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Bill Woerlee

Australians in Africa

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1 hour ago, Waddell said:

I recently picked up a book about the British in Kenya, titled ‘Red Strangers: The White Tribe of Kenya’ by C.S Nicholls, which has a chapter about the First World War. In a section where the author talks about the raising of the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, she writes “Other recruits were Private Macrae, who had been with Shackleton’s polar expedition, and Synott, the ex-heavyweight champion of Australia”.


I have had a search around the web and have concluded that Synnott appears to have been a successful boxer pre-war by the name of Herbert Synnott (or Sinnott).

A colourful story written by a ‘Duke’ Mullins ex-AIF, for the Adelaide mail in 1938 gives some background to the man’s boxing career. It seems that his real name was Daniel Gault and he adopted the name of a successful Victorian era boxer when he took up the sport. The final paragraph of the story concludes with-


He joined up in the war with an English unit, and was sent to German West Africa. He contracted fever, and died when repatriated to England. Australians in England turned up in large numbers to his funeral’.


So he appears to be the right man. Can anyone shed any light upon his service with the unit? Alternatively his date of death?


As it was not uncommon for soldiers in that theatre to suffer from tropical diseases, I am wondering if he died during the war years.


A search through the CWGC however seems to indicate no Synnott’s, Sinnott’s or Gault’s dying in England at the time.


Any thoughts?





Herbert Synott was boxing in the UK in early 1915 when he decided to enlist into the 25th Bn. Royal Fusiliers (Frontiersmen).  Approved for service with the battalion on/around the 16th March 1915 and allocated service number 13754 he proceeded overseas with the original battalion on 10th April 1915, arriving in East Africa on 4th May 1915.


His service record doesn't survive but there are a couple of items where he does crop up in theatre.  He had a bit of a problem with discipline as he was the subject of two Field General Courts Martials, the first was 6th April 1916 at Maktau where he was awarded 7 days F.P.2 for disobedience and the second was 6th May 1916 at M'Buyuni where he was awarded 42 days F.P.2 and a 2/6 forfeiture of pay for drunkenness and conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.  The third occasion he appears is in a battalion boxing programme of 30th October 1916 at Tanga where he did an exhibition 3 round sparring bout with Pte. McConkey.


He, like so many of the battalion in theatre, clearly suffered from a tropical disease, malaria would be the obvious one to consider but dysentery was also prevalent so it could be either.  As a result of this he was invalided back to the UK and arrived back on August 14th 1917.  After a period of recovery in the UK Herbert was transferred to the 17th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and served with them on the Western Front from February 6th 1918 to April 10th 1919 when I presume he was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve as, by June 1919, he's back as a sparring partner for a potential GB Heavyweight champion.


In 1920 he turned his hand briefly to acting, he played the part of John Barty in "The Amateur Gentleman" but then disappears from the newspapers until his death in 1922.  He died, aged 43, on 22nd February 1922 at Marylebone Infirmary.


Hope this helps.



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Thank you Steve for the information regarding Synnott's service and the date of his death. Quite an eventful life he had.



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Another fascinating life Scott!

Turns out he wasn’t born in Australia though (as ‘Duke’ Mullins states in his story) – just a little more personal detail to add to his story:


Daniel Jamieson GAULT was born in the Mar Qtr of 1882 in Ballymoney, Ireland

The family came to Australia on the Orient when Daniel was 2 years old, arriving 1/11/1884

His family at the time consisted of: Father, Robert (Labourer, 42); Mother (38); Siblings – John (11); William H. (9); James (7); Robert (6); Thomas (3) and Kate (1mth)


Adding to his siblings, Albert was born in Richmond in 1886, and Isabella in Brunswick in 1889


His mother, Catherine (nee Robinson) died in Richmond in 1901

Robert died in December 1905 when he drowned in the Yarra River – Daniel identified his body


Listed as a Labourer, Daniel was living at 24 Church St, Richmond, Vic in 1906 with James (photographer); Robert (photographer); Robert (asphalter); William Hugh (asphalter)

[One of these Roberts, their father, had died and had not yet been taken off the electoral roll]



Died as Herbert SYNNOTT on the 22/2/1922 at the Marylebone Infirmary, St Marylebone, Westminster, England (age given as 43 – he would have only been 40)



The Age (Melb, Vic), Mon 25 Jun 1906 (p.10):


At the Cyclorama this evening two events, each ten rounds, will take place, the principals being Mick O’Connor and Ted M’Gibbon, Jack Black and D. Gault.


The Age (Melb, Vic), Tue 26 Jun 1906 (p.8):


Two quick and lively contests were decided last night, at the Cyclorama, under the auspices of the Olympic club, when M’Gibbon defeated O’Connor and Black beat Gault.  The first battle lasted half a round, during which Black punished the footballer just as he liked, and finished up by hitting the point with accuracy and sufficient weight to end the encounter.  ………………………


Victoria Police Gazette 1908:

DANIEL GAULT, known as Hugh Gault, is charged, on warrant, with disobeying an order of the Richmond Bench to pay 7s. 6d. a week for the support of his child, a ward of the State.  Description: About 28 years of age, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, square build, fair complexion, fair hair, no hair on face, dimple on chin. – O.2223A. 14th April, 1908


The Age (Melb, Vic), Wed 8 Apr 1908 (p.9):


At Richmond court on Monday a young man named Hugh Gault, well known in local boxing circles, was summoned to show cause why he should not contribute to the maintenance of a child, Ruby Sullivan, of which he was the reputed father.  Mr P. Ridgeway appeared for defendant.  Sergeant Turnbull explained that the child in question had been “put upon the State” shortly after its birth, defendant having left Melbourne.

