OUR INDIGENOUS SOLDIERS | 'My uncles who served in WWI'

Albert Edmund Leane, known as Bert, was born on March 10 in 1898 at Holsworthy, to Edmund and Ellen Leane.

Albert applied to enlist at 18 on January 13, 1916 at Casula, having the written consent of his father. He’d put up his age to get accepted. The application was filled out in the name Albert Edward Leane.

Albert began his training with B Company Depot Battalion before being allotted to No 4 Tunnelling Company. He left for England in May 1916. His ship was to collect troops in Melbourne before heading on to Plymouth but for reasons now lost to time, he failed to reboard at Melbourne. 

Judy Joyce, who wrote this story. "My family belongs to the Cabrogal (Liverpool) clan of the Darug nation," she says. "Most of my relatives were born in the Liverpool area, including my father, and probably some would still live there only the Army took over three farms owned by family members."

Judy Joyce, who wrote this story. "My family belongs to the Cabrogal (Liverpool) clan of the Darug nation," she says. "Most of my relatives were born in the Liverpool area, including my father, and probably some would still live there only the Army took over three farms owned by family members."

He re-enlisted in Victoria for service abroad, using the name Albert Edmund Leane. Because he enlisted twice, there are two service records for him, one in each name, and two different service numbers. This is a good example of the importance of keeping an open mind about names and places when searching for records.

Albert’s service continued to July 4, 1918 when he was wounded in action at Villers-Bretonneux in northern France, getting shell wounds in his thigh and chest.

He was carried out of battle by four Americans and ended up at the casualty-clearing station from where he was transferred to England 16 days later to recover in hospital.

Albert was known as 'Darkie' by his AIF friends and the boomerang given to him references his Aboriginality. He was a Darug man from the Liverpool area.

Peace was declared shortly after his stay in hospital. In 1918, Albert got a letter from Buckingham Palace thanking him for his service and wishing him a quick recovery and a safe voyage home: Among his possessions, now held by his family, is a boomerang given to him in connection with his war service. Inscribed on the boomerang are about 20 signatures but these are hard to decipher.

Objects can help tell the stories of servicemen and women. This boomerang was signed by all the men in his platoon and inscribed “5 Platoon 149 GST Company AIF”. The meaning and timing of the boomerang is unclear, though it’s known boomerangs were a popular motif in WWI and WWII as they symbolised returning.

Albert was known as “Darkie” by his AIF friends and the boomerang given to him also references his Aboriginality. Albert was of Indigenous heritage, a Darug man of the Liverpool area.

He kept a diary throughout the war, from the time he enlisted to his discharge. I have a copy of the transcript my brother Fred made from it. I also have a long letter he wrote in 1931 to one a fellow Digger, Dave, which he called “Looking back to WW1 France 1918”.

Albert married Barbara E. Connor on November 12, 1928 in Lower Coldstream in NSW. They had no children but was a much-loved Uncle Bert to all his nieces and nephews. After their marriage Bert and Barb moved to Queensland where he lived until he died on September 1, 1975 in Brisbane at 95.

WilliamArthurLeane, known as Bill, was the eldest son of Edmund William Leane and was born on November 12, 1895 at Holsworthy, He officially enlisted in WWI on September 22, 1915 at 19, though there is a photo of him in military uniform at 17.

He originally listed his father as his next of kin but later changed it to his mother, Ellen Victoria Leane. He was a trainee baker and and was in the fourth year of his apprenticeship to Mr Butler of NorthSydney.

William served in the 18th Infantry, Citizen Military Forces; still serving at time of AIF enlistment. He left Sydney on April 27, 1915 on the HMAS Suffolk.

He served with the 5th Australian Field Bakery, Army Service Corps in Egypt and on the Western Front.

On April 15, 1916 he was appointed Lance-Corporal and on August 4, 1917 was promoted to Corporal.

He headed back to Australia aboard the Sardinia, leaving England on April 19, 1919. He was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

During the war he was gassed which probably contributed to his early death, at 42. He died on October 12, 1938 at Rozelle and was buried in Northern Suburbs Cemetery at Ryde.

09/11/18: Author photo and caption added

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