More than 100 years after his death, a previously unidentified soldier from the First World War will have a headstone bearing his name and service details provided at his final resting place in the Australian Imperial Force Burial Ground in Flers, France.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Private Charles Gage, a member of the 56th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force had been identified thanks to researchers from Fallen Diggers Incorporated, Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
‘Private Gage hailed from Eugowra in New South Wales and was of Aboriginal descent through his mother Mary. After enlisting in February 1916, Private Gage joined the 56th Battalion in France on 2 December 1916, but tragically the next day he was killed by shellfire as he travelled to join his unit on the front line,’ said Mr Chester.
Indigenous Australians have served our nation in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations since the Boer War in South Africa from 1899–1902
‘Private Gage was one of the first Aboriginal Australians to die on the Western Front, and at the time, his brother who was serving in the 54th Battalion erected an unnamed grave marker indicating that Private Gage was a soldier of the 56th Battalion.
‘Researchers have determined that the only soldier in the 56th Battalion to die on 3 December 1916 with a brother in the 54th Battalion, was Private Gage.’
Private Gage’s brother, Lance Corporal Christopher Gage, was killed during the Battle of Polygon Wood in September 1917 and is buried at the New Irish Farm Cemetery, Ypres.
‘Indigenous Australians have served our nation in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations since the Boer War in South Africa from 1899–1902. It’s estimated that at least 1,000 Indigenous Australians served in the First World War, despite regulations that discouraged their enlistment,’ Mr Chester said.
‘The deaths of the Gage brothers are symbolic of the tremendous service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women have made in defence of our country or more than a century.’
It’s estimated that at least 1,000 Indigenous Australians served in the First World War, despite regulations that discouraged their enlistment
Mr Chester thanked the researchers from Fallen Diggers Incorporated, Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the identification of Private Gage.
‘In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the work of Fallen Diggers Incorporated. Private Gage is the 27th previously unknown Australian First World War soldier the group has helped identify, bringing closure to the families of our fallen, and allowing us all to know the name and history of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.’
In consultation with Private Gage’s descendants, the Australian Army, Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Office of Australian War Graves will make arrangements to replace the previously unmarked headstone with one bearing his name and service details.
Private Gage’s service records are available at: https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=4036372
Further information on Unrecovered War Casualties is available on the Army’s website: www.army.gov.au/our-work/unrecovered-war-casualties/