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William PAGEL #Q19602

By Marg Powel & Des Crump | 30 April 2018

William Pagel, Light Horse Depot Regiment

William Pagel, The Queenslander Pictorial, 28 July 1917

Indigenous Australian, William PAGEL, Light Horse Depot Regiment

Willie Pagel was born in 1899 to William Charles (Charlie) Louis Pagel and Helena (Ellen, Nellie) Wilson, an Aboriginal woman. They lived among the fishing community at Dudgeon Creek, Mackay for many years, but in 1917 Willie, his brother Fred and sister Nellie were removed from their family and placed on the Aboriginal Mission at Barambah, now known as Cherbourg.

Pagel, not yet 18 years of age, 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 the Chief Protector of Aborigines, J W Bleakley, 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, without 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 to dark ‘would not make soldiers’.

Without an exemption from the Queensland Protection of Aboriginals Act, Willie was unable to go out into the wider community to work. He was removed to Palm Island in 1926 as was his sister Nellie in 1936. Willie did eventually gain a certificate of exemption in 1934 and Nellie in 1946.

Willie gained employment in the Innisfail region as a timber-getter and carter.

Two of Willie’s brothers George and Edward served in New Guinea during the Second World War. Willie Pagel died in 1968 in South Brisbane.

All recruits: Bertie Beckett #Q19608 | Harry Baker #Q19600 | Daniel Cabbo #Q19612 | William Christie Q19606 | Ossie Dick #Q19609 | Myrtle Douglas #Q19614 | James Fisher #Q19615 | Christie Hill #Q19610 | Robert Hubbard #Q19603 | Fred Johnson #Q19607 | Bismark Mitchell #Q19601 | Henry Monsell #Q19604 | Charlie Morgan #Q19605 | Sunny Moss #Q19611 | William Pagel #Q19602 | Arthur Riley #Q19613 | [Unidentified] #Q19616?

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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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