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A P40M Kittyhawk (A29-310) aircraft of No. 2 Operational Training Unit (OTU) in flight with Sergeant L. V. (Len) Waters at the controls. Sgt Waters was the only aboriginal pilot to serve in the RAAF. After completing his training at No. 2 OTU he was posted to No. 78 Squadron. (Donor G. Waters) Dutch War Commemorative Cross 1940-1945: Warrant Officer L V Waters, 78 Squadron RAAF
Click to enlarge An aboriginal serviceman, 78144 Sergeant Leonard Victor Waters, No. 78 Squadron, RAAF, sitting in the cockpit of his P40 Kittyhawk 'Black Magic'. Leonard Waters was the only aboriginal fighter pilot of the Second World War. 

He joined the RAAF on 24 August 1942 and was trained as a flight mechanic. When the RAAF called for aircrew trainees he applied and was accepted for pilot training. 

He undertook his initial training at No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School (1EFTS), Narrandera, NSW, before graduating as a Sergeant pilot from No. 5 Service Flying Training School (5SFTS), Uranquinty, NSW. His training continued at No. 2 Operational Training Unit (2OTU), Mildura, Vic, from where he was posted to No. 78 Squadron on 14 November 1944. He flew 95 operational sorties with No. 78 Squadron operating from Noemfoor, Morotai and Tarakan. Sergeant Waters was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 January 1945 and eventually Warrant Officer on 1 January 1946. He was discharged from the RAAF on 18 January 1946. Leonard Waters died 25 August 1993. (Donor K. Orchard)
Click to enlarge NT. c. June 1943. Men of the 2/1st North Australia Observers Unit (NAOU) watching Private Clem Muldoon cutting open a bullock carcase with an axe. 
In this group are Major White, MC, MM, Croix de Guerre; Commanding Officer, Captain Bill Travers (back row, second from right) who won a Military Medal in Tarakan; Corporal Inky Ferguson, MM, an aboriginal serviceman; Captain Romney Cole MC (back row right) and his brother Lieutenant Neville Cole (bottom row right), ? Muldoon, brother of Clem (front row, third from right). (Donor T. Carty)
Click to enlarge 1943-10-04. Northern Australia. At a race meeting held by troops in northern Australia. Hat styles seen during the race meeting. Aborigine Woolomungs, Narta and Plantuinea wear service hats. (negative by McNeil).
Click to enlarge Bien Hoa, Vietnam. 1965-08. 1RAR, on patrol in heavy jungle during a search and destroy operation in War Zone D.  Click to enlarge Western Desert, North Africa. c. 1941. LAC Jones, from King Island, a member of the Royal Australian Air Force adds to his anti-aircraft machine guns the assistance of the Aboriginal belief of pointing the bone.
Private Joe Minecome, an aboriginal serviceman, is carrying the section's M60 machine gun.  note the bone attached to the twin barrelled gun
Click to enlarge Vietnam. 1966-06-25. Aboriginal Corporal Henry "Buddy" Lea of Rockhampton, Qld, moves cautiously into a Viet Cong village with his Owen gun at the ready during the first mission by the 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), Operation Enoggera.  Click to enlarge
Lea served with Delta Coy 6RAR at Long Tan.
Click to enlarge Adelaide River, NT. 1944-09-04.

 "Corporal" Dolly, the No. 1 girl of the Aboriginal Women's Hygiene Squad at the 69th Australian

Click to enlarge Katherine, NT. 1942-11-24. 

Aboriginal orderlies at 121 Australian General Hospital (121AGH) assist in the

  Women's Army Service barracks.  treatment of their fellow sick and wounded.  Orderly "Tommy" bandaging the arm of "Hector" who was injured when Katherine was bombed. Hector went bush, but later returned for treatment .
Click to enlarge Vietnam. 19 August 1966. After the battle of Long Tan - weary men of Delta Company 6RAR, gather on a landing zone to eat a quick meal of rations, before returning to the battlefield.  Click to enlarge London, England. 1940-08-06. An aboriginal digger on leave asks a policewoman to direct him about London. His name is Victor Blanco and in civilian life he was a pearl diver.
Pictured, left to right: Corporal (Cpl) Ross McDonald; Cpl K. T. (Chicko) Miller; an aboriginal serviceman.
Click to enlarge

 Baidoa, Somalia 1993.

Private Graeme "Brownie" Brown, of 2 Platoon, A Company 1st Battalion, 

Click to enlarge Kapooka, 1970.

 Sapper M. J. Wighton, a part aboriginal serviceman (left), 

The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) on a foot patrol around Baidoa, Somalia 1993. He was serving with the Unified Task Force a (UNITAF). Photo by George Gittoes. and Sapper Spencer (right) during training. Both men were in the 21st National Service Intake 1970. (lent by Mr M. J. Wighton).
Click to enlarge North West Australia, 1943-02-01. To provide fresh meat for allied soldiers in the north west area the army established its own slaughter yards 40 miles north of Katherine. 

Butchers from the army resumed civil occupation and aboriginal labour was used to bring the cattle into the slaughter yards from widely dispersed areas. This photograph shows Minnie, one of the aboriginal women employed on light duties at the yards. (negative by H. Turner)

Click to enlarge

Vietnam. 1966-02-09. Aboriginal Sapper (Spr) Bill Coolburra of Palm Island, Qld, gouges a fighting pit from the earth at a jungle camp during Operation Roundhouse, a search-and-destroy mission against the Viet Cong. Spr Coolburra is serving with the Third Field Troop, Royal Australian Engineers, based at Bien Hoa.

Click to enlarge Aboriginal serviceman 3662 Private Harold Arthur Cowan at the age of twenty one years. Known also as Arthur Williams, Cowan enlisted in Grafton, NSW, on 16 November 1917 and served with the 6th Light Horse Regiment. In his youth Cowan was an all round sportsman, a representative for the North Coast in football, and a well known boxer. (Donor S. Williams)
Corporal Ronald A Harris, 26 years old of Western Australia. Harris enlisted on September 5, 1960 and was posted to the Artillery. 

The popular soldier saw active service during the Borneo confrontation with Indonesia while with A Field Battery, RAA. 

It was here that he met and later married his Malaysian wife.  

In October 1966, he transferred to the SAS and went to Vietnam with 2 SAS Squadron, on June 6 1968. Almost exactly seven months later, on January 17 1969, he was accidentally killed by his own patrol commander as he apparently tried to locate the position of his patrol in Bien Hoa. Harris was small of stature, dark skinned and wore no camouflage cream on his face. He was mistaken for VC.
These are some of the other aboriginal or Torres Straight Islands servicemen  not previously mentioned on these pages who were recipients of decorations as below . . .
  • World War One
    • William Irwin DCM Killed In Action
    • Albert Knight DCM  
    • Augustus Peg Farmer MM Killed In Action
    • Glamor Garr MM  
    • William Reginald Rawlings MM KIA
  • World War Two
    • Timothy Hughes MM  
  • Korea
    • Charles Mene MM  
      • see below
Click to enlarge Keith Payne VC and Charlie Mene MM renew an old friendship at Gaythorne RSL Brisbane on ANZAC Day
  • If you are able to provide extra information, please do so. Email











  • DCM                   MM


the Sovereign's likeness would vary depending on for which war the medal was awarded


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces