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Jack Alick Bond, a Yuin man from Krawarree, south of Braidwood, was a police tracker before serving in the Boer War. He joined the Second Contingent of the First Australian Horse and arrived in Cape Town, South Africa on the 23rd February 1900. The First Australian Horse advanced to Pretoria and took part in 45 actions ranging from minor skirmishes to battles including engagements at Poplar Grove, Zand River, Diamond Hill, Zilicats Nek, Kameel Drift and the battle of Belfast. Jack was presented his Queen’s South Africa Medal by the Duke of Cornwall and York on 1 June 1901, during the Royal visit to Australia.
Jack was killed in a tram accident on Anzac Parade, Sydney in 1941. For 70 years his unmarked grave lay in Botany Cemetery Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park, Jack's extraordinary life story unknown. The Jack Alick Bond Memorial Grave Committee formed in mid-2020 to raise funds and plan for a grave and ceremony to finally honour him.
On 31 May 2021, 119 years since the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging which ended the Boer War a ceremony was held to dedicate a memorial to Aboriginal Boer War veteran Trooper Jack Alick Bond at his unmarked grave in La Perouse.
Historian Peter Bakker has spent almost a decade researching Jack Bond’s service to enable his story to finally be shared. The following is an extract from Bakker’s publication:
Jack Alick Bond was a Yuin Aboriginal man born in approximately 1872. No birth certificate is known to exist for Jack Alick Bond, nor is it likely to exist, as the birth of Aboriginals was rarely registered in the nineteenth century. While Jack Alick Bond’s 1941 death certificate does exist, it does not record the names of his parents or the date of his birth. His death certificate indicates that his age at death was 68, which together with other evidence indicates that he was born in approximately 1872. The entry of his birthplace as ‘Braidwood’ indicates that he was born in the Braidwood district. Family history records indicate that his birth was in the upper Shoalhaven area, south of Braidwood.
As there are negligible references to his year as a child or teenage years there is extraordinarily little known about his experiences growing up.
It appears that Jack and his nearest sibling, Joseph (aka Joe), moved away from home at an early age and found employment in their teenage years as farm labourers and then later as police trackers. They are both well documented as residing at Krawarree and being valued players in their local cricket team in the 1890s.
It is possible that the elderly police tracker, John Bond (1830-1889), may have taught his grandsons, Jack and Joseph, tribal knowledge and various bush skills in their teenage years which encouraged and assisted them to become police trackers. In Jack’s case, his extensive outdoor experiences and bush skills prepared him well for his application to join the First Australian Horse militia when he was in his late twenties, at the end of the nineteenth century.
When the call went out for volunteers to serve in South Africa there were approximately 3,000 members of the First Australian Horse in various local squadrons scattered throughout south western New South Wales. Of the 3258 members who endeavoured to enlist for overseas service only 143 men were selected. This represents a selection ratio of 1 in 4. The Braidwood newspaper recorded how Jack Alick travelled with other local Braidwood-Araluen are applicants to the army encampment in Sydney for the selection trials. While Jack passed the rigorous testing, several of his white companions did not.
The First Australian Horse (1AH) was part of the First Australian Contingent dispatched for service in South Africa. It was a volunteer colonial militia unit established by Captain J.H.K Mackay and obtained their first enrolments on 28 August 1897. Like their older sibling unit, the New South Wales Lancers, first established in 1883, the 1AH was a true cavalry unit of troopers, rather than a unit of light horsemen who normally dismount to fight. Their cavalry training included shooting while on horseback and charging with the use of sabres. Men volunteering for service with the unit needed to be between 20 and 40 years of age, preferably unmarried, be good horsemen, able to live and work in rough bush conditions and very importantly, be “good shots”.
Jack Alick Bond was notified as having passed the rigorous elimination tests for selection to serve overseas only a fortnight before his ship’s departure for South Africa. Several of his white companions who had not succeeded in passing the tests would reapply to serve in later contingents. While at that time no specific army regulations were preventing an Aboriginal man from enlisting, Jack’s Aboriginality would have been very apparent. It is a credit to the army selectors that he was chosen based on his skills rather than eliminated because of his Aboriginality. Jack’s life in the bush and service as a tracker in the NSW Police had helped him develop the high level of skills in riding, shooting and drill that earned him a place to serve with the First Australian Horse in South Africa.
The Second Contingent of the 1AH which Jack Alick Bond joined, was a small unit of fewer than 150 men who all had some degree of former militia training. Jack’s companions for the next 16 months came from a diverse range of backgrounds from various locations scattered across south eastern NSW.
Jack arrived in Cape Town, South Africa on 23 February 1900 and the First Australian Horse were ordered immediately on to the Modder River where they joined up with the First Contingent on 3 March 1900. The First Contingent had participated in two months of active service before the arrival of Jack Alick with the Second Contingent and suffered at various actions in Cape Colony.
