Tommy PURCELL #7813a

Tommy Purcell, The Queenslander Pictorial, 8 December 1917

Indigenous Australian, Tommy PURCELL, 15th Infantry Battalion

Tommy Purcell also known as Tommy LEE was born in Atherton in 1894. He was just 21 years old when he enlisted in the first AIF in September 1917, he named his sister Emily Purcell as his next of kin.

Tommy initially trained at Rifle Range Camp, Enoggera just outside Brisbane and was allotted to the 26th Reinforcements to the 9th Infantry Battalion. Tommy left Brisbane the next month via a troop train that took him and his fellow recruits to Sydney where the embarked on board the troopship Euripides bound for England. During the voyage Tommy was admitted to the ships hospital for several weeks having contracted measles and shortly after arriving in Plymouth he was admitted to the 4th Southern General Hospital with mumps.

After three months training at the military camp at Sutton Veny, he sailed for France in April 1918 where they spent three weeks quarantined at the Medical Board Base Depot at Calais. Tommy was then transferred to the 15th Infantry Battalion and joined his unit while they were in reserve at Hebuterne, north east of Amiens.

The 15th Battalion was involved in major operations east of Jeancourt in September 1918 and on the 18th Tommy Purcell was seriously wounded. The Unit war diaries describe the day in detail and describe the conditions as miserable as they moved into attack early in heavy rain. Tommy was hit wounded in the abdomen and at first treated by the 1st Australian Field Ambulance before being taken to the 55th Casualty Clearance Station, where he died of his wounds.

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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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In respect to great uncle Tommy Purcell. On behalf of Tracy Purcell as her eldest son. I am the great grandson of Emily Purcell, who is great uncle Tommy's sister. I am proud of such achievement of what my great uncle went through and fought for country and his people.

Thank you sir, we are indeed grateful for his service, and feel privileged that we were able to tell his story.