Arthur Riley #Q19613

Arthur Riley, Light Horse Depot Regiment

Indigenous Australian, Arthur RILEY, Light Horse Depot Regiment.

Arthur RILEY was born near Gayndah, to Tom Tom Riley and Rosy, in 1889. He was among 17 Aboriginal men who were recruited during a drive by the Queensland Recruiting Committee on 14 May 1917. The Committee represented by Chaplain Canon David Garland and Chief Protector of Aborigines Mr Blakeney, travelled by train to the Barambah Mission to specifically recruit men for Active Service. 

10 days later in Brisbane, during a patriotic speech given by recruiting officer Lieutenant Colonel [Chaplain] David Garland, a line of Light Horsemen rode past, each leading a riderless horse. 

The 17 recently recruited men from Barambah, took up these mounts in a [staged] demonstration of their patriotism and paraded along Queen Street to ‘considerable cheering’. 

However their inclusion in the first AIF was short-lived. All 17 recruits were discharged just 30 days later on Wednesday, 13 June 1917, for having been “irregularly enlisted”. 

The men were returned home to the mission, under escort, without any receipt of payment or any discharge documents. 

The AIF was brutal in its response when queried for their action – ‘a coloured man must have been associated with white people for some time prior to enlistment’ – and those who were considered to dark ‘would not make soldiers’. 

Arthur Riley was granted permission to marry Julia Mitchell, originally from Beaudesert, in 1918, he died in 1953.

Further reading …

Service record: RILEY, Arthur
Queensland Removals 1912-1939
Marriage application correspondence 1918
Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen [mp4]
‘Empty saddles filled’ Brisbane Courier, 25 May 1917, p.7
‘Aboriginal recruits’ Brisbane Courier, 20 June 1917, p.7
‘Enlistment of half-castes’ Daily Mercury, 14 May 1917
Image: The Queenslander Pictorial, 8 December 1917

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