Lizzie Sullivan stated that defendant some time ago asked her to marry him, but he disappeared.  After proceedings had been taken he had called at her residence and said, “What am I to do?  If I marry you it will be no good, because I will always be stouching you.”  He had also offered to give her £10 to “square” matters.

Defendant, on oath, declared that he had never committed impropriety with Sullivan at any time.

The bench (Messrs. Asher and Nathan, J’s.P.) made an order for the payment of 7/6 per week, defendant to find two sureties of £15 each in guarantee of compliance with the order.


Weekly Times (Melb, Vic), Sat 3 Oct 1908 (p.21):


Herbert Synott, who was a well-known boxer in this State some time ago, met Jack Scales, of Bethnal Green, in a six-round bout at Wonderland, London on August 22.  The contest resulted in a draw.  The London “Sportsman” of August 24, in writing of the contest, says: – “After a smart rally, Scales drove his left flush on the face of the Australian, and at long range it was clear that he was the better boxer.  Synott has improved considerably since his arrival in this country, but Scales always seemed to be the better man of the two.  Towards the finish both tired somewhat, and the verdict was a draw.”


Referee (Sydney, NSW), Wed 2 Dec 1908 (p.7):



(From Our Own Correspondent) MELBOURNE, Monday


Mr Amb. Ford, of Fitzroy, was hardly correct in reference to Gault in last week’s “Referee.”  Gault did not box in “the tourney promoted by Jack Wren, and started the night Bill Squires pulverised Tim Murphy at the Exhibition Building.”  Gault, he says, “was beaten in his first fight, and, further, that he fought in other tournaments with no better result, and later was beaten in two rounds by Jack Black, the fighting Englishman.”  Now, to begin the corrections: Dan Gault’s first and, I believe, his only appearance in the ring in Victoria was when he fought in the football competition promoted by Mr Wren in connection with the Squires-Kernick battle.  He won his first bout, beating Moran in eight rounds.  He was beaten in the next, and the final, which took place at the Melbourne Athletic Club, was contested by Livingstone and Moriarty, and resulted in a sensational win for Livingstone.  As to Gault’s later performances Mr Ford is confusing him with his brother R., who was beaten in his first fight by J. Kennedy in a middle-weight competition, but in a subsequent event he won one bout, and was beaten by Joe Doherty in the next.  R. Gault was seconded by his brother Dan in these competition bouts, but I have not since heard of the latter until Mr Ford brought him under my notice as “Herb Synnott” of Australia.


Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW), Wed 9 Dec 1908 (p.3):


It turns out that the “Herb Synnott, of Australia,” who recently went under to coloured Sam M’Vey in Paris, is none other than Dan Gault, of Richmond (Vic), who fought in the footballers’ tourney conducted by Mr J. Wren, in conjunction with the battle between Bill Squires and Tim Murphy.  Gault also took part in another tourney, but meeting Englishman Jack Black, at the Cyclorama, in June, 1906, was beaten in one round, the referee interfering, and deciding in favour of Black.


The Age (Melb, Vic), Fri 15 Nov 1912 (p.11):


LONDON, 13th November

In a boxing match to-night Petty Officer Curran beat Herb Synnott in the second round, the referee stopping the fight on account of the utter inferiority of Synnott.


Weekly Times (Melb, Vic), Sat 23 Nov 1912 (p.23):

Petty-Officer Curran, who is now disputing Bombadier Wells’ claim to the championship of Great Britain, did not improve his reputation in beating Herb Synnott in London recently.  Synnott, who hails from Port Melbourne, never was of any account as a boxer, and it is, therefore, not surprising to learn that the referee stopped the match in the second round, owing to the utter inferiority of Synnott.  Synnott’s old wound, near the eye, opened in the second round.  He was then felled by a half-arm punch, and clung to the ropes.


The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 21 Jun 1919 (p.20):


The Australian heavy-weight, Herb Synnott, who has been serving in the 17th Royal Fusiliers, is now demobilised.  He has issued a challenge in England to box any heavy-weight in the country if a purse is forthcoming.


The Argus (Melb, Vic), Mon 27 Feb 1922 (p.7):

Herbert Synott Dead

LONDON, Feb 26

Herbert Synott, a former Australian heavy-weight boxer, has died in an infirmary at Marylebone.


