Our Aboriginal Diggers

This is a story to show our respect for the local Aboriginal soldiers who fought courageously for our country.

Aboriginal Australians have been part of Australia’s military history for a very long time and have served in many countries, including Belgium, France, Vietnam, Greece, New Guinea, Syria, Borneo, Egypt, Japan and Malaya. This story recognises the lives of some of the Aboriginal serviceman who have served in the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the content in this story contains images of and references to deceased persons.

First World War

Henry Cunningham, William (Nipper) Simon, James Slater and William Slater all served in the First World War and embarked on the same ship, the HMAT Anchises. They arrived in France (via England) on 10 July 1917 and joined the 20th Battalion.

Henry (Harry) Cunningham

Service Number: 3361
Medals Received: 1914–1915 Star, British War Medal #67461, Victory Medal #64899

The following is a page from Henry’s war service records:


William (Nipper) Simon

Service Number: 6564
Medals Received: 1914–1915 Star, British War Medal #67756, Victory Medal #65197

William saw active service in Belgium and France. He was wounded in action on 31 August 1919, and discharged on 10 May 1919. The following is a photo of William (Nip) Simon and Harold Maher of Sunrise Station, Purfleet, 1917. It was taken before they departed for the battlefields of France.


James Alexander Slater

Service Number: 6563
Medals Received: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Jim saw active service in Belgium and France. He was killed in action on the 28 April 1918 at the Somme. In 1922 Bella Slater received his British War Medal and Victory Medal.


He is buried at the Warley Baillon Cemetery in France.


These are two pages from his service records:


William Slater

Service Number: 6562
Medals Received: British War Medal, Victory Medal

The following is a page from William’s war service records:


Second World War

Robert Simon, Claude Leon, Keith Leon, Sam Leon, Toki Simon, Gus Anderson, George Anderson, Frank Simon, Roy Simon, Joe Clarke, Billy Clarke and Keith Bulmer all served in the Second World War.

William Toki Simon

Service Number: NX71222; 2/3 Battalion, 6th Division
Medals Received: 1939–1945 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Star, War Medal 1939–1945, Australia Service Medal.

William served in the Middle East, New Guinea and Papua. He served 1591 days in the army — 797 of them overseas in active service. He was on the Kokoda Trail and was also one of the famous ‘Rats of Tobruk’.


The following photos show Toki Simon back home with his family.

Robert (Bob) Simon

Medals Received: Pacific Star, Defence Star, War Medal 1939–1945

Bob served in Malaya from January 1942 to November 1945. He had 1595 active service days. Bob Simon was reported missing on 13 April 1942. Eighteen months later, on the 6 November 1943, it was discovered he was a prisoner of war in Changi Prison.


William Claude Leon

Service Number: N160690; enlisted in Forster
Medals Received: Pacific Star, War Medal 1939–1945

Claude Leon served in New Guinea.

Andrew Keith James Leon

Service Number: N451674; enlisted in Tuncurry
Medals Received: Pacific Star, War Medal 1939–1945

Like Claude, Keith Leon also served in New Guinea.

Gus Anderson

Service Number: NX83992

August (Gus) Anderson was in the Battle of the Pacific and New Guinea.

George Anderson

George Anderson was in the clean-up of the Hiroshima bomb, the atomic bomb that ended World War II.

Frank Simon

Service Number: NX47898

Frank Simon carried out his service in Australia.

Roy Simon

Service Number: N160694

Roy Simon carried out his service in Australia.


Many of these men who served in both World Wars were members of The Hawkes football team, the local club for the Forster-Tuncurry region. This photograph was taken in the early 1920s and shows in the front row, left to right: Henry Cunningham, Claude Leon, Bob Simon, Joe Simon, William Simon, Neil Dungay and Sam Leon. In the back row, left to right: Barney Simon (coach), Jim Simon, Tom Ridgeway, Doug Slater, Forster Dumas, Joe Ping and Percy Simon.

The Korean and Vietnam Wars

Ross Leon and Victor Simon served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Ross Leon

Ross Leon served in the Navy, on the HMAS Melbourne in Korea and the HMAS Stalwart in Vietnam.

Victor Simon

Service Number: 2412263

Victor served in the RAR Company D, the Battle of Long Tan, Vietnam, August 1966. Below is a photograph of Victor at recruit camp, most likely Kapooka Camp near Wagga Wagga.


The following letter was written by Victor Simon to his mum, Joyce Simon in 1966:

Pte. Vic Simon
12 Pl. “D” Coy.
Dear Mum and Dad,
I received your letter about four days ago, but went directly out on an operation. By the time you receive this letter you would have known what went wrong. I am OK, but not fighting fit any more. I saw that many VC’s it wasn’t funny. Our Company moved out on the 18th, when we came across 12 VC’s. So we followed them and walked straight into a regiment of VC’s. So you can see the odds, we had near a hundred blokes and the VC’s has near 1500. Our two forward platoons got trapped, one of the platoons got out, but one was still trapped. Well, they sent my platoon in to get them out. We were about there, when fire came from all directions. We were surrounded and fought solid for four hours before reinforcements arrived. You should have heard the yells when the APC’s came in with “A” Coy inside. When the VC’s saw them they pulled back. I let out a yell that could be heard back in Australia. The next day we swept through the area, we captured a lot of weapons, all machine guns. We got congratulations from “Old Holt” and our General and the Yank General too.
We came back to camp yesterday, and we were treated like kings. Bloke’s from other companies coming up shaking our hands. Last night we had free beers for two hours. I can go on writing about this for hours, but I don’t think you want to know about it.
I am glad to see camp they’ll have to cut off my arms to get me out again. I’ll be holding on to that many things. Tomorrow we go on leave for two days in Van Tan, all the boys in the company need it. They said that a few medals will be handed out, but you can guess who will get them … the officers.
That’s enough of that. I received Gail’s parcel and I enjoyed every one of them. Well times going by, into my 5th month now. I’m going to Hong Kong now on the 21st Sept. My mind’s not clear at the moment I can’t think of anything to write so I’ll have to say goodbye, see you in just over 7 months time. Give my best to Dad and Gail and the crowd.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

— Laurence Binyon

Lest We Forget

Story contributed by Narelle Kessey from Forster Public School. Story was sourced from a presentation from 19 June 2014 which remains the property of Donna Hall.