Percy Alfred FRENCH #3295

Indigenous Australian, Percy FRENCH, 2nd Light Horse Regiment & AAMC 7th Sanitary Section, Anzac Mounted Division

Percy (Peter) Alfred French was born in 1894 in Scone, NSW to William Thomas and Mary French (nee Norton). His father was head stockman at Sandilands Station up until his death in 1922. Percy enlisted in Lismore in March 1917 and came to Brisbane to train at Enoggera, which is where this portrait of him was taken and later published in The Queenslander Pictorial.

He sailed from Sydney on board HMAT Port Sydney on 9 May 1917 and arrived in Egypt six weeks later. Percy was transferred to the AAMC (Australian Army Medical Corps) and was briefly attached to the Camel Brigade Field Ambulance before being transferred to the 7th Sanitary Section of the Anzac Mounted Division.

The 7th Sanitary were a mounted unit that supported troops in the field, where they faced epidemic infectious diseases in the harsh desert environment. Cholera, Dysentry, Malaria and Influenza killed thousands of Australians in the First World War. The Unit complimented a mobile ANZAC Field Laboratory which could diagnose diseases and infections in the field.

Percy French however succumbed to the prevalence of malaria and sandfly fever. He was admitted to hospital several times in Cairo, with time spent at the convalescent camp at Port Said. Later he trained as a signaller and returned to the 7th Sanitary in June 1918, but a relapse of malaria saw him invalided home in December 1918.

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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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Dear Grandfather Percy. I've known your name all my life. My mum always reminded us of her uncles Percy and Herb although you had passed before she was born. Your story lives on in our oral history. I'm your youngest brother's youngest grand-daughter. 100 years ago you committed your life to serve Australia. We have not forgotten and soon we will gather at your graveside to pay our deepest respects. You came from a tremendous family, and then you created a tremendous family of your own: Four children, multiple grandchildren, and an ever growing number of great grandchildren. Many of us have not yet met each other. And when we gather to honour you we will hold those memories dear forever. When my son was born weighing 3295kg and the nurse called him Percy something stirred in me and I started searching. Grandfather I am listening and we are coming...