The research for this publication has
been made possible by the Diamantina Shire Council and support and funding from
the Queensland Anzac Centenary Coordination Unit.
The research was assisted by the
Research Centre of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, State Library of
Queensland in Brisbane, John Oxley Library and from other sources including
Trove, and also from other electronic and printed resources.
At times the research would seem to come
to a complete end. However, further searching for the necessary documents, and
when sourced, would partially complete that particular need. Some documents were
in such poor condition that it was not possible to decipher the writing.
Every effort has been made to complete
the history of these young men, who enlisted in the prime of their lives to
fight for King and Country. Further, every effort has been made for the accuracy
of the research. However, at times conflicting dates and locations made this
The research provides another chapter
into the history of enlistments from the Diamantina Shire during the Great War
1914 - 1918.
As mayor of the Diamantina Shire Council, I stand
proud of the effort and sacrifice made by all those from this Shire that went
off to fight in the name of Australia for King and Country. Even to enlist was a
sacrifice in itself, as due to the isolation men and women had to ride or walk
from places like Birdsville and Bedourie to places such as Winton, Charleville,
Port Augusta and Cloncurry just to enlist.
The percentage of available people to enlist from the
Diamantina Shire was as high as anywhere in Australia, but the impact on the
Shire was greater than elsewhere. Of those that did return, many did not return
to the Shire for various reasons, and thus the drain on able-bodied persons from
the Shire was horrendous. Something that was felt throughout the Shire for years
As with all documents such as this, where the time
lapse is over 100 years, there will be omissions and mistakes. Every possible
effort has been made to make it factual and I congratulate all those who were
involved for their time and effort. Should those reading this have information
on enlistees not acknowledged, the Shire would welcome that information.
We should never forget, or take for granted, the huge
sacrifice all people who enlisted have made for this great country of ours,
whether they returned or made the supreme sacrifice.
Personally, my family name, Morton, stands proudly
four times on Shire remembrance lists, from various theatres, and I hope and
pray that there is no need for it to appear again.
Geoff Morton OAM
Read a sample:
On 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany for
violating Belgian neutrality. Australia followed and sent troops in October
1914. Australians departed by ship for Gallipoli peninsula, with troops from New
Zealand, Britain, and France. The Australians landed at what became known as
Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. The troops were evacuated on 19 and 20 December
After Gallipoli the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF)
was organised in Egypt and expanded from two to five infantry divisions, all of
which were progressively transferred to France, beginning in March 1916.
The AIF Mounted Division that had served as
additional infantry during the Gallipoli campaign remained in the Middle East.
In July 1916, Australian infantry were introduced to
the Western Front combat at Fromelles, where they suffered 5533 casualties in 48
hours. By the end of the year about 40,000 Australians had been killed or
wounded on the Western Front. In 1917, a further 76,836 Australians became
casualties in battles such as Bullecourt, Messines, and the four-month campaign
around Ypres, known as the Battle of Passchendaele.
The Allied offensive, beginning on 8 August at
Amiens, also contributed to Australian successes at Mon St Quentin and Peronne
and the capture of the Hindenburg Line. In early October, the Australian
divisions withdrew from the Front for rest and refitting; they were preparing to
return when Germany surrendered on 11 November 1918.
The Australians in the Middle East fought a mobile
war against the Ottoman Empire and the German Army. Casualties were
comparatively light, with 1394 Australians killed or wounded in three years of
This campaign began in 1916, with Australian troops
participating in the defence of the Suez Canal and the Allied reconquest of the
Sinai Peninsula. In the following year Australian and other Allied troops
advanced into Palestine and captured Gaza and Jerusalem; by 1918 they had
occupied Lebanon and Syria. On 30th October 1918 Turkey sued for
In 1915, Winston Churchill was a MP and Cabinet
Minister in the British Government. He resigned as Minister and joined the
frontline troops as Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the
Austrian born Adolf Hitler was a dispatch runner for
the German Army on the Western Front, later being awarded the German Iron Cross
Closer to home, after the declaration of war on 5
August 1914, the most immediate military threats lay to Australia’s north in
German New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea) and on Thursday Island in the Torres
Strait. The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) was formed
in Sydney to disable German wireless radio transmitters in the South Pacific.
The Kennedy Regiment Group was requested to join. The
group consisted of 1000 men aged between 18 and 60 who were mainly volunteers
from North Queensland rifle clubs.
They departed Townsville on the Kanowna on 8
August 1914, (three days after Australia pledged support for Britain) and
stopped in Cairns to pick up final volunteers before continuing to the garrison
on Thursday Island. Five hundred men then volunteered to sail on to New Guinea
and wait for the Sydney ANMEF. These men had to wait three weeks before the main
ANMEF arrived in Port Moresby.
