John Huckle was born in Condobolin, New South Wales, in 1893, the son of the recently married John and Cora Huckle, known as “Hanna”. A Wiradjuri man of European descent, John Huckle attended the local public school in Euabalong. Little else is known of his early life, other than that he went on to work in the Euabalong district as a rural labourer.
Despite rules preventing men of Aboriginal descent from enlisting, John Huckle successfully joined the Australian Imperial Force in October 1916 with the 1st Battalion.
Less than a month later, he left Australia for active service overseas, arriving in England in January 1917. He continued training on Salisbury Plain for some months, finally joining his battalion in France shortly after it fought in the Second Battle of Bullecourt in May 1917.
Private Huckle remained with his battalion for the next five months. On 2 October 1917, the 1st Battalion entered the front line to participate in the Battle of Broodseinde.
At some point over the next two days, Private Huckle went missing. It was later determined that he had been killed in action on 3 October 1917, before the battle began. The manner of his death was not recorded.
Huckle’s body was recovered from the battlefield, and today he lies in Aeroplane Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium, under the words “He answered his duty’s call.”
He was 24 years old.
Some 15 years later, in the 1930s, a young boy named Bede McDonagh was shown a British war medal from the Great War by an older boy of Aboriginal descent. He offered the boy two bob for it, and kept it for more than 70 years.
Despite the name on the medal being filed off, it was later identified as belonging to John Huckle, who had been awarded it on behalf of his son. In 2012, Bede McDonagh was able to return the medal to John Huckle’s great nephew, named John Huckle in his great uncle’s honour.
John Thomas Huckle’s name is listed on the Australian War Memorial Honour Roll, among almost 62,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.
Meleah Hampton, Historian, Military History Section
Image: Private John Thomas Huckle, 1 Battalion AIF. Credit: Larry Brandy Aboriginal storyteller