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They Served With Honour by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs


Untold stories of Western Australian Aboriginal servicemen at Gallipoli

Researched and written by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs Community Development Directorate, Aboriginal History Research Unit with contributions from staff and the families of the soldiers.

The thirteen Western Australian Aboriginal servicemen

1. James Dickerson

2. Larry Farmer

3. Lewis Farmer

4. Charles Hutchins

5. William John Jackson

6. Fred Lockyer

7. Randell Mason

8. William Mason

9. Arthur McCallum

10. James Melbourne

11. Gordon Charles Naley

12. Frederick Leslie Sayers

13. Claude Shaw


"The death is reported from the Dardanelles of Private James Dickerson, who enlisted from this district. He was wounded, and while being conveyed to hospital for treatment died and was buried at sea."

Eastern Districts Chronicle (York, WA)

1 October 1915

Over the last decade, there has been a growing interest in Australia about the contribution made by Aboriginal men and women in times of war. Whilst their involvement in our nation’s more recent conflicts is featured in many contemporary publications, little is known about Aboriginal service in World War I (1914-1918), and even less about their role at Gallipoli. It is estimated around fifty Aboriginal men fought during this campaign. The stories of those who served have to a large extent remained untold or, in some cases, are known only by the immediate families. Faced with the prospect of losing these stories forever, comprehensive research has been undertaken to provide an insight into the lives of thirteen Aboriginal Western Australian servicemen who fought at Gallipoli.

Their journey began within days of the outbreak of World War I, when recruiting places emerged across the country to accept volunteers eager to serve overseas. Men and women from all walks of life came to join the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) from towns and distant locations. Western Australia was no different, contributing 32,231 men in total to the war effort. On a population basis, this number was proportionally greater than that of any other Australian state.

The experiences of the thirteen Western Australian Aboriginal servicemen at Gallipoli were similar to most others who served. They embarked with all the bravado of boys on an adventure, returning as broken men. Their shared sufferings of war were indelibly etched within them. For those who survived the horror and returned home, the equality they experienced from the point of enlistment, to fighting shoulder to shoulder with their non-Aboriginal mates, was not accorded to them on discharge. Denied equal rights, their transition to civilian life was doubly traumatic, for military service had done little to enhance their ability to obtain full-time work and access the privileges available to wider society. Aboriginal soldiers too, were not alone in experiencing significant health issues for the rest of their lives.

They Served With Honour is dedicated to the lives of those Western Australian Aboriginal men whose contributions at Gallipoli have never been fully known or acknowledged.

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