The more I research First World War records, the more I realise that many connections can be made today to one hundred year old material.
An article by Desmond Crump about Private Archibald James Marshall, published on State Library of Queensland’s blog in August 2014, flagged the fact that Queensland State Archives may also hold records about this young Aboriginal man.
Archie enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 5 June 1917 and we know he was at Barambah/Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement around this time. But what other records can help tell his story?
In April 1915, 20 year old Archie was working at Murweh Station via Charleville where he had been shearing sheep. Archie confessed to putting some stones on the railway line on 24 April 1915 “for fun” and was charged with “unlawfully obstructing the free and safe use of a railway”. He was committed for sentence at the Supreme Court Brisbane on 17 May 1915 and received two years imprisonment with hard labour. This sentence was to be suspended “upon the prisoner entering into his own recognisance in the sum of £25 to be of good behaviour for two years”. These conditions can clearly be seen on the first page of the Depositions file of Rex v. Archie Marshall. Archie signed his confession and, interestingly, in this file there is a statement by Billie Elsdale, a Queensland Police Tracker who “fitted the accused’s boots into the tracks which led where the stones were”. Billie (Billy, William) Elsdale enlisted in the AIF at Charleville on 10 September 1915. But more about him in a later blog post.
In the Register of Removals for Barambah Aboriginal Settlement Archie is listed as being sent to Barambah under the First Offender’s Act, arriving on 25 May 1915 in time for him to be listed in the Aboriginal War Census Returns 1915 – 1916. The entry in the Register of Removals says that he was 25, thin, slight and tall – but he was listed as being 20 years old in the court documents.
The framed memorial certificate for Archibald Marshall, 8th Reinforcements, 41st Battalion can be viewed via the Cherbourg Memory (Ration Shed Museum Archive) website. Archie was killed in action in France on 24 April, 1918. Sadly and coincidentally this is exactly 3 years after the ‘stones on the tracks’ incident.
In a copy of Archie’s will dated 11 June 1917 he is described as “a stockman but latterly a member of the AIF” and copies of his will are contained in a Supreme Court file and a Public Curator file. In these files Archie states that he wants to leave his property and effects to Joe Murray.
The relationship between Archie and Joe isn’t clear, but we do know that Joe was at Barambah Settlement for the Aboriginal War Census Returns 1915 – 1916 where he was listed as 31 years old with some money in the bank. Archie records Joe as being at Barambah when he enlisted and wrote his will in 1917.
Correspondence is listed in the Chief Protector of Aboriginals Office, Registers of Inwards Correspondence about the whereabouts of Joe Murray, and in 1923 an entry says that “Private A. Marshall’s war medals etc. will be handed over to Dept. (Department) provided they are carefully preserved and will be returned if demanded”.
In Archie’s war service record (National Archives of Australia) two 1923 letters from the Office of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals, South Brisbane provide additional information:
- Joe Murray, as far as they know, was not related by blood to Archie
- they thank Base Records Office, Melbourne for agreeing to hand over three mementos to the care of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals, South Brisbane.
Can you share additional information about Archie Marshall or Joe Murray?
Thanks to Tilly Geary, Community and Personal Histories, Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs, for providing the research leads for this post.