The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

 
 
Trooper Alfred Whye

Alfred Ernest Whye was born to Carry Francis Hilt, an Aboriginal woman, and Alfred Whye, a white man, in the late 1870s at Gongolgon, near Brewarrina, NSW. In February 1901, Alfred enlisted in Sydney as Trooper 3067 in the 3rd NSW Mounted Rifles, thus becoming one of the Aboriginal men known to have served in the Boer War. Arriving in Durban in May 1901, Alfred's unit took part in operations in the Eastern Transvaal and Eastern Orange River Colony, which included fighting against the Boer breakthrough at Langverwacht Hill in February 1902. Alfred returned to Sydney on the Aurania in June 1902 and was awarded the Queen's South Africa medal with five campaign clasps: Cape Colony, Transvaal, Orange Free State, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. His discharge papers rated his wartime conduct and character as "exemplary".

Returning to life as an Aboriginal man in Gongolgon did not appeal to Alfred, who had experienced adventure and travel in the army. Besides, there was little available employment on any of the drought-stricken outback stations. After spending a year in Sydney without regular work, Alfred determined in 1903 to go on a working holiday to New Zealand before adventuring on to Canada. After six months' work in Waiuku, another Boer War veteran convinced him that he should settle in New Zealand. Taking this advice, Alfred explored the North Island before making his home in Otahuhu, South Auckland. He found employment with the railway signals department, a job he kept until he retired in 1940. In June 1904, Alfred married Mabel Anne Plumley. He and Mabel reared a happy family of five children, all of whom had professional careers and raised families. During the First World War, Alfred's name was placed on the New Zealand Army Reserve List for 1916-17, but was not called up. Mabel died in 1932, and Alfred married Ethel McCrory in 1935. They decided to become foster parents and cared for many children over the years. His grandchildren fondly recalled him waking early to work in his big vegetable garden.

Although Alfred never returned to Australia, he kept up a correspondence with his friend Allan Yeomans in Sydney, who was a former station owner near Brewarrina. Alfred had probably worked for Yeomans before his Boer War service. Yeomans apparently kept Alfred's mother informed that he was doing well. interviewed in 1968, aged in his 90s, Alfred reflected on his Boer War experiences. He recalled that his unit had "chased the Boers around and about. We captured hundreds of them and took all their big guns. In the end all they were left with were their rifles. They were tough though, by gee. The gamest I ever saw. Some of them were boys, only 12 years old they were. And old men, with their clothes all patched up. But gee could they fight." Alfred Ernest Whye passed away on 28 April 1969 and was buried in Otahuhu Cemetery.

PETER BAKKER
Peter Bakker is a history teacher in Melbourne. He has researched Indigenous involvement in the Boer War and other conflicts.


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