Honouring Indigenous War Graves
The following information compiled by Donna Bradley tells the story of one of the Indigenous war veterans of Western Australia, John Fitzgerald, whose grave had gone unmarked. A ceremony was held on Saturday 8th November 2008 at 1:00 pm at Karrakatta Cemetery when the Honouring Indigenous War Graves organisation placed a headstone on his final resting place. Sadly there is no known photograph of John. The image on this page is of his brother Cecil. John was one of three boys in the same family (the other brother was Raymond) who served in both WWI and WWII.
SAPPER JOHN FITZGERALD 8275 – 2nd Tunnelling Company©Donna Baldey 2008 (written with the assistance of HIWG)
Born York, Western Australia, 28 year old Farm Hand John Fitzgerald of Quairading, Western Australia applied to enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 13 June 1917 in Perth, Western Australia, having completed a medical examination and been found to be ‘fit for active service’ on the same day. He duly placed his Mark on the Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad, and on the Oath to ‘well and truly serve’.
John Fitzgerald was 5ft 8½in tall and weighed 182lbs. He had a dark complexion, dark eyes and black hair. He named as his Next of Kin his father, John Fitzgerald of Quairading, Western Australia
He was appointed to D3 Depot with the rank of Private on 2 July, and on 13 July was posted to the 12th Reinforcements for the 2nd Pioneer Battalio
On 1 August at Blackboy Hill, Western Australia, he was appointed to the Tunnellers Coys and transferred to the 1st (Depot) Battalion, A.I.F. at Broadmeadows, Victoria on 24 August. John underwent Tunnellers training at their camp at Bendigo, Victoria, between 1 October and 26 November, and was appointed to the June Reinforcements on 31 October 1917.
He embarked at Melbourne, Victoria on 26 November 1917 on board SS Indarra with 130 members of the June 1917 Reinforcements for the Tunnelling Companies already on the Western Front in France.
The Indarra stopped at Port Said on 27 December and the Tunnellers transferred to HMT Kashgar on 9 January, leaving Port Said the same day and arriving at Toranto, Italy on 20 January. The Tunnellers immediately entrained for Bordighera, Italy, arriving there on 27 January.
On 28 January John was admitted to the 62nd General Hospital in Bordighera with measles, a disease he had contracted whilst en route for England.
It is not clear how John got from hospital in Italy to France, but we find that on 20 March 1918 he was admitted to the 52nd Stationary Hospital (isolation) at Havre, France with mumps. On 11 April he was transferred to 4th Convalescent Depot at Havre and on 22 April he joined the Australian General Base Depot. He was transferred to England, presumably for recovery leave, arriving at Southampton 5 May and on 14 May 1918 he proceeded overseas to France from the No.3 Details Company, Parkhouse, Southampton.
He marched in to the Australian General Base Depot on 15 May 1918 and was transferred to the 2nd Australian Tunnelling Company, where he was taken on strength on 20 May 1918.
John reported sick on 18 July 1918 and was admitted to 12th General Hospital, France on 24 July where he was treated for a Furuncle (boil) on his side. He was discharged to the Australian General Base Depot on 27 July, rejoining his unit on 10 August.
25 November found John admitted to the 3rd General Hospital with influenza, not able to rejoin his unit until 3 January 1919. On 26 February he was admitted to 20 Casualty Clearing Station again suffering with influenza. He was transferred to 83rd General Hospital on 7 March and again rejoined his unit on 22 March.
John Fitzgerald left France on 30 May 1919 and marched into No.2 Group at Sutton Veny on 31 March. He left England on 12 July on board the City of Exeter for his return to Australia, disembarking in Sydney, NSW on 16 August 1919.
A pre-discharge medical conducted at No.8 Australian General Hospital, Fremantle found John had suffered no wounds or injuries and no illness on Service. The Soldiers Statement of present condition: ‘alright’.
8275 Sapper John Fitzgerald was discharged from the A.I.F. in the 5th Military District on 9 September 1919. He was entitled to wear the British War Medal (21258) and the Victory Medal (20175).
John Fitzgerald died in 1936 and lay in an unmarked grave in York, Western Australia, until 21 December when the Honouring Indigenous War Graves organisation, through donations, placed a headstone on his final resting place.
The ceremony to raise John’s headstone was a combination of military and traditional cultures, attended by his family and by representatives of the Sapper Association, Western Australian and the 10th Light Horse Commemoration Troop.