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Loved, Honoured and Not Forgotten – the Aboriginal Diggers who are the Sons of France

9 Nov 2018

In cemeteries surrounding the French town of Villers-Bretonneux lie the remains of 13 Aboriginal Diggers.

They died during World War I, fighting on a foreign land, protecting a people who knew them not, volunteers for a nation which, at the time, denied them basic human rights.

They could not vote nor receive the old-age pension and until 1916, they weren’t even wanted in a combatant role in the Australian Imperial Force.

Yet they served. And two thankful nations accepted their sacrifice.

For like their fellow Australian diggers, buried in the same cemeteries, they are not just the sons of grieving parents and of Australia, they are sons of France1, loved, honoured and not forgotten.

They are:

  • Coe, Private John Henry Alfred, 53rd Battalion, Cowra, NSW

  • Farmer, Corporal Augustus Pegg, 16th Battalion, Katanning, WA

  • Egan, Private William Alex, 60th Battalion, Warrnambool, Vic.

  • Firebrace, Private William Reginald, 24th Battalion, Balranald, NSW

  • Gage, Private Charles Alfred, 56th Battalion, Eugowra, NSW

  • Harris, Private James Gordon, 59th Battalion, Healesville, Vic.

  • Jenkins, Private Alexander, 18th Battalion, Balmain, NSW

  • Johnson, Private Wallie, 47th Battalion, St. George, Qld.

  • Lester, Private Alister Roy, 4th Battalion, Singleton, NSW

  • Lester, Private Augustus, 34th Battalion, Singleton, NSW

  • Martin, Private Richard, 47th Battalion, Dunwich, Qld.

  • Tripcony, Private Albert, 25th Battalion, Dunwich, Qld.

  • Varcoe, Private Francis Albon, 27th Battalion, Point MacLeay Mission, SA

On Remembrance Day 2018, now 100 years since the end of World War I, we remember all ‘those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts’.

And on this 100th anniversary of the Armistice, we remember the service of, and in some cases, the ultimate sacrifice made by, the estimated 400-500 Aboriginal Australians who fought in World War 12.

 

Find out more

For more information on Aboriginal Diggers buried at Villers-Bretonneux, read Villers-Bretonneux: A Strange Name for an Aboriginal Burial Ground [PDF 1.3MB] and find their names and further details at Indigenous Service.

References

1.Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Speech, Anzac Day Dawn Service, 25 April 2018, Villers-Bretonneux, France

2.Philippa Scarlett, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers for the AIF: The Indigenous response to World War One (Canberra: Indigenous Histories, 2011) p.3

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