Jack NORMAN #64373

Jack Norman, The Queenslander Pictorial, 9 November, 1918

Indigenous Australian, Jack NORMAN, 6th Reinforcements Egypt & Field Engineers

John (Jack) Henry Norman was born in Croydon, Qld in 1899, and worked near Bundaberg on a cane farm, prior to enlisting. Norman was employed by Martin Wessell, having been hired out from the Barambah Mission station at the age of 13.

Norman volunteered to serve with the first AIF in August 1918, and with no known living relatives he named the Chief Protector of Aborigines, as his next of kin. Mr Bleakely also granted permission for him to enlist.

Norman left Brisbane on board HMAT Malta in October with several other Indigenous men assigned to the 6th General Reinforcements, bound for Egypt - including Charlie Smith, Albert Jones, Bob Roberts and Martin Blyth. During the journey Norman was admitted to the ships' hospital suffering from influenza, which commonly spread among troops in confined quarters.

They arrived in the Suez 10 days after the armistice in Europe had been declared, but there was no thought of returning home. They trained for 4 weeks at the Moascar depot, after which Norman was assigned to D Field Troop and Bridging Train.

Norman was among 15 reinforcements that joined this troop on Christmas Day 1918 while they were encamped at Richon, Syria. They were issued with Xmas comforts, showed their tent accommodation and made to feel 'at home'.

The troop remained at Richon until the end of the month, before moving to Bir Salem. As units were reorganised and disbanded at the end of the war, Norman was absorbed into the 1st Field Squadron Engineers, where they were employed maintaining services and infrastructure for the remaining troops.

By June 1919 the squadron had moved closer to the Divisional Headquarters area, at East Kantara, while they waited for their ship to take them home. Norman returned on the same ship he arrived in, HMAT Malta and disembarked in October 1919, almost a year to the day he had left.

Plan of Anzac Divisional Racecourse. Unit War Diaries 1st Field Squadron, January 1919, p.6. Australian War Memorial.

Norman was granted exemption on his return, from the limitations of the 'Protection Act' and eventually relocated to New South Wales. In 1936 while living at New Angledoon he wrote to the authorities asking for his service medals, which were subsequently issued to him. He died in 1972 ,age 78 at Brewarrina.

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The information in this blog post has been researched by State Library staff and volunteers, it is based on available information at this time. If you have more information that you would like to share or further research uncovers new findings, this post will be updated.

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