Joseph James ‘Karadji’ Locke


Joseph James ‘Karadji’ Locke (centre) with Micky Stubbings and Gordon Morton in the Gully. This photograph was taken in the 1940’s and Joseph is wearing an army shirt which may have survived from his service in WWI. Reproduced from the Lock family in WWI by Philippa Scarlett, original from the collection of the Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation.





Service Number 5846

Link to Service Record:

Joseph James Locke was born at Rooty Hill in 1896.

Joseph is the younger brother of William Robert Locke and grew up in the Plumpton area but came to live in Katoomba from the 1930s. Here he was associated with the Gully community, where there were other Lock/Locke descendants. Joseph was also known as Joe ‘Karadji’ Locke, or Old Joe or Karadji. ‘Karadji’ means ‘healer’ or ‘clever man’ in Darug, a link going back to his ancestors Yarramundi and Gombeeree, who were themselves known as being ‘karadji’. Darug was spoken in the Gully until the 1940s.

Joseph Lock belonged to the distinguished Aboriginal Locke family whose known roots go back to the 1740’s (See Locke Family Lineage)

Joseph joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 30 May 1916, giving his age as 21 years and his occupation as a butcher. His father Robert, his named next-of-kin, was living at Plumpton at the time.

Joseph’s Attestation Papers describe him as having a ‘tan’ complexion, brown eyes, and dark brown hair. He easily met the new requirements for joining, with a height of over 5’7” and a chest measurement of 34-36”. He had an injury, though, on his left hand with a ‘contraction of 2 fingers … which would not interfere with any ordinary military weapons.’ It was also noted that he had previously been rejected for service on account of ‘web fingers’. Joseph was accepted, however.

After enlisting Joseph was sent to Cootamundra for initial training with the 1st Battalion as a Private and then with the 3rd Battalion. On 7 October 1916 he was ready to leave for England on the transport ship Ceramic as part of the 16th Reinforcements of the 19th Battalion.

On 14 June 1917 Joseph was sent to France on active service.

As a soldier in the 19th Battalion, in July and August 1917 he would have fought in the Battle of Menin Road, part of the third Battle of Ypres in France on the Western Front, which was highly successful in pushing back the German Army. He would then have participated in the Battle of Poelcappelle, Belgium, which began on 9 October 1917. It was a battle for a ridge, but conditions were extremely difficult – continuous rain and a poorly drained battlefield resulted in a sea of mud – and artillery protection proved inadequate, so that this time they were not successful.

Joseph was given leave on the 9 March 1918 and set sail to England from Belgium.

Joseph ‘Karadji’ Locke arrived in London in March 1918 and seems to have immediately gone AWL (absent without leave), forfeiting 16 days’ pay. It was also a time of a number of hospital admissions.

In December 1918 Joseph had to finally front a Medical Board concerning the injury to his left hand and contracture of two fingers, which, contrary to the original medical opinion, had made it impossible to ‘manipulate a rifle in cold weather’. The conditions in Belgium had been particularly bleak that winter.

A major concern for the Board seems to revolve around whether he could claim a pension or not. He was finally found to be ‘permanently unfit for service’ and that ‘his service did not in anyway contribute to the present condition’. He was therefore not allowed to claim a pension.

A question arises as to whether Joseph may have tried to burn off his webbed fingers, which had originally prevented his acceptance into the army, before applying the second and successful time. Perhaps we will never know.

Joseph returned to Australia in October 1918 and was awarded two medals, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, having been invalided out of the army.

His Service Records also note that he lost his discharge form and wrote to Base Records in 1931 asking for a duplicate. He included a Statutory Declaration, recording that he was living with Mr Bob Tauro of Main Street, Katoomba at the time. Tauro was a fruitier of Italian descent who was community-minded, often donating fruit and vegetables for community events. Perhaps Mr Tauro employed Joseph in his business or he may have been a lodger with the family.

There is no evidence that he married.