Guest Post: Peter Greagg visits the Australian War Memorial

Military minded Cats may be interested to hear I was at the War Memorial the other day in Canberra.

A volunteer guide told me that an aboriginal man couldn’t enlist in the AIF in 1914 because of his ‘race’.

I told him that I thought that was unlikely. I noted that aboriginal men (and women) were eligible to vote in 1901 if they had been able to vote in State elections previously. And so I thought as they could vote in Federal Elections, they were likely to be able to enlist.

I was directed to this resource:

“Quandamooka/Noonuccal man Richard Martin enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 17 December 1914. As Aboriginal people were prevented from enlisting, he declared that he was a New Zealander with five years’ service in the Light Horse. In fact, he had been born on Stradbroke Island in Queensland and had no known previous service.”

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Peter Greagg
Peter Greagg
June 22, 2024 3:32 pm

Thanks Dover.

Peter Greagg
Peter Greagg
June 22, 2024 3:33 pm

BTW Dover, I see I am still automatically sent to Moderation.

June 22, 2024 3:43 pm

Seems to go against a few sources, including war grave and the AWM

It also seems to be a misreading of the actual statute.

Theres a scan at that site, it says “at peace” they are exempted from training/service.

June 22, 2024 3:44 pm

Peter, Mater did a series of Mater’s Musings posts dealing with myths such as these.
I quote “Firstly, let’s dispense with the fallacy that Aboriginals were prevented from enlisting in WW1 and onwards. “Exempt” from compulsory training and service is not the same as “prevented”. I’ve already dealt with this myth here
And here
God bless Mater for his dogged pursuit of truth (and that disgraceful liar Numbers)

Last edited 1 month ago by Filbert
June 22, 2024 6:01 pm

I might note that Peter’s interest in military history extends to research on my behalf at the AWM’s Research Centre this coming Monday afternoon, albeit not into the topic of this guest post.

June 22, 2024 8:22 pm

A Great example of this myth is William Punch.

Ironically, the AWM know all about him:

In typical fashion they point out that “His enlistment application listed “labourer” as his occupation and his skin colour was identified as “black””.

What they fail mention is that on his enlistment form, where it asks if he is a “natural born British Citizen or a Naturalised British Subject” the document reads “Aboriginal”. Not much room for doubt!

This is significant because they typically explain away the obvious presence of Aboriginals in the 1st AIF by saying they claimed to be another ethnicities on enlightenment or ‘had a lenient Enlisting Officer who looked the other way, and ignored the obvious”.

It’s also interesting to note that he died of wounds in England and was buried with full military honours along his fellow servicemen.

So much for the stories of discrimination and not being buried in the same graveyards as other Australian servicemen.

Boambee John
Boambee John
June 22, 2024 9:26 pm

The policy paid down by AHQ and the application olin the field diffe4d.

Simple example. Almost the first soldier killed in the 47th (Queensland and Tasmania) Battalion was (???) Billy Esdale. There is a photo of him in a unit history published around 20 years ago. The recruiter would have to have been blind not to have noticed that he was an Aboriginal.

On a related matter of alleged racial prejudice, look up Billy Sing (Chinese father, European mother), Caleb Sheng (similar parentage) and Harry Freame (Japanese mother, European father). All were highly decorated and highly regarded. When Sheng returned to Cairns, much of the town turned out to welcome him, the City Band played Are the Conquering Come, and the mayor made a speech of welcome.

Boambee John
Boambee John
June 23, 2024 8:22 am

PS, I spent some years in the early 2000s as a volunteer in the Research Centre. Our task was to assist people to research their families, using the historical records. With those, the facts are as recorded, and can’t be changed.

I suspect that the guides now receive an “official narrative”, which has to be repeated without thinking.

Everything is corrupted by lefturdism, including written historical records.

June 23, 2024 9:21 am

Any aboriginal denied enlistment shoulda just said they were trans…

Peter Greagg
Peter Greagg
June 23, 2024 7:32 pm

Thank you everyone for your comments and thoughts.
And welcome back Mater.

I now feel I am better informed, and very cranky with the attempted deceptions.

I have a friend whose father was of Australian and Chinese decent who served in WW2.
The War Memorial contacted my friend to tell her that they were going to identify him in their records as Chinese.

She went balistic. Pointing out they had never met him, and now he was dead, on what basis were they going to change his ‘decent’ to Chinese? She pointed out that he was a very proud Australian and always emphasised that point to his children. She told them if they tried to do that, the War Memorial would be in a world of pain. They backed off.

July 4, 2024 10:56 am

I suspect enlistment was more difficult, and there are accounts of indigenous returned men being treated very shabbily by the RSSAILA. But there were certainly such men: a good example being given by the memorial at Raukkan (Point McLeay Mission) to, among others, a Cyril Rigney, fell 3 July 1917, of the 43rd Btn, AIF. With no known remains, he is recorded in the Menin Gate. My great-uncle, who hailed from further up the Murray, served in the same battalion and is reported to have been killed by shelling while receiving attention to earlier wounds a few months earlier.

  1. Glorious! Perfect! Did you do this yourself Lysander or does it come from someone else? Either is marvelous.

  2. Chris Kenny: I’m certainly not a Trump fan. Why not? We recall when you were similarly deranged about Da Voice.…

  3. For those who borrow their political opinions from cabaret singers. Then there’re singers who are also actresses… Barbra Streisand Claims…

Oh, you think that, do you? Care to put it on record?x