Referee (Sydney, NSW), Wed 8 Mar 1922 (p.10):


Robt. Gault, of Richmond, Melbourne, writes: –

“I want to ask you if you can give me details about the late Herbert Syn[ott] an Australian heavyweight boxer, reported to have died on Friday at Marylebone, Eng.  My brother left this country about 13 years ago for England, and, taking the above name, he had several big fights.  Among others, he fought Sam McVea and Seaman Parsons.  I am only giving these names in the hope that you can find out something definite for me.  His real name was Daniel Gault.  If it is the same man, and you have a photo of him, could you please let me have it to make sure that it is right.  If you can tell me this and the illness that he died from, I will be very thankful to you, as we are very anxious.”

I regret I cannot supply the information required.  The announcement of Synott’s death came through the cables.  The cause will not be known till our mail matter arrives.  I thought it was Dyer who assumed the name of Synott.  Now I remember it was Gault.  I think Herb Synott reported dead and Gault were identical.  I have not heard of the original Herb Synott for many years.

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Thanks for those details Frev. It seems that he thought of himself as an Áustralian, which will do.


His  boxing career seems to have taken a dive in the years just prior to the war by those reports. A hard man by all accounts.


I have come across a few more mentions of Australians in Byron Farwell's 'The Great War in Africa'  that I Will post later.



Edited by Waddell
Added more.

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There are also some Australians listed on the Great War in Africa Association - http://gweaa.com/home/theatres/?pagename=home%2Ftheatres&folder=NAME+INDEXES+-+IN+MEMORY&sortdir=A

This is regularly updated as information is found.


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This refers to a post way back in this thread, where Harry mentioned S/Sgt Crawford:

"I believe that the funeral was at Mindelo Cemetery for 15046 Staff Sergeant John Alfred Eric Crawford of the Australian Army Medical Corps.

He probably was on a passing ship.



John Crawford was a Staff Sergeant Dispenser (qualified pharmaceutical chemist) assigned as the 'Voyage Only' dispenser aboard HMAT Miltiades which left Australia on 1 August 1916 from Melbourne, and 7 August 1916 from Fremantle. He died of appendicitis and secondary bleeding while in transit, and was originally listed as 'buried at sea', but later it was reported that his body had been landed and buried in the Mindello Cemetery, in the Cape Verde Islands. As far as I can tell, he is the only AIF member buried there. The Cape Verde Islands (St Vincent) was a regular port of call for AIF transports proceeding to England. Crawford was one of almost 300 individuals that died in transit on out-bound voyages from Australia during WW1. 


With reference to 'Major Walker MC', a Tasmanian and padre from Tasmania who was reported to be at Dar-Es-Salaam in 1917-18, his 'profile' does not appear to fit any of the Walkers who served as chaplains in the AIF (two) or the the AIF's MC recipients with the last name 'Walker' (4). I'd therefore suggest he was of Australian birth but enlisted in England with the British Army.


With reference to 142 James Gilbert, buried in Dar-Es-Salaam, he was disembarked from the Hospital Ship Neuralia due to his condition, while in transit to Australia from Suez. I can't find any reference to Neuralia voyaging to Australia, so it is possible he was heading to Durban or Cape Town, there to be trans-shipped to a vessel heading east to Australia. 




Edited by MKC

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Another Australian. Captain Henry Egerton Clunies Ross, a journalist, who initially enlisted with the 19th Battalion AIF in May 1915. He left Australia aboard Ceramic as a Second Lieutenant on 25th June 1915 but was invalided back home on 14th September 1915.  He was promoted to Lieutenant on 8th October 1915.


In May 1916 a recovered H.E.C Ross left Australia aboard Demosthenes having re-enlisted with the 3rd Division Cyclists.  He arrived in France in May 1917 and appears to have been attached to the 39th Battalion AIF when he resigned his commission (by then a Captain) on 24th September 1917 to join the Kings African Rifles. The story concerning his death from the Sydney Morning Herald of 4th October 1918 has him leaving for Africa in September 1917.


No details of which battalion of KAR he served with, but it seems, like many others, he contacted malaria soon after. Details from the story indicate that he was initially hospitalised at Lindi before being moved to Nairobi and there to return to England. He passed away at Queen Alexandra Hospital in London on 27th September 1918.


Captain Ross was only 27 years old.


Some more details here-





H.E.C Ross.PNG

Edited by Waddell

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I have been reading about the Malaya Campaign of early 1942, in particular the actions of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Groves Wright Anderson, who led the 2/19th Battalion AIF during a fighting withdrawal and was awarded the Victoria Cross. Anderson was born in South Africa and after marrying an Australian woman he migrated to Australia in 1935.

Anderson had however served in Africa with distinction during the Great War.


His WW2 service record provides the following details


Kenya Defence Force (Infantry) 1914/15

Pte. Calcutta Volunteer Battery Gnr. 1915/16

3 Bn Kings African Rifles Comm. 13/10/16

Lt.  & Capt. 28/1/19

Demobilized Feb. 19.


Whilst serving in the 2nd Battalion 3rd King’s African Rifles he was awarded the Military Cross for outstanding leadership when he fought at Nhamacurra in Portuguese East Africa in July 1918.


A question regarding the Calcutta Volunteer Battery (refer to post 3 in this thread). Was it typical for a local soldier to be enlisted among an Indian unit stationed in East Africa?  




Anderson VC WW1 Service.JPG

Charles Anderson VC..jpg

Edited by Waddell

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