Aboriginal Soldiers at Gallipoli

"As a soldier who has been in the 15th Battalion of the AIF and served on the Peninsula of Gallipoli, France, Belgium, I object very strongly to the slur cast upon, my half-caste comrades of the 15th Battalion, some of whom paid the supreme penalty, both in Palestine in the light horse units and other spheres of the war."

These words are from a letter to the Cairns Post from James Bennett, Ex-Private, 15th Battalion protesting the treatment of Aboriginal people in North Queensland. In particular, Mr Bennett was referring to the schooling of Aboriginal children in Cairns schools. However, this letter to the editor confirms what many researchers and historians believed - that Aboriginal soldiers landed on Gallipoli.

David Huggonson is one such historian who has undertaken extensive research on Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in the Defence Forces. David's work 'Too dark for the Light Horse' formed the basis for an Australian War Memorial travelling exhibition and education resource.  David's research articles are also a key element of the Australian War Memorial's webpages on Indigenous service in Australia's armed forces.

'Too Dark for the Light Horse' Resource Book, compiled by David Huggonson, 1986

The State Library of Queensland has been fortunate to receive a list from David which is a compilation of some of the Aboriginal men known to have been at Gallipoli - the exact numbers are yet to be determined, however there are now believed to be 55 men compiled on this list by David Huggonson and Philippa Scarlett. It is also believed that 5 Aboriginal ANZACs are buried at Gallipoli. The following list has been updated to 70 known soldiers, based on further research from the Australian War Memorial.

Some men of Aboriginal descent who served at Gallipoli - David Huggonson with additional names from Philippa Scarlett marked with an asterisk*.

Format is Name of Soldier, Service Number, Unit, Place of Residence or Birth.

