Wiliam Reginald Rawlings


Rank: Private

Service Number: 3603

Units Served: 29th Battalion

Personal Details:  Aboriginal soldier was born probably in September 1890 at Purnim, Victoria, only son of William Rawlings and his wife Elizabeth Mary, née Gorrie. His family were well-known and respected members of the Framlingham Aboriginal Community and of the wider local community. William Rawlings senior was noted as an athlete.

Enlistment Details: William enlisted as a private in the Australian imperial force from warrnambook on 14th March 1916.
Details about his role in War:  He embarked on 1 August and joined the 29th Battalion in France on 25 November. After serving with a trainee battalion in England in April-October 1917 he returned to the 29th which in mid-1918 was involved in two periods of very heavy fighting. On the night of 28-29 July the 29th and 32nd Battalions made successful advances along Morlancourt ridge. For his part Rawlings was awarded the Military Medal, the recommendation reading. “During the attack on enemy systems this soldier had the responsible position of first bayonet man in a bombing team which worked down the enemy C.T. [communication trench], routed the enemy and established a block in the trenches. Private Rawlings displayed rare bravery in the performance of his duty, killing many of the enemy, brushing aside all opposition and cleared the way effectively for the bombers of his team. His irresistible dash and courage set a wonderful example to the remainder of the team.” On 9 August the 29th Battalion was involved in the capture of Vauvillers. Rawlings was killed in this action and was buried in Heath Cemetery, Harbonnières, France.

Age at Death: 28

Memorial Details: Heath Cemetery Plot I. Row A. Grave 19 Harbonnieres, France

Interesting Material: Just under 300 Australian Aborigines are known to have enlisted during World War I. Three were awarded Military Medals. Rawlings, one of 30 Victorian Aborigines to enlist of whom 15 were from the Western District, was one of them. His outstanding bravery was remembered with pride by the local community. When his mother died in June 1939 the Warrnambool branch of the Returned Soldiers' and Sailors' Imperial League of Australia organized the funeral honouring the mother of 'a fine soldier'.

AUTHOR:  Jan Critchett, 'Rawlings, William Reginald (1890? - 1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, Melbourne University Press, 1988, pp 335-336.

Commemorated by


Stacey Rawlings

2nd December 2008