The combined units of the First Australian Horse proceeded to Ossfontein where they joined with the famous Royal Scots Greys on 6 March to serve in British General John French’s cavalry division. The next day Jack took part in his first major battle at Poplar Grove.
As the war dragged on the day-to-day conditions became increasingly demanding both physically and mentally. On many occasions, Jack and his mates spent very cold nights sleeping out in the open without tents and on only meagre food rations. Their horses were in constant need of replacement by remounts due to so many of them dying of exhaustion and injuries.
Within a month of arrival, Jack would hear of the death of one of his friends from Krawarree, Private Thomas Smith of Enteric fever. This disease and other sicknesses were the cause of more Australian deaths during the Boer War than those killed in action or wounds received in battle. Jack himself suffered from a bout of enteric but was lucky to survive. In a letter home to his friend George Larkins, while recovering from Enteric fever, Jack complained that he had had enough of this war and wanted to return home
I haven’t space enough to go into details of all the fighting, &c I have been through, but will give you all particulars when I return home, which I hope won’t be long, as I reckon it has lasted quite long enough…
While Jack would not have been involved in every action of his unit, his cavalry unit was recorded in 45 engagements with the Boers in many diverse locations that included Dreifontein, Bloemfontein, Kroonstad, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Diamond Hill and Wonderfontein in a period of just over 11 months.
In mid-December 1901, Jack Alick Bond and his fellow troopers were ordered to Machadodorp where they were glad to team up with fellow Australians from some Queensland and South Australian contingents to be engaged in patrolling the vital railway supply line from the Cape Colony to the south. Near the end of their campaign, they completed a fast action near Belfast in February 1901. For their swift success in this important work, General Kitchener, the British commander in the Boer War, sent a personal message of congratulations to the First Australian Horse for their gallant conduct.
On 25 February 1901, Jack’s squadron boarded trains at Middelberg for Pretoria and then the long slow rail journey south towards Cape Town. They were not long in the Cape colony’s capital before they embarked and departed on the S.S. Tongariro on 31 March. After near one and half years of service, they arrived back in Sydney on 2 May 1901. Upon his discharge from his unit, Jack wasted little time before returning to Braidwood and the green hills and valleys of the upper Shoalhaven. A warm reception awaited Trooper Jack and his travelling companion, Trooper Patrick Sullivan on their arrival in Braidwood
On Wednesday night some twenty townspeople met at the Albion Hotel to welcome Troopers Sullivan and Alick on their return home from the war, the Mayor presiding… Mr Henry, the proprietor of the hotel, issued the invitations, and in the liberal spirit which he has always envisaged on entertaining at his sole expense the returned soldiers provided the wine and refreshments, including cigars…
The Mayor, Mr Alderman Higgins, proposed the health of the guests, congratulating them upon their safe return home, and expressing the pleasure it gave him and the others present to welcome them back home again.
The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal, Saturday 11 May 1902, page 2.
The ceremony for distributing medals to returned Boer War veterans in NSW tool place on 1 June 1901 at Government House in Sydney. Amongst the members of the First Australian Horse to personally receive their Queen’s South Africa Medal from the Duke of Cornwall and York (and the future King George V) was Jack Alick Bond. While not all eligible veterans were present at this ceremony, newspapers, and the official medal list record that Jack Alick was present. The official list identifies Jack Alick as a member of the First Australian Horse prior to his enlisting for service in South Africa. If this is correct, then Jack Alick may have the distinction, along with Private 397 Frank Leighton Sinclair of the First NSW Mounted Rifles to be the second Aboriginals to have served in an Australian military unit. The earlies known Aboriginal soldier is Jerome Locke, A Darug man, who served in the Windsor Volunteer Corps in Sydney c. 1889.
It appears that Jack’s experience in South Africa did not deter him from enlisting for further military service. After the Commonwealth of Australia was established on 1 January 1901, the Federal Government took over responsibility for defence from the colonies. It was decided that all future battalions sent to South Africa would contain representatives from several different states to reflect the federal nature of the force. Jack joined the First Australian Commonwealth Horse on 20 January 1902.
We are fortunate the National Archives of Australia has a good collection of attestations for those who served in the Australian Commonwealth Horse Battalions.
The single-sided form provides several valuable pieces of information. Jack’s previous service in the First Australian Horse is recorded to have been for one and a half years’ service. He is describes as having a distinct vaccination mark on his left arm, near his shoulder. This was most likely to have been gained from his vaccination upon his first enlistment. Jack stated he was 28 years of age, which appears to be an estimate but combined with other historical information helps confirm his birth year as being in the early 1870s.
An “X” has been placed in both locations where a ‘signature’ was normally required and surrounding these “X” marks are the words “his mark”. This indicates Jack could not write and therefore the recruiting officer has accepted his enlistment.
From both his physical description and the two photographs we have of him in military uniform, Jack was distinctly dark and of Aboriginal appearance. It is apparent that on both the occasions that he enlisted, that Jack’s Aboriginality did not prevent him from enlisting.
