Pte Henry Westerway (1885-1940)
Warren Smith


Regimental Number
War Service
Western Front, Taken prisoner at Fromelles. POW in Germany from 20 July 1916 to the end of the war.
Prior Military Service
17 Sep 1915 at Armidale, NSW
08 Mar 1916 from Sydney, NSW, on the HMAT A15 Star of England
Next of Kin
Father – Henry Westerway, Tingha via Inverell, New South Wales
Date & Place of Birth
1885, Mount Brown via Broken Hill, NSW
Henry Westerway and Sarah Emily Smith
Marital Status
6 sisters, 5 brothers
Physical Description
5 feet 11 inches, 182 pounds (180.3cm, 82.6kg)
Eyes brown, Hair black, Complexion dark
Church of England
Returned to Australia
8th September 1919
Wounded in Action, 20 July 1916, Fromelles, France. Taken prisoner. Died 14 November 1940, Sydney, New South Wales - aged 54
Place of Burial
Macquarie Park Cemetery, NSW. Grave 10, Sec. A7 Catholic Monumental
Positively Identified

Henry Westerway at War

Tin miner Henry Westerway enlisted in Armidale on September 17, 1915 and joined the 55th Battalion AIF. In March 1916, he embarked on the HMAT Star of England troop ship landing in Marseilles, France destined to fight on the Western Front.

On July 12, 1916, Henry Westerway entered the frontline trenches for the first time and then on July 20 they fought their first major battle - the Battle of Fromelles - where they suffered shocking casualties. Private Henry Westerway was one of those gassed and eventually taken prisoner by the Germans – one of 470 prisoners taken:

“It was the energy and push of the Australians that had been the cause of his becoming a prisoner, for they had pushed forward too far, and some of them were surrounded and captured.”

Source Welcome Home. (1919, October 24). Tingha Advocate and North-Western Journal (NSW : 1916 - 1932), p. 2. Retrieved May 19, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176514773

This was how Henry’s capture was described at his hometown welcome in Tingha in October 1919. In that same report, Henry said that, unlike others, he was not treated so badly and they had a good camp commander. Initially, they lived on mainly gruel and water but, after the Red Cross parcels arrived, they no longer had to rely on German food.

Henry was held in Dulmen prison camp and later transferred to Munster prison camp in Westphalia, Germany until the end of the war. In December 1918, he was conveyed to the UK still desperately ill suffering the effects of gassing.

Dulmen Prison Camp in Germany. Both the Dulmen and Munster camps were close to the Netherlands border.
source Australian War Memorial collection P01981.059

One of the sad parts of Henry’s story is that his father, also a tin miner in Tingha, did not know for ten months that his son had been taken prisoner. This was due to a misspelling of his address on the envelope carrying the devastating news.

Envelope containing news of Henry being taken prisoner that failed to reach his father as Tingha was spelt as Tingra.
source NAA: B2455, Westerway, Henry - First AIF Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920, page 28

Finding Henry Westerway

Inscription added to Henry Westerway's refurbished grave. The reference to our ‘sunny land’ reflects phrasing Henry used in a handwritten memo detailing his departure from England and his return home in 1919.
source Photo provided courtesy of Warren Smith

In 2016, three generations of Henry Westerway’s family held a commemorative service at the newly refurbished grave of Henry Westerway to pay respects to the sacrifices Henry made during World War 1.

Henry was gassed and taken prisoner of war at the Battle of Fromelles. War records show that he nearly died and was dangerously ill for much of his imprisonment and, although he returned home after the war, his health was compromised, and he died at a young age.

Warren Smith, begins his grandfather’s story:

“It is only recently I learned that Henry was probably from Anaiwan Aboriginal descendancy. I have connected with Westerway family members living in Inverell who are the first family I have ever met.

The scars of war affected our family generations later. My mother and I had hard upbringings due to the premature death of my grandparents and I am guessing it was not made any easier coming from an Aboriginal descendant.

I was surprised to locate his grave in Macquarie Park Cemetery near my home in Ryde and was able to arrange for his grave to be refurbished to honour the sacrifice he has made for his country and so generations to follow do not forget him as one of a little over 1000 aboriginal men that fought in WWI.”

Warren Smith
Warren Smith at his grandfather’s newly refurbished grave in 2016
source Photo provided courtesy of Warren Smith

Finding Henry has been made difficult by confusion about Henry’s date and place of birth. German POW records show a birthdate of 25 October 1885 in Inverell while attestation papers show his birthplace as Mount Browne via Broken Hill - just west of Milparinka and about 1000 km from Inverell. To complicate matters further, Henry’s birth registration was changed in 1939 by court order to show his birth as 17 March 1885 at Bingara (about 70 km west of Inverell). As Henry was indigenous, it is likely that record keeping in that era might be suspect or even non-existent.

Henrys Return to Australia after the War

Henry Westerway and his English bride, May Riley - circa 1919.

source Photos: courtesy of Warren Smith
Henry Westerway and his English bride, May Riley - circa 1919.
source With minor restoration to photo on right by Phil Robertson

While he was convalescing, Henry met his bride to be, Emily May Riley, known as May. They married in Leyton, Essex on 10 February 1919. Later that year, they returned to Australia aboard the troop ship SS Indarra, setting up home in Willoughby, Sydney - naming their home Leyton in honour of May’s hometown and the place they had married. Henry and May had one daughter, Stella, and sadly both died at a relatively young age.

Henry’s grandson, Warren Smith, observed:

“Many Aboriginal men were inspired to go to war because they were treated as equals but on their return to Australia were again segregated.

My grandfather was fortunate to make a fresh break with his new English wife starting a life in Sydney and hid the facts of his background.

I am fairly certain my mother never knew of her ancestry as it was never mentioned while I was growing up and it is only doing research that I discovered he was a very special man in Australian wartime history.

It is sad to think his grave was left unmarked and unvisited for 75 years in Macquarie Park Cemetery, Sydney before being recently discovered.

The Australia War Graves [sic] have now recognised him so that future generations know the important role Henry played in our history.”

The Advertiser – Cessnock, 18 July 2017, Fromelles Association of Australia AGM at Cessnock Ex-Services Club. https://www.cessnockadvertiser.com.au/story/4795481/presentation-on-fromelles-at-ex-services-club

The Fromelles Association would love to hear from you

Fromelles Association of Australia


The Fromelles Association welcomes all contact regarding this soldier.
(Contact: royce@fromelles.info or geoffrey@fromelles.info).
We also urge any family members to contact and register with the Australian Army
(Contact: army.uwc@defence.gov.au or phone 1800 019 090).


The Fromelles Association maintains this web site, purely by donations received.
If you are able, please contribute to the upkeep of this resource.
(Contact: bill@fromelles.info ).