Henry MONSELL #Q19604

Indigenous Australian, Henry MONSELL, Light Horse Depot Regiment.

Harry Monsell 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 Garland and protector of Aborigines Mr. Blakeney travelled by train to the Mission to specifically recruit men for Active Service.

10 days later in Brisbane, during a patriotic speech given by recruiting officer Lieutenant Colonel 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 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, with out 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 too dark ‘would not make soldiers’.

Harry and Flora left Queensland and made a life for themselves and their family at the Aboriginal Station Muli Muli near Woodenbong and Kyogle, south of the Queensland / New South Wales border.

The newspapers of the day are full of accounts of Harry’s involvement in amateur boxing, both as a youth in Queensland and as fighter and coach in New South Wales. He also served as a police tracker in the 1930’s assisting with the search for Ernest Walters, who had become lost for almost a week, after leaving his property at Horseshoe Creek.

Harry and Flora raised 15 children; several of his sons carried on the boxing tradition. Harry died in 1955, age 65. Flora (Florence) who had been removed from her family at age 16, was finally reunited with her sister Minnie in 1974. Flora died aged 111, in 1994 after a short bout of pneumonia; Minnie was aged 115 when she died in Lismore in 2003.

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Marg Powell & Des Crump

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