In August 1916, Private Douglas Grant departed Australia on a troop carrier bound for the United Kingdom. Like thousands of other young Australian men, Grant had signed up for the AIF and wound up fighting in the trenches on the Western Front in France.
The Germans captured Grant in June 1917 and he spent the rest of the war as a POW. The Germans recognised he was quite intelligent, so they put him in charge of Red Cross parcels.
In one letter to the Red Cross, Grant wrote: ”Could I also get a copy each in book form the poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon, Henry Lawson, and Robert Louis Stevenson, or some books of Australian life … something in which to pass away a few leisure moments which are generally filled with longing for home sweet home far across the sea.”
At the end of the war Grant was repatriated to the UK and then returned to Australia.
There is one other critical detail of interest about Grant’s war story: Douglas Grant was an Aborigine.
Grant’s story is one of about 1000 Aboriginal men who served in World War I. These men came from all states and territories, and they served in all theatres of war including Gallipoli, the Western Front and Palestine. Like non-indigenous Anzacs, they too experienced the horrors of war, died on foreign soil, were maimed, suffered shell shock and lived in foreign POW camp
They also forged the bonds of mateship with non-indigenous servicemen