Jack’s second tour in South Africa, while of shorter duration than his first tour, still saw plenty of active military service. The First Australian Commonwealth Horse left Sydney on the transport ship Custodian on 18 February 1902 and disembarked at Durban on 19 March 1902. The unit consisted of 21 officers and 354 ‘other ranks’ under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Lyster. The contingent proceeded by train from Durban to Klerksdorp via Newcastle where upon their arrival they became part of a mounted column under the command of Colonel De Lisle. Their main tasks were to clear the district north of Klerksdorp of enemy Boer commandos.
As a result of Lord Kitchener’s combined strategies of a scorched-earth policy and the constructing lines of blockhouses to limit the movement of the Boers, the De Lisle’s Column was able to capture 251 Boer prisoners, including General De la Rey’s brother along with 300 horses and vast quantities of weapons and food supplies.
On the departure of Colonel De Lisle for England, Jack’s military ‘column” was placed under Colonel Williams and it began to retrace its journey back to Klerksdorp, arriving there on 21 May 1902. With the signing of the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging ending the war, on 31 May 1902, Jack and his fellow Australians began their long journey back to Australia. First, the contingent rode to Elandsfontein from where they went by rail to Newcastle, arriving on 29 June, and then on to Durban on 9 July. The number of the First Australian Commonwealth Horse departing was reduced due to the deaths of four men during service and 20 men who had chosen to remain in South Africa. This meant that Jack Alick, with the remaining 329 troopers and their 21 officers, boarded the transport ship, Drayton Grange, at Durban for departure on 11 July. With more than 2000 aboard, she was wildly overcrowded and in the unsanitary conditions, compounded by bad weather and inadequate medical facilities, disease spread. Seventeen of those on board died and 234 suffered from life-threatening illness by the time they arrived back in Sydney on 11 August.
Having survived the dangers of war, Enteric fever, and the disastrous Drayton Grange voyage. Jack’s return to Braidwood was an anti-climax compared to his celebrated ‘heroes’ reception in Braidwood after his first tour of duty in May 1901.
Apart from Jack and fellow Braidwood veterans having their names in lists produced by the press, there is a distinct lack of reference in the local Braidwood newspapers to homecoming celebrations in the local town halls or hotels to honour their return from overseas service.
Many of the remaining Aborigines of the Braidwood area migrated towards Aboriginal communities either on or close to Aboriginal reserved that had been along the south coast.
Jack’s mother Ellen moved to Wallaga lake by 1903. Ellen was accompanied or later joined by Jack’s siblings, William Henry, James ‘Jim’, Andy and Joseph Bond and Gwendoline Mary ‘Linno’ Ahoy.
In 1906 Ellen married Sam Haddigaddy and moved to Stanthorpe in Queensland. Charlie Ahoy moved to Moruya by 1920 and then relocated to La Perouse. Shortly before his death (1961) Charlie moved inland to Armidale,
After returning from the Boer War, Joseph and Jack Alick Bond stayed only a few short years around Krawarree and Majors Creek. Finding his family beginning to move away from the Braidwood are, Jack alternated between the Aboriginal Communities of La Perouse and Wallaga Lake and appears to take on the life of a nomad.
Jack Alick applied to enlist at Tilba Tilba (near Wallaga Lake) on 13 September 1918. His service records do not show him allocated to a unit or rejected for service. There is the possibility that after reporting for duty on 14 October 1918, Jack served briefly in a Depot battalion but was shortly thereafter dismissed due to the conclusion of the war.
Records of Jack Alick Bond’s activities and location after the First World War are very few. The NSW Electoral Rolls show that Jack was living at Wallaga Lake in 1936 and then at Tarragaenda (near Bega, NSW) in 1937. In the late 1930s, Jack returned to Sydney and was living as an aged pensioner on the Aboriginal mission at La Perouse.
Jack Alick was killed when run over by a tram on Anzac Parade on Tuesday 4 November 1941. A coroner’s report detailed the extent of his terrible injuries.
Two small inserts in the Public Notices section of a major Sydney daily newspapers are the only records found to date recording the funeral and burial of Jack Alick. The President and Secretary of Sydney’s South African Soldiers Association acknowledged Jack’s military service and requested its members to attend his funeral.
Recent decades have seen a significant change in Australian cultural values and practices which have brought on the desire by many Australians to recognises the injustices suffered by Aboriginal people and to acknowledge the contributions they have made in Australian history.
There is regular representation of Aboriginal service personnel at military ceremonial events. Memorials specifically recognising the contributions of Aboriginal men and women, both at home and overseas are being established in ever state and territory. Information is being published in books and magazines and presented in exhibitions, film, and theatre and on the internet. Braidwood RSL’s website includes details on Jack Alick Bond, Andy Bond, and William Henry Bond.
Jack Alick Bond’s life and service were honoured at a large public ceremony and memorial grave dedication in Sydney on 31 May 2021