  • Bindoff, Edgar George: 1720, 1st Bn, Paddington, NSW. (DOW 13/9/1915)
  • Bolton, Arthur John (served under Lee, Arthur John): 1040, 7th LHR, Rooty Hill, NSW.
  • Bolton, Alfred Frederick: 682, 1st Bn, Windsor, NSW.
  • Bongers, Albert Fraser: 398, 1st LHR, Leichhardt, NSW.
  • Burke, James Ernest: 529, 5th LHR, Casino, NSW. Enlisted Mitchell, Queensland. *
  • Burns, Charles: 1547: 10th LHR, Wyndham, Western Australia.
  • Cameron, Alfred: 1173, 3rd LHR, Meningie, South Australia.
  • Crough, Joseph: 1259: 8 LHR, Colac, Victoria.
  • Crough, Kenneth: 1125, 22nd Bn, Warrnambool, Victoria.
  • Dickerson, James: 392, 10th LHR, Gin Gin, Western Australia. (DOW 29/8/1915)
  • Drury, Albert Matthew: 863, 5th LHR, Nelligan, NSW. Enlisted Mackay, Queensland. *
  • Eagles, Henry James: 1921, 2nd MGC, Hillston, NSW.
  • Farmer, Larry: 62, 28th Bn, Katanning, Western Australia.
  • Farmer, Lewis: 421, 28th Bn, Katanning, Western Australia.
  • Firth, Francis Waler: 1162, 2nd LHR, Pilliga, NSW.
  • Fox, Samuel Daniel: 5257, 38th Bn, Morgan, SA. (KIA 28/05/1917)
  • Goldspink, William: 2172, 6th Bn. Tumbarumba, NSW. Enlisted Tallangatta, Victoria. *
  • Gowans, Allan: 2816, 53rd Bn, Carrathool, NSW.
  • Harris, William: 2838, 15th Bn, Wellington, NSW. Enlisted Toowoomba, Queensland. *
  • Hearps, Alfred John: 409, 2nd Lieutenant, 12th Bn. Forth, Tasmania. *
  • Hearps, Cyril Charles: 900, 26th Bn, Burnie, Tasmania.
  • Holt, Harold John: 2289, 15th Bn. Launceston, Tasmania. *
  • Homer, Arthur Charles: 115, 5th LHR, Bathurst, NSW. (KIA 28/6/1915)*
  • Hutchins, Charles: 307, 28th Bn, Busselton, Western Australia.
  • Jackson, William John: 1952, 28th Bn, Bunbury, Western Australia.
  • Johnson, Cyril Allen: 1340, 15th Bn, Sheffield, Tasmania. Enlisted Enoggera, Queensland. (DOW 14/07/1915) *
  • Johnson, Jack Roy: 1867, 52nd Bn. (served as John Rollins) Warrnambool, Victoria. Enlisted in Claremont, Tasmania. *
  • Johnson, Vernon Phillip: 2225, 1st Bn, Sheffield, Tasmania *
  • Jones, Sydney Gerald: 1573, 1st Aust Pioneers, Deniliquin, NSW. (KIA 28/07/1916)
  • Karpany, George: 3502, 10th Bn, East Wellington, South Australia.
  • Kelly, Alfred William: 590, 17th Bn, Macksville, NSW.
  • Kennedy, George: 1025, 6th LHR, Ivanhoe, NSW.
  • Kirby, Richard Norman: 2305, 20th Bn, Dubbo, NSW *
  • Lavender, Andrew: 285, 5th LHR, Wellington, NSW.
  • Lawrence, Frank: 5703, 12th FAB, York, WA.
  • Locke, Henry James: 532, ATLMB, Waterloo, NSW.
  • Lockyer, Fred: 1123, Ordinance Corps, Perth, Western Australia.
  • Martin, Richard: 1359, 4th Bn, Brisbane, Queensland. (KIA 28/03/1918)
  • Mason, Randell: 897, 28th Bn, Tenterden, Western Australia.
  • Maynard, Edward: 2294, 15th Bn, Flinders Island, Tasmania. (KIA 8/08/1915)
  • Maynard, Frank: 1153, 26th Bn. Flinders Island, Tasmania.
  • Maynard, Leo: 3992, 12th Bn, 26th Bn, Flinders Island, Tasmania.
  • McCallum, Arthur Edward: 165, 16th Bn, Albury, Western Australia.
  • McDonald, Allan: 764, 8th LHR, Condah, Victoria *
  • McNeill, William George: 668, 1st MGB, Boggabri, NSW.
  • Melbourne, James: 2515, 5th Bn, Perth, Western Australia.
  • Miller, John William: 1227, 12th Bn, Peppermint Bay, Tasmania (KIA 25/4/1915)
  • Muckray, Hurtle: 757, 3rd LHR, East Wellington, South Australia.
  • Naley, Charles Gordon: 1310, 16th Bn, Eucla, Western Australia.
  • Owen, Frank Edgar: 4193, Div. Eng. Coy, Wallaroo, South Australia. Enlisted Gympie, Queensland. *
  • Perfect, Joseph: 200, 25th Bn, Rockhampton, Queensland.
  • Priestly, Norman: 2786, 15th Bn, Gordonbrook Station, NSW.
  • Reid, John Patrick:  2195, 1st Div HQ,  Cooma, New South Wales *
  • Robins, Alfred Arthur: 1426, 4th Bn, Junee, NSW.
  • Rowan, John: 1506, 46th Bn, Healesville, Victoria.
  • Sayers, Frederick Leslie: 1042, 6th LHR, Busselton, Western Australia. *
  • Shaw, Claude: 2413, 51st Bn. Gin Gin, Western Australia. *
  • Simpson, Stamford Wallace: 687, 10th Bn. Kangaroo Island, South Australia. *
  • Sinclair, Arthur Leslie: 1373, 15th Bn, Berthon Station, via Lismore, NSW.
  • Skelly, William: 2933, 20th Bn, Mount Hope, NSW. *
  • Sloane, John: 783, 13th Bn, Forbes, NSW.
  • Smale, Walter Edward: 794, 2nd LHR, Freestone, Queensland.
  • Smith, Leonard Gilmore: 1303, 19th Bn, Norwood, South Australia. (KIA 03/05/1917) *
  • Stafford, Charles Fitzroy: 190, 1st LHR, Mudgee, NSW. *
  • Stow, Albert Edward: 2162, 1st LHR, Dungog, NSW.
  • Thompson, Albert Victor: 1644, 51st Bn, Perth, Western Australia. (DOW 13/06/1916)*
  • Tripp, Hubert Frank: 1428, 10th Bn, Victor Harbour, South Australia.
  • Walker, Arthur Thomas: 2466, 10th Bn, Goolwa, South Australia.
  • Waller, Charles Stephen: 1337, 16th Bn, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
  • Westbury, William Charles: 421, 10th Bn, Pinnaroo, South Australia.
  • Wright, Alfred: 2017, 25th Bn, Nyngan, NSW. (KIA 05/08/1916) *
  • Zeisser, Peter: 168, 1st LHR, Sydney, NSW. (KIA 07/08/1915) *

Note: DOW = Died of Wounds; KIA = Killed in action.

