Indigenous Australian, Alfred DREW, 34th Infantry Battalion
Alfred Drew, was born in 1896 at Goondiwindi; one of nine children, his parents were Alfred Drew (1861-1911) and Agnes Taylor (1875-1953) an Aboriginal from Trinkey Station, NSW.
Just 19, Alfred Drew volunteered to serve for his country in November 1916, at Guyra. As he was under 21 years of age, his mother Agnes gave permission for her son to apply for ‘active service abroad’. Drew was soon after allotted to the 7th Reinforcements for the 34th Infantry Battalion, and transferred to the training camp at Liverpool.
Drew left Sydney aboard HMAT Anchises in January 1917 and arrived in England three months later. The reinforcements spent 4 months in camp training and coming to strength before embarking for France in August 1917, joining their battalion in the field early September. Here at Vaudringhem, they were preparing for a new offensive, which would be known as the Battle of Passchendaele.
Within four weeks of service in the front lines, Drew was briefly attached to the 9th Field Engineers, before returning to the battalion.
In May 1918 the 34th was involved in operations that took place near to the Bray Sur Somme – Corbie Road, and for his actions during this offensive Drew was recommended and later awarded the Military Medal.
Drew was seriously wounded in action a few days later, when shell fragments penetrated his left shoulder.
We can follow his treatment and evacuation from the notes supplied on his service record – he was first treated by the 14th Field Ambulance, who then passed him on to the 61st Casualty Clearance Station where he underwent surgery to remove the shell fragments.
Following the surgery he was transferred to the 9th General Military Hospital at Rouen, before being evacuated from France aboard the hospital ship Carisbrook Castle, to England, where he was admitted to the Richmond Military Hospital in Surrey. Drew remained in their care until 6th June when he was discharged to No.2 Convalescent Depot at Harefield.
By now Drew would have learnt of his award “for devoted and gallant service” but he would not return to the field, the medical authorities recommended he be returned to Australia.
Drew sailed for home on board HMAT Malta. He was given further treatment at the 21st Australian Army Hospital, Georges Heights near Sydney, until he regained greater use of his arm, after which he was discharged from the Army.
In 1919 Alfred Drew married Nellie Hall (1895-1984) and together they raised Alfred, William, Esme, William and Edith. Alfred William Drew MM died in 1972 at Umina, NSW, age 75.
Read more …
- Service record: DREW, Alfred
- Embarkation roll: 7th Reinf. 34th Infantry Battalion
- Family notices. Sydney Morning Herald, 22 September 1972, p26
- Honours and awards
- One of the soldiers 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