Madras, on the Suez Canal, June 1919. Credit: Australian War Memorial, B01339B Photographer: James Pinkerton Campbell
George West was granted an exemption from ‘Aboriginals Protection and the Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (Qld)‘ in 1920, at that time he was working in Emerald. An ‘exemption’ gave West the ability to live and work in the wider community, without the restrictions of living on an Aboriginal mission.
** There are several ‘George Wests’ who are identified by the Chief Protector of Aborigines, and on the Queensland Exemption register 1908-1936.
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IMAGE: The Queenslander Pictorial, 26 January 1918, p.26
SERVICE RECORD: West George
EMBARKATION ROLL: 30th Reinf., 5th Light Horse Regiment
Unit Diaries: 5th Light Horse Regiment
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