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diamantina remembers

For Australia, the First World War remains the costliest conflict in terms of deaths and casualties. From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, of whom more than 60,000 were killed, 156,000 wounded or gassed, and 4044 taken prisoner of war, of which 397 died in captivity. Women provided the essential medical and other assistance throughout the conflicts including the Middle East, Western Front and on the Hospital Ships. 

Queensland, at the commencement of the Great War, had a population of fewer than 600,000, with nearly 55,000 enlisting. 

The War left a devastating effect on mothers, fathers, wives and other family members, as well as communities in which they lived; this effect was felt for many years after the cessation of hostilities.    

This book combines the historic story with images and documents of the Great War, with a timeline of the individual enlistee throughout his service to King and Country. 

Images and documents, of which some are over 100 years old, have been skilfully copied to improve clarity by the publisher. 

This book is dedicated to all the enlistees from the Diamantina Shire that volunteered for service during the past wars and hostilities.  

Brian Mooney 


Lest We Forget

In Store Price: $32.95 
Online Price:   $31.95



Ebook version - $AUD9.00 upload.

Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 270
Genre: Non

Cover: Clive Dalkins




Author: Diamantina Shire Council
Researched and Compiled byBrian Mooney
Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2017
Language: English




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 difficult. 

The research provides another chapter into the history of enlistments from the Diamantina Shire during the Great War 1914 - 1918.   

Brian Mooney

Project Researcher




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 to come. 

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 1915.

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 war.

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 peace.

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 Western Front.    

Austrian born Adolf Hitler was a dispatch runner for the German Army on the Western Front, later being awarded the German Iron Cross for Bravery.

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 defend it.

“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 Horse Regiments.

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 170 miles…

… 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 wounded.

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 environment.

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 supplies.

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 fancy hack

Just crawling round old Cairo with a ‘Gyppo on his back.

Perhaps some English tourist out in Palestine may find

My broken-hearted Waler with a wooden plough behind.


No: I think I’d better shoot him and tell a little lie:-

“He floundered in a wombat hole and then lay down to die.”

Maybe I’ll get court-martialled; but I’m damned if I’m inclined

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.




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