Australia and New Zealand’s World War One heroes remembered

An Australian Army soldier salutes at an ANZAC Day dawn service [Via]

On the centenary of Anzac Day, commemorations have taken place around the world. But nowhere are the troops more remembered than in Australia and New Zealand.

Every year Australians and New Zealanders mark April 25th with remembrance to all those troops who headed off to the coast of Gallipoli to tackle the southern line of World War One.

It was an offensive that took the lives of thousands of soldiers on both sides.

In particular, Australia and New Zealand’s Indigenous heroes are being remembered, since most of their stories remain a mystery.

Robert and George Kirby [Via]

One of those soldiers was Richard Norman Kirby. He lived in rural New South Wales and today his family remember and commemorate his service for his country. Richard first served at Gallipoli and then after a period of illness, he re-joined his squadron in France.

He was promoted to Lance Corporal during that time, but died on the battle field with a gunshot in his neck.

Before he was killed, Kirby took part in battles in the Somme and on one occasion held off enemy advance by manning two machine guns on his own. Once back up arrived, Richard continued to fight from the trenches and only a few hours later was shot. He was taken to a military hospital, and survived for another nine days, but finally died from his injuries.

He died only a few months before the end of the war.


Richard was honoured with a Distinguished Conduct Medal and received a letter thanking him for his service from King George V. However, Richard’s story remained untold until now, since Indigenous Australians weren’t allowed to join the Australian Army at the time.

Richard’s family say that he didn’t look very Indigenous and so wouldn’t have told the authorities when he enlisted.

Indigenous Australians have been part of the armed services throughout conflicts in the past century, from the Boer War to the Middle East. In the early 1900s it was against the law, but some army recruiters ignored the rule or were unaware when recruiting them. Today Australia and New Zealand’s armed services welcome recruits from their Indigenous populations, the BBC News reports.

Richard also had two brothers who enlisted just like him, Robert and George Kirby. Their stories also remained untold until now. When one of the brothers’ elderly relatives moved into a nursing and they recovered the brothers’ medals from her belongings, the family took them to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra so that they would be remembered along with the thousands of other soldiers who gave their lives for their country. Until that point, the brothers’ names were not included on any memorials or dedications to World War One soldiers.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE