Home' Army News : July 18th 2013 Contents PTE REGINALD HAWKINS
Army July 18, 2013
Sgt Dave Morley
AN ABORIGINAL digger who
arrived at Gallipoli just in time to
take part in the December 1915 evac-
uation had an interesting war ahead
Back in Egypt, Tpr Alfred
Cameron, of the South Australian
3rd Light Horse, 8th Reinforcements,
made up for his lack of action at
Gallipoli by volunteering for the
Composite Australian Light Horse
The newly-raised regiment was
part of the hastily assembled Western
Frontier Force following an upris-
ing by the Berber tribes in the North
One of these tribes, the Senussi,
based at the Egyptian Oasis at Siwa,
was engaged in a guerrilla war
against the Italians, who took the
province of Libya from Turkey in
Fuelled by German money and
Turkish encouragement, the Senussi
rebelled against the British in western
Egypt, with fears the uprising could
spread throughout the country.
A number of composite units were
raised from all available formations
then in Egypt until regular units could
be found to pursue the Senussi.
The CO of the newly formed
Composite Australian Light Horse
Regiment was Maj Dudley Pelham.
While many of the unit’s officers
and men were inexperienced and had
only limited training before arriving
in Egypt, a number of Boer War vet-
erans and militiamen bolstered their
One of these was Capt John
Bisdee, who had won the Victoria
Cross as a trooper with the 1st
Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen in
Following a number of short,
sharp and bloody engagements out of
Mersa Matruh, later to become well-
known to the 2nd AIF, the Senussi
threat was weakened, but continued
to fester until 1918.
When the Composite Australian
Light Horse Regiment was disbanded
on February 9, 1916, disappearing
into history, Tpr Cameron trans-
ferred to the 1st Light Horse Brigade
Machine Gun Squadron.
The 1st Light Horse Brigade
continued operations as part of the
Western Frontier Force covering
Baharia Oasis until May 11, 1916,
when the brigade was redeployed to
the Suez front.
Tpr Cameron, a former labourer
from Meningie, enlisted on January
15, 1915, and returned to Australia on
May 15, 1919.
Making their mark in Great War
OF THE more than 3000
Aborigines who served in the
Australian forces in WWII, Sgt
Reg Saunders stands out as one
of the most well-known.
Both his father and uncle
served in WWI.
His uncle, Pte Reg Rawlings,
after who he was named, was
awarded a Military Medal for his
part in an action on the night of
July 28-29, 1918, at Morlancourt
Ridge with the 29th Bn AIF.
Pte Rawlings was killed in
action during the capture of
Vauvillers shortly after, on August
Following this tradition, Reg
Saunders and his brother Harry
enlisted for service in the 2nd AIF.
Harry was later killed in action
on the Kokoda Track and his story
was told in the 1999 short film
Reg became a well-respected
and popular NCO with the 2/7 Bn,
serving in North Africa, Greece
He was left behind during the
evacuation of Crete and spent a
year hiding out, aided by locals,
before being finally evacuated by
Sgt Saunders rejoined his
battalion in New Guinea but in
late 1944 returned to Australia to
Australia’s best known Aboriginal soldier proved himself as a leader in two wars,
Sgt Dave Morley reports.
Ahead of his time
BORN in Queensland and raised in
Goulburn, Aboriginal digger Pte Bill
Punch embarked from Sydney on
HMAT Ceramic on April 14, 1916,
with the 17th Reinforcements of
the 1st Bn.
He was well-educated, an
accomplished musician and
employed as a stockman before
Pte Punch saw action in
Belgium and was wounded on
September 7, 1916.
He was again wounded in
France on April 5, 1917, and evacu-
ated to the Mont Dore Hospital in
An Australian nurse, Sister
Constance O’Shea, nursed him but
he died of pneumonia and endocar-
ditis on August 29, 1917, aged 37.
He was admired by all his mates
and regarded as a “dinkum digger”.
digger from Jericho in
Queensland, who enlisted
in the AIF at 23, had his
war service suddenly
interrupted on the night of
February 14, 1917.
Pte Reginald Hawkins of
the 42nd Bn was in a trench
near Armentieres when the
Germans launched a night
He was wounded in the
left leg and right side of his
head by a shell.
The Germans got into
the 42nd Bn trench but
were ejected after a brief
Pte Hawkins and
another digger were found
to be missing, believed
He was repatriated to
England in January 1919,
after being held in several
POW camps in Germany,
arriving back in Australia in
Before enlisting Pte
Hawkins was a buck jump
rider in a travelling show.
PTE BILL PUNCH
attend an officer training course.
He was commissioned as
a lieutenant, becoming the first
full-blood Aborigine to be com-
missioned as an officer in the
Lt Saunders worked as a
tram conductor after the war but
returned to the Army when a call
went out for volunteers for the
He served in Korea from
November 6, 1950, until
November 5, 1951.
As a captain, he led C Coy,
3RAR, through some particular-
ly fierce fighting, including the
Battle of Kapyong in April 1951.
He left the Army a year after
returning from the Korean War
and became a spokesman for
A man of dignity and good
humour, Reg Saunders was
selected in 1969 to be among the
first Aboriginal Liaison Officers
for the Office of Aboriginal
In 1971, he was appointed
a Member of the Order of the
British Empire (MBE) for his
He died in 1990, aged 69.
in the camp
BORN on Palm Island in Far North Queensland in June
1945, Bill Coolburra joined the Army and finished his
corps training at the School of Military Engineering in
Spr Coolburra was first posted to 1 Fld Sqn and
served with them in Borneo for six months.
He deployed to Vietnam in 1965-66, and Malaya in
1967-68, then Singapore in 1971-73.
In Vietnam, Spr Coolburra served with the original
tunnel rats, the legendary 3 Fld Tp and then with their
replacement unit 1 Fld Sqn.
He was wounded twice in Vietnam: through asphyxi-
ation in a tunnel at Ho-Bo Woods in January, 1966, and
then wounded by a booby trap in March.
Universally loved by his mates, Bill was known for
his good nature and infectious laugh. He spent a total of
16 years in the Army.
Sandy McGregor, Bill’s former CO at 3 Fld Tp,
remembered him as a peacemaker who stopped many
a “dust-up” between African-American engineers and
Australian sappers in the wet canteen.
“He was a man of good nature, courage, compassion,
humility and humour,’’ Mr McGregor said.
“I remember the times Bill would come back to camp
at Bien Hoa after a day’s leave – laughing, singing, bare-
foot, with his boots around his neck.’’
Bill was highly respected in the North Queensland
community for his support and mentoring of indigenous
Over the years he actively encouraged youth partici-
pation in sport as a pathway to a healthy and purposeful
The Bill Coolburra Shield started in 2008 as a way of
strengthening the relationship between the Indigenous
community of Palm Island and the Army.
Bill died in October, 2009, and is buried on Palm
More than 500 people attended his funeral, where he
was honoured with a three-volley salute fired by sappers
Spr Coolburra is survived by his wife Edna, children
Zita, William, Jason, Gail and Ralph, along with his
grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
High achiever: Lt Reg Saunders and Lt
Tom Derrick congratulate each other after
graduating officer training.
Pte Reginald Hawkins
Spr Bill Coolburra
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