Australians on the Western Front: Going above and well beyond

TRADITION: Private Walter Saunders. Picture: AWM P00889.012

TRADITION: Private Walter Saunders. Picture: AWM P00889.012

Two Aboriginal soldiers from NSW, Corporal Albert Knight and Private William Irwin, were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery at the end of the First World War.

Albert Knight, one of three brothers from Bourke, led an attack at Bony on September 30, 1918, moving 300 metres across open country in broad daylight to plot entrenched enemy machine-guns.

William Irwin, from Coonabarabran, left his battalion and alone captured three machine-gun posts near Mont St Quentin on August 31. Severely wounded attacking a fourth, he died the next day.

Private Walter (Chris) Saunders of Warrnambool served in France and Belgium and his sons fought in the Second World War. Lieutenant Reg Saunders was the first Indigenous serviceman commissioned in the Australian Army and Harry Saunders died in New Guinea.

In 1918, Reg’s uncle William (Bill) Rawlings received the Military Medal for bravery at Morlancourt Ridge.