Included in the above list are six Aboriginal men from Queensland -These men will feature in future blog posts.

Troops from 2nd Light Horse Regiment marching through Queen Street, Brisbane, 1914. Negative number 65586, State Library of Queensland.

I will close this post with a further quote from Ex-Pte James Bennett's letter to the editor:  "I have stood shoulder to shoulder with half castes in Hell's Pit, on Quinn's Post, and seen them die like the grandest of white men."

Desmond Crump

References/Further Reading:

  • Australian War Memorial (1994) 'Too dark for the Light Horse' Resource Book and Travelling Exhibition.
  • Bennett, James (1933) 'A Returned Soldier's Protest' letter to the Editor, Cairns Post, 28 January, 1933.
  • Huggonson, D. (1989) 'The Dark Diggers of the AIF', in The Australian Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 3. 
  • Huggonson, D. (1991) 'Villers-Bretonneux: a strange name for an Aboriginal burial ground' in Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, Vol. 14, Issue 7, p. 285-288. S 994.3 005
  • Huggonson, D. (1993) 'Aborigines and the aftermath of the great war', in Australian Aboriginal Studies, Issue 1, p. 2-9.
  • Kombumerri Aboriginal Corporation for Culture (1991) Yugambeh: In Defence of our Country. P 940.5404 yug
  • Pratt, R. (1993) Biographical register of Queensland Aborigines who served in the Great War, 1914-1918. P 940.403 pra
  • Scarlett, P. (2011) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers for the AIF: the Indigenous response to World War One. Q 940.40994 SCA

Online Sources:


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I am a primary teacher from New South Wales. I was researching my great grandfather Hurtle Austin Patterson and his service at Gallipoli for a presentation to my students next term for our Anzac service. For some reason my search came to your blog article about Aboriginal soldiers at Gallipoli. I was surprised to hear that Hurtle was of aboriginal descent. Would you be able to tell me how you came to this knowledge? I would really appreciate any information you can give me about him.Regards, Elissa.

Hi ElissaHurtle Austin Patterson's name appeared originally in my book Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF: the Indigenous Response to World War One, Indigenous Histories, 2012. the book contains a referenced list of Aboriginal men who volunteered for WW1 . The reference for Hurtle Patterson is a letter headed PROUD OF ANCESTRY in the Koori Mail of 9 May 2007 p23 . The writer is Jodie Gandolfi nee Patterson a great great granddaughter. If Jodie's information is incorrect Hurtle Patterson's name can be removed from future editions of the book and from my blog indigenoushistories.com. Jodie's letter can be read on the AIATSIS website http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/koorimail/issues/pdf/400.pdfPhilippa ScarlettPS Hi Des great to see your blog I will be following.. Perhaps you could add my book to the reading list !Philippa

Thanks Philippa - I have another forthcoming Blog post on your excellent reference book; it will be posted in the very near future. Cheers, Des.

Hi I never said Hurtle Austin was Aboriginal. You merely assumed that and now this has gone into government records. Just because I write about it in the Koori Mail doesn't mean he was Aboriginal. He was from the white side of my family.

Hello JodieThanks for this information; I will amend the Blog Post and advise AWM. Regards,Des.

For some reason, you have listed my father William Albert Farrell 228 12Bn Launceston as Aboriginal (Indigenous) Please check the source of your records. There is not, nor never has been an indigenous connection by birth or any other means to my family linage. I am 80 years old and have a sister in Werribee Vic who is turning 91 later this month, she would be pleased to confirm my comments.

AnthonyThank you for your response to the State Library’s post.It appears that your ancestor was confused with another soldier Richard Alfred Farrell [Service No 3618] from Bridgewater Tasmania.Apologies for the error which has been amended.Regards,Des.