The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra
|Trooper Jack Bond|
Trooper Jack Alick Bond (AKA John Alick and James Allick) was born in C1872 (exact date not known) at Braidwood NSW, an Aboriginal Australian of the Yuin people.
At the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War he was a member (Regimental number 1063) of the Australian Horse, the only heavy cavalry unit of the New South Wales Military Forces (NSWMF). The unit was armed with .303 single-shot Martini-Enfield carbines and cavalry sabres. The sabres were ideal for engaging cavalry in a melee, as the Boers had no cavalry, the sabres were never used. Prior to their arrival in South Africa, they wore a unique myrtle green uniform, their slouch hats adorned with the black cock's plume of the NSWMF.
Jack Bond volunteered to go into combat with his unit. He was 164 cm tall and could not write, making "his mark" on enlistment papers. Part of the second contingent, he arrived in Cape Town on 23 February 1900 possibly with his own horse. He first saw action at Poplar Grove on 7 March. At that time he avoided the Typhoid that killed many of his compatriots when the army paused for three months at Bloemfontein. Later he was not so lucky.
He left Bloemfontein on 6 May taking part in the battle of the Zand River on 10 May. At the Zand River, his squadron was part of an outflanking force that ultimately caused the main Boer position on the road to Pretoria where it crossed the river to withdraw; two Australian Horsemen lost their lives.
From a letter sent home by Jack form Norvalspont a village 30 km north east of Colesberg on the border of the then Cape Colony and the Orange Free state in September 1900, he said that he caught typhoid at Johannesburg and was laid up for about three months. Norvalspont was also a concentration camp site during the war’s guerrilla phase.
This means he may not have been with the AH when Pretoria fell on 5 June, and on 6 June was part of the force that released the prisoners from the Waterval camp. Ten Australian Horsemen and New South Wales Lancers taken as prisoners after an engagement near Colesberg on 17 January 1900 were held in that camp. Jack’s Squadron then took part in the Battle of Diamond Hill 12 June 1900 when Boer forces were driven off high ground to the east of Pretoria and the guerrilla phase of the war commenced. But he could have been, records were not precise.
Then 'till February 1901, Jack's squadron took part in many engagements in what was then the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State. The final engagement in Jack’s first tour of duty was at Belfast in the Orange Free State on 14 February. The Australian Horse was commended by General Kitchener for their work that day.
On 25 February 1901 his squadron entrained at Middelburg enroute home. Jack Bond arrived in Sydney on 2 May 1901.
Like many soldiers, Jack did not settle. Working as a labourer was not the same as serving on the veldt; so, when volunteers were called for the new Australian Commonwealth's first unit, the First Australian Commonwealth Horse, Jack stood forward, he was enlisted on 20 January 1902 in Sydney as number 356 in C Squadron. There were many in the unit with previous service. They departed Sydney on 18 February 1902 and disembarked in Durban on 19 March. The ACH were to be the blueprint for the Light Horse of World War 1, organised as cavalry, armed with .303 Lee Enfield rifles and bayonets only.
Jack's battalion left Durban by train arriving in Klerksdorp on 13 April. Kitchener inspected the unit of 22 April and was pleased by the appearance of the soldiers and their horses.
The Battalion was involved clearing the district north of the town then took part in a drive commencing 7 May westward to the Kimberley-Mafikeng railway blockhouse line during which General De la Rey's brother was captured.
Back in Klerksdorp on 21 May peace was at hand. The treaty of Vereeniging signed on 31 May saw the Regiment move to Elandsfontein near Johannesburg to make ready for a return home. They left Durban on the ill-feted Drayton Grange arriving in Sydney on 11 August 1902.
For his time in South Africa Jack was definitely awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with Cape Colony and Driefontein clasps. However, if we consider his two tours in country and battles he was known to be part of, he should have been entitled to: the Queen’s South Africa Medal with Orange Free State, Driefontein, Transvaal, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill (?) and Belfast clasps; and the King's South Africa Medal with South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902 clasps.
That was not the end of Jack's military career. He joined the AIF in October 1918, but it was too late to see further action.
He then lived an uneventful life 'till he died, hit by a tram on the track to La Perouse near Sydney in 1941.
During National Reconciliation Week 2021, the Commanding Officer Regimental Sergeant Major and OC A Squadron of the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers had the honour and privilege of attending the memorial service and re-dedication of the grave of Trooper Jack Alick Bond. Jack is currently the first known Aboriginal serviceman to be presented a medal for military service in a foreign country and the first Aboriginal serviceman to serve two tours of active duty, 18 months at the front, entitled to both the Boer War service medals. The Regiment (1/15 RNSWL) was honoured to be a part of the memorial service and the opportunity to commemorate and pay tribute to a remarkable soldier.
National Archives of Australia: Accession B4418
Lieutenant Colonel PL Murray, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa 1899-1902 (Melbourne: Government Printer, 1911)
John Howells 2021
The author thanks Peter Bakker very much for proofing and correcting factual errors, and David Deasey for photos of the commemoration.