Rufus Gordon RIGNEY

RIGNEY, Rufus Gordon

Service Number: 3872
Enlisted: 9 August 1916, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Point McLeay, South Australia, 29 November 1899
Home Town: Point McLeay, The Coorong, South Australia
Schooling: Point McLeay State School, South Australia
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Died of wounds (POW of Germany), Belgium, 16 October 1917, aged 17 years
Cemetery: Harlebeke New British Cemetery
Plot X1, Row D, Grave 7,
Memorials: Adelaide Commissioner of Public Works Roll of Honour, Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Raukkan Aboriginal Community War Memorial, Raukkan Mission Ngarrindjeri Anzacs Memorial, Raukkan Point McLeay Mission Church War Memorial Window
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World War 1 Service

9 Aug 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 3872, Adelaide, South Australia
21 Sep 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3872, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1,

--- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '17' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Commonwealth embarkation_ship_number: A73 public_note: ''

21 Sep 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 3872, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Commonwealth, Adelaide
4 Mar 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, 3872, 32nd Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages, GSW (back and arms)
27 Jun 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 48th Infantry Battalion
12 Oct 1917: Imprisoned 1st Passchendaele
12 Oct 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, 3872, 48th Infantry Battalion, 1st Passchendaele, GSW (chest)
16 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3872, 48th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres, --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 3872 awm_unit: 48 Battalion awm_rank: Private awm_died_date: 1917-10-16

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Biography contributed by Schools Program

Rufus Rigney was born at Point Macleay, South Australia. His date of birth is uncertain, but likely to be 26 November 1899. An alternate date (15 November 1898) is given on the German records but, given that their informant can only have been the badly wounded Rufus himself, speaking in a foreign language, it is likely the information was garbled.

Rufus enlisted in the AIF on 9 August 1916, giving his age as 19 years 1 month, when he was actually still 16. The parents of soldiers under 21 had to give permission for them to enlist; in Rufus's case, this permission was given by the Chief Protector of Aborigines, as his legal guardian. Rufus passed all the physical checks, and was recorded as being 167cm tall. He listed his mother Rachel as his next of kin. In joining  up, Rufus was following in the footsteps of his older brother Cyril (/explore/people/282693), who would go on to be killed in action the following year.

Rufus was initially enrolled in the 32nd Battalion and embarked from Adelaide on 21 September 1916, just six weeks after enlisting. He arrived in England on 14 November, and was hospitalised with a bout of mumps on Christmas Day 1916. Mumps was common among newly arrived troops at the time. Rufus was in hospital for four days before being discharged, which suggests his case was quite mild. He left England for France on 16 January 1917.

A few days later he reached his unit, the 32nd Battalion, which was encamped at Montauban. He arrived as part of a draft of reinforcements; the Battalion's War Diary gives the 21 January strength as 33 officers and 616 ORs, but the 22 January strength as 33 officers and 649 ORs.

On 4 March 1917 the 32nd Battalion was occupying the front line trenches near Guedecourt when it was subject to a German shelling, a near-daily occurrence. On this day, one soldier was killed and another five wounded; one of these wounded men was Rufus. He received a shell wound in the back and a less serious wound in the upper right arm. Over the next few days he passed through the army medical organisation, ending up at Lakenham Military Hospital in Norwich, England, and a week later passing to the Australian Hospital at Dartford. He convalesced there and at Hurdcott, regaining his fitness before returning to active duty.

Rufus crossed back over to France in early June and spent a few weeks at the base depot at Le Havre. But rather than returning to the 32nd Battalion he was transferred to the 48th Battalion, and joined up with them on 29 June. The 48th Battalion served several times in the line during the Australian phase of the Third Ypres campaign, especially in September, but its major test was at the First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October, when the whole 12th Brigade (of which the 48th Battalion was a part) took part in the attack.

It was during this attack that Rufus Rigney was fatally wounded, one of over a thousand casualties for the 12th Brigade. The details are sketchy. According to a supposed witness found by the Red Cross Wounded and Missing bureau (whose identity could not be confirmed), Rufus was part of his bombing section in A Company. The two men were together in a shell hole patching up a badly wounded man, Cpl Thomas Roachock (/explore/people/123617). After leaving that shell hole, Rufus was himself shot through the lungs and either dragged or collapsed into another shell hole. Another soldier, Pte Albert Doran (/explore/people/800480), bandaged him, but he had to be left in the shell hole where, the informant thought, "no doubt he died, for he was very bad". Both Roachock and Doran were killed that day. But a German counterattack meant the ground was lost and the wounded could not be recovered, so Rufus's fate was unknown.

German sources complete the story. Rufus was captured while badly wounded, and taken to the German Feldlazerett (field hospital) at Iseghem, several kilometres to the east. He lingered there for four days before dying of his wounds on 16 October. The Germans buried him at the Iseghem cemetery and passed information of his death to the British authorities by early December.

Rufus's remains lay at Iseghem for seven years before being re-interred in the British cemetery at Harlebeke in 1924, where they remain to this day.


Biography contributed by Evan Evans

RSL South Australia and Northern Territory
Rufus Gordon Rigney was a Ngarrindjeri man born on 28 November 1899 at Raukkan, then known as Point McLeay Aboriginal Mission. He was the second son of Ben Rigney, the mission butcher, and Rachel Rigney nee Disher.

Rufus was only 16 years old when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 9 August 1916, but gave his age as 19. His parents agreed to him enlisting because he wanted to be with his brother Cyril and his cousins who were already serving overseas. Rufus embarked on 19 September, arrived in the UK in November, and joined the 32nd Battalion in France in January 1917. He was wounded on 4 March during the pursuit of German forces withdrawing to the Hindenburg Line of defences, and when he returned to France he was transferred to the 48th Battalion.

On 12 October, Rufus was wounded again, this time at Passchendaele, and was taken prisoner by the Germans following a counterattack. He died of his wounds four days later, six weeks before his 18th birthday. He was buried at a military cemetery at Iseghem, in the Flanders region of Belgium. He never saw his brother Cyril, who was himself killed in France. Rufus only learned of his brother's death just before he was wounded and captured at Passchendaele.

Lest we forget.
Ian Smith
Anzac Day Committee



29 December 1916 - To hospital -mumps

6 March 1917 - Wounded in action - gunshot wounds to back and arms

5 December 1917 - German Death list states he died of gunshot wound to the lungs received in action. Feldlazeratt, Isegham,

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Son of Benjamin and Rachel Rigney, Point McLeay, South Australia. Brother of 2042 Pte Cyril Spurgeon Rigney, 43rd Bn, killed in action, 3 July 1917

"Indigenous leaders say Rigney brothers' WWI efforts 'should not be forgotten. By Nicola Gage

Despite not being considered citizens at the time, more than 1,000 Indigenous men and women volunteered to fight in the Great War. Many of their stories are still being unearthed and Aboriginal leaders want to ensure they are not forgotten. One of those stories is that of the Rigney brothers from South Australia's Murray Mouth, who never returned home. Aboriginal teenager Rufus Rigney was 16 when he lied about his age to fight in World War I. His older brother Cyril and his cousins had already enlisted, so Rufus left his home at Raukkan Mission near SA's Coorong and headed for the battlefields. Like many other Indigenous men and women, Rufus was granted temporary citizenship to sign up. Relative Daryle Rigney said he wanted to join his brother and cousins and fight for his country.

"His family wasn't very happy about that and didn't really want him to do that, arguing he was too young but nevertheless he made the decision and went and did that," Mr Rigney said."READ MORE LINK (