John James DUNN #5580
Indigenous Australian, Jack Dunn, 18th Infantry Battalion
Jack Dunn was so keen to serve his country he tried three times to enlist but was turned down at each attempt, no doubt due to his Aboriginal heritage. Although born Redford Station, Queensland, Jack had lived and worked in Bethungra, NSW for many years, attending the local school, and competing in the regional cricket and football teams. Jack took advise from residents in the district and obtained personal recommendations, this done, Jack Dunn was accepted as a volunteer for the first AIF in April 1916. Jack had no known living relatives, and so named his next of kin Alfred Ernest Orchard who was the proprietor of the hotel at Bethungra, where Jack resided.
By June 1916 Jack had been assigned to the 15th Reinforcements for the 18th Infantry Battalion and by September was aboard HMAT Euripides bound for England. When Dunn joined his unit in the field in January 1917, the 18th Battalion was at Dernancourt. Dunn was first wounded in action in February 1917; he received a gun shot wound to his right leg, and was evacuated to England where he was admitted to Kitchener Hospital, Brighton. After treatment for his leg wound and 'trench feet' he was granted two weeks leave before returning to the front lines in August 1917.
Dunn narrowly escaped death after being completely buried after a shell exploded nearby, during the Battle of Menin Road in September 1917. He was first taken to the Field Ambulance, then evacuated to hospital at Etaples, with contusions to his neck.
Dunn returned to the front late in 1917 but as the war ground on, his health along with many of his comrades, began to deteriorate. Treated again for ‘trench feet’, inflammation in the hips joints, bronchitis, and jaundice - the latter causing him to be delayed in returning to Australia.
Eventually Dunn returned home in September 1919 on board the troopship Takada, to be medically discharged from any further service with the AIF. ‘Digger Dunn’ was welcomed home in grand fashion, many friends gathered for a social, dinner and speeches where he was presented with a sum of money in recognition for his service.
Dunn remained in Bethungra, working on Wambidgee Station, Muttama; and later Merribindinya Station. He continued to participate in the local sports and his passion for amateur boxing. In 1931 Dunn survived a car crash in which he was a passenger which killed the driver, Joe Dalton as it hit the bridge railings over Money Money Creek, near Cootamundra.
Finally, in 1934 Jack Dunn was hit and killed instantly by a car in the main street of Bethungra, age 50 he had no known relatives.
Read more ...
- SERVICE RECORD: DUNN, John James
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 15th Reinf. 18th Infantry Battalion
- AWM Unit Diaries: 18th Infantry Battalion
- Scarlett, Philippa. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers for the AIF: the Indigenous response to World War One. Fourth edition, Indigenous Histories, Macquarie, ACT, 2018
- 'Home leave' Cootamundra Herald 8 August 1916, p2
- 'Welcome home to Pte. Jack Dunn'. Cootamundra Herald 3 October 1919, p7
- 'Boxing'. Cootamundra Herald 14 September 1920, p4
- ‘Boxing, Town Hall, Cootamundra’. Cootamundra Herald 1 October 1920, p2
- 'Doings in different districts'. The Riverine Grazier 20 February 1931, p4
- 'Jack Dunn's death'. Cootamundra Herald 18 May 1934 p5
- One of the soldiers featured in SLQ’s HistoryPin Collection
- Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen Digital Story and Oral History
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.