George Henry Morley


This photograph of a framed picture of George Morley in the possession of the Morley family was probably taken before he left Australia. Courtesy of Noel Morley. Reproduced from the Lock family in WWI by Philippa Scarlett.

Service Number 1782

Link to Service Record:

George Henry Morley was born at Rooty Hill in 1891.

His family were the distinguished Lock family. (See Locke Family Lineage)

Henry enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Lithgow on the 19th August, 1915 at the age of 24.  His father, at that time, lived at Sackville Reach on the Hawkesbury River, a favourite place of the Darug people.  Rooty Hill, not far from Sackville Reach, had been a meeting place with its plentiful watering holes. The powers of the Aboriginal Protection Board had been increased  including forcibly removing children from their families. To avoid this, many families had left the Sackville Reach Aboriginal Reserve by the turn of the century, moving to places like The Gully in Katoomba.

George Henry was slightly under the required physical requirements, his height being 5’3” and chest measurement of just over 35”.  However, with the decline in numbers of men wanting to join up after the horrors of the Gallipoli campaign, this was obviously no longer a problem to the authorities.  Again, his aboriginality did not seem a barrier despite the Act of 1909 excluding them from the Armed Forces.  His complexion is given as “medium” with hazel eyes.  He gave his employment as “labourer”.  He may have worked on any of the farms in the area or at the nearby Fiaschi vineyards at Ebenezer. There were many restrictions on the sort of work that Aboriginal men were allowed to do at the time so joining the armed forces would have provided the opportunity to be treated as an equal with white men.

George Henry was accepted by the AIF in August, 1915, and sent to Liverpool for training.  Here, he was attached to the 30th Battalion arriving at Suez on the HMAT “Berrima” on the 23rd January, 1916.  In March, he was ‘detached’ from the 30th Battalion and ‘attached’ to the newly formed 45th Battalion.

The 45th Battalion was raised in Egypt as part of the need to double the efforts of the AIF after Gallipoli.  It formed part of the 12th Brigade, Fourth Division.  Half of the men were Gallipoli veterans who had been with the 13th Battalion and the remainder of the Battalion were made up of men mostly from NSW.

On the 8th June, the Battalion arrived in France at Marseilles and moved to the Western Front.  This was trench warfare, the hallmark of WW1.  The trenches stretched across Belgium before winding their way across France.  The battalion’s task was to attack the German Front line with the aim of pushing it back.  It was during 1916 that tanks were used for the first time.

The first battle that George Henry was engaged in was near Pozieres, where, on the 16th August, he was wounded with gunshot wounds to his right hand and back.  He was taken to the hospital at Etaples, rejoining the unit in September.

A cable to his father reporting this injury can be viewed on his Service Records.

The 45th Battalion moved in and out of the trenches near Ypres in Belgium and then the Somme in France.  Conditions were quite extreme for soldiers in the trenches with daily bombardments from the German Artillery, the ever present mud and unsanitary conditions, the cold and frostbite during the winters. There were huge numbers of casualties and deaths.

In November, 1916, George’s life changed.  He was ‘severely’ injured with gunshot wounds to his right eye.  He was moved to England on the ship, ‘Gloucester Castle’ and admitted to the First Southern General Hospital in Birmingham, Warwickshire.  The cables sent to George’s father informing him of these injuries can also be viewed on George’s Service Records, the last one in December, advising George’s father that he was ‘progressing favourably’.

1917 must have been a difficult and tedious time for George after his first discharge from hospital in February, 1917.  He was in and out of hospital and convalescent units throughout the year, mostly to do with his eye injury.  In February, he was moved to the Dudley Road section of the hospital in Birmingham for convalescence, then to the Perham Downs Army Training Camp on the Salisbury Plains in Wiltshire.  This was the No. 1 Australian Command Depot which dealt with soldiers who were discharged from hospital in order to prepare them for a return to the Front.  Its nickname tells a story – “Perishing Downs”.  Here, he was attached to the ANZ Provost Camp from the 45th Battalion and then in June, moved to Tidworth, a Military Training Camp and hospital in Wiltshire and also a Royal Ordnance Depot and a cemetery.

It was at Tidworth that he committed a crime described as “Conduct to the Prejudice of good order and military discipline”, viz, “attempting to break into Stewardesses Quarters” which were housed at the Aliwal Barracks.  He was awarded fourteen days Field Punishment (FP) No. 2 on the 30th June, 1917.  The usual punishment was hard labour, but it was a good deal better than FP No. 1. For No. 1, the punishment consisted of ‘heavy labour duties with two hours of being fettered and attached to a fixed object’,  For No.2 the punishment was ‘not attached to a fixed object’.

In July 1917 George was admitted to the Second Auxiliary Hospital, London, with the loss of his right eye and then fitted at Southall with an artificial eye and sent back to Tidworth.  In August, he was ‘detached’ from the 45th Battalion and ‘attached to the Anzac Provost Corps, England which was a Corps of military police.  In November, he was detached from this Corps and sent to Administrative Headquarters at the Hurdcott Camp at Salisbury, Wilshire where he was ‘taken on strength’, meaning that they were now responsible for all that soldier’s needs.

By August, 1918, George was again transferred from the 45th Battalion to Admin. Headquarters in London.  There is no record of what his duties were but it seems he had by now met his future wife, Mary Phoebe Symmons.  They were married on the 21st of December, 1918 both giving their address as 29 Treherne Road, Brixton.  Mary states on the Extract of the Marriage Certificate which is in the Service Record, that she was a spinster, aged 29, and that her father, Thomas Eldridge, who had been a dispenser at hospital, was now deceased.  George was now 28.  He gave his employment on the Marriage Certificate as a ‘Ship’s Fireman’.  Perhaps they met when he was hospitalised in London.  They were married at the Lambeth Registry Office.

George and Mary both returned to Australia on the ship ‘Zealandic’, disembarking in Sydney on the 23rd August, 1919 and he was discharged on the 19th October, 1919.

He was awarded three medals, the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

After the War

The Department of Veterans Affairs National Archives in Villawood reveal that George applied for and received Benefits in 1962, case number being 105484.  The Index Card suggests he moved from Gore Hill to Trongate Road, Granville, also in 1962, and that he died on the 20th November, 1967.