When the ANMEF arrived the Fleet Commander, Colonel W
Holmes, declared the troops from North Queensland unfit for service, including
the person commanding these troops who was lacking in military experience and
self-reliance. The troops were equipped with only one set of clothing, which
they had been wearing for weeks without a change due to insufficient water. They
had no bunks or hammocks, and were sleeping on the deck of the ship. They had no
mess tables so they had to collect their food from the kitchen and sit on the
decks to eat it. Colonel W Holmes ordered the Kanowna to return to
Australia and the troops disbanded. The Kennedy Regiment Group became known as
the “Dirty 500”.
This is a very unusual and unique story about
Australia’s first involvement and action in World War One. It’s a North
Queensland story and it is about the small communities that came together, as
they had felt they needed to help protect Australia and were anxious to go and
“The Dirty 500” is being remembered now after over
100 years. Although not engaged in combat, they chose to serve Australia and
leave their communities and loved ones behind, not knowing what lay ahead.
Approximately 500,000 of the horses known as Walers
were dispatched from Australia between 1861 and the 1940s to the Indian and
British Armies, the Crimean War, the Boer War, Egypt and the Australian Light
They were mainly bred from blood, draught and pony
breeds, were 14 or 15 hands high and broken in at an early age. The Australian
Troopers and these great horses carried a load exceeding 130 kg which included
the trooper, saddle, saddle cloth, bridle, head collar, lead rope, a horseshoe
case with one front and one hind shoe, nails, rations for horse and trooper, a
bedroll, change of clothing, a rifle and 90 rounds of .303 ammunition. Over
60,000 horses were dispatched with the Australian Forces for the Boer War, and
it was during this period that the British Army coined the phrase “Walers” for
the Australian-bred horses.
…“16 November 1917 – The operation had now
continued for 17 days practically without cessation, and a rest was absolutely
necessary, especially for the horses. The Cavalry Division had covered nearly
… And their horses had been watered on an average
of once in every 36 hours… The heat, too, had been intense and the short
rations, 9 lb of grain per day without bulk food, had weakened them greatly.
Indeed, the hardship endured by some horses was almost incredible. One of the
batteries of the Australian Mounted Division had only been able to water its
horses three times in the last nine days – the actual intervals being 68, 72 and
76 hours respectively. Yet this battery on its arrival had lost only eight
horses from exhaustion, not counting those killed in action or evacuated
The majority of the horses in the Corps were
Walers and there is no doubt that these hardy Australian horses make the finest
cavalry mounts in the world”.
LT Col RMP Preston DSO
The most famous of all feats of the Waler Horses and
their Troopers was the Light Horse charge on Beersheba in Palestine in 1917. The
horses were without water for 48 hours in the hot Sinai Desert and they
undertook a four-kilometre charge across the burning plains and sand under
Turkish gunfire to take Beersheba and its water wells.
James Rutherford joined Cobb & Co in 1861. Born in
New York, Rutherford was a successful horse dealer. By 1876 Rutherford and Cobb
& Co owned Davenport Downs Station in the Diamantina Shire. Davenport Downs
Station was used for breeding horses for the colossal operation of Cobb & Co,
running up to 8000 head. These horses were known as “Coachers”, 14 or 15 hands,
broken in early and put to work from 18 months old and would give seven to eight
years of service. They were expected to walk at a rate of six km an hour, trot
at 10 km an hour and canter at 13 km an hour. As Cobb & Co change stations were
between 20 km and 40 km apart it was essential that all horses could last the
distance while pulling a heavily-laded coach under all different weather and
track conditions from sand, rock, inclines and at times, a boggy wet
During World War One many of these “Coachers” become
“Walers” and were dispatched to the Front during the war years. Their services
were treasured for ideal mounts and for hauling guns, ambulance wagons and
At the end of World War One these horses had been
killed in action, sold to other armies or shot by a “trooper’s mate”, rather
than leave their old companion behind.
I don’t think I could stand the thought of my old
Just crawling round old Cairo with a ‘Gyppo on his
Perhaps some English tourist out in Palestine may
My broken-hearted Waler with a wooden plough behind.
No: I think I’d better shoot him and tell a little
“He floundered in a wombat hole and then lay down to
Maybe I’ll get court-martialled; but I’m damned if
To go back to Australia and leave my horse behind.
Australian in Palestine 1918
Of the entire number of horses dispatched overseas
only one returned – “Sandy” belonging to Major General Sir William Bridges.