Miller MACK

MACK, Miller

Service Number: 2949
Enlisted: 23 August 1916, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 50th Infantry Battalion
Born: Murray Bridge, South Australia, 1 March 1894
Home Town: Point McLeay, The Coorong, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Tuberculosis, Bedford Park Hospital, Bedford Park, South Australia, 3 September 1919, aged 25 years
Cemetery: Raukkan Aboriginal Cemetery
Memorials: Adelaide Commissioner of Public Works Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, 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

23 Aug 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 2949, Adelaide, South Australia
6 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 2949, 50th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '19' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Afric embarkation_ship_number: A19 public_note: ''
6 Nov 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 2949, 50th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Afric, Adelaide
7 Jun 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 2949, 50th Infantry Battalion, Battle of Messines
20 May 1918: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, 2949, 50th Infantry Battalion

Help us honour Miller Mack's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by John Edwards

Remembrance Day: Private Miller Mack's 'spirit' to return home a century after he left for the Great War By Nicola Gage

"Almost a century after he was buried in an unmarked, common grave in South Australia, the remains of an Aboriginal digger who fought in the Great War will be returned to his home. Private Miller Mack was buried in Adelaide's West Terrace Cemetery in 1919, after dying from an illness he contracted during battle. His great-nephew, Francis Lovegrove, said his family did not realise Miller Mack was resting there, and they were surprised to find he was not buried alongside his fellow diggers. "He was a returned soldier and there should have been some dignity in that he be treated appropriately," Mr Lovegrove said.

Private Mack grew up in the South Australian Aboriginal community of Raukkan, near the Murray Mouth. Like many other Indigenous men there, he enlisted to fight in World War I and in 1915 he served in the 50th Battalion. While fighting in France he became unwell and was sent to England where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He died from the illness in Adelaide in 1919, aged 25. Bill Denny, from South Australia's Returned Services League (RSL), said when the formal military section of West Terrace cemetery opened in 1920, the remains of many soldiers were moved there. But Private Mack was not among them. "A lot of them [soldiers] were exhumed and moved into here," Mr Denny said. "That didn't happen with Miller Mack for various reasons. He was buried in September 1919 and he stayed where he was buried until now." While the grave was initially unmarked it was later given a plaque.

Return to country brings his spirits home

Two years ago the RSL embarked on the complex process to move Private Mack's remains to the military section of the cemetery. But after learning of his whereabouts, his family decided it was time to bring him home to Raukkan. The community has now received approval from the South Australian Attorney General's Department for the exhumation to go ahead. It is expected the remains will be moved to Raukkan cemetery early next year. Private Mack's great-great-nephew, Herb Mack, said it would be an emotional event. "It's a big thing, we're slowly getting more of our people back on country and that's where they should be," Mr Mack said. "Although he'll miss his mates who are buried here I think he would much prefer to be home. "To bring him home and reintern him on home ground, it will make him feel better, his spirits will be home." 

Indigenous Australians have fought in every conflict since the Boer War. But some believe that until recently, they have not been properly recognised for their efforts. Mr Denny said South Australia was leading the way in recognising the achievements of Indigenous soldiers and the exhumation of Private Mack was another example of that. "It's another step in recognising Aboriginal service largely unknown until relatively recently or largely unrecognised until relatively recently," he said. "Here in South Australia we've taken the lead ... and certainly Remembrance Day will be a day when we're thinking about Aboriginal service and service in every sense." - from ABC Online 11 Nov 2016 (


Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From RSL South Australia and Northern Territory
On this day in 1919, Ngarrindjeri World War I veteran Pte Miller Mack died at the Bedford Park Sanatorium for returned soldiers with tuberculosis. Miller was born at Point McLeay in 1894, his parents were John Mack and Margaret 'Pinkie' Mack (nee Karpany). He worked as a labourer prior to enlisting at Adelaide on 23 August 1916.

After initial training at Mitcham Camp (located in present day Colonel Light Gardens), he was allocated to the 7th reinforcements to the 50th Battalion. The 50th Battalion was a South Australian battalion, the sister battalion of the 10th Battalion, which was the first battalion raised in South Australia for service in the First World War. He sailed to England with the rest of his reinforcements, leaving Adelaide on the 'Afric' on 6 November 1916, and arriving at Plymouth, Devon on 9 January 1917. Miller was sick during the voyage, and spent some time in the ship's hospital.
After disembarking in England, Miller and his comrades were sent to the 13th Training Battalion at Codford in Wiltshire for further training in trench warfare. During his four months training, Miller spent several weeks in hospital with colds and influenza. In May 1917 he boarded a ship for France and after moving through the various depots, was taken on strength of the 50th Battalion at Buire, northern France. A few days later, the battalion boarded a train at Albert, and were transported to Flanders in Belgium.

In early June 1917, the 50th Battalion was part of the Battle of Messines. On the approach march they were caught in a choking phosgene gas barrage in Ploegsteert Wood. On 7 June 1917 at 3.10am, nineteen enormous 'mines', large tunnels filled with explosives, were exploded beneath the German trenches between Messines and Wytschaete, which instantly killed approximately 10,000 German soldiers. This is believed to have been the largest man-made explosion in human history at the time.

The troops which rushed across the craters included Miller Mack and the rest of the 50th Battalion who were supporting the second phase of the attack. They captured all their objectives, the Germans having been completely stunned by the force of the explosion and the following artillery barrages and attacks. Thousands of Germans were captured.

The 50th Battalion followed up with a night attack on 10 June, which captured more enemy trenches. The battalion suffered 157 casualties during the Battle of Messines.

Miller was evacuated to hospital in early July 1917, still suffering from a cough which he just couldn't shake. He was admitted to hospital in England on 17 July with severe bronchial pneumonia, and by September had lost nearly 20 kilograms in weight and been diagnosed with tuberculosis. His severe chest problems were linked directly to the gassing he had undergone just prior to the Battle of Messines. In late September he was shipped back to Australia to be discharged as medically unfit, but needed hospitalisation at Torrens Park and then at the Nunyara Sanatorium at Belair prior to being discharged in May 1918. He returned to Point McLeay in November 1918, but was very unwell. He was admitted to the Bedford Park Sanatorium for returned soldiers with tuberculosis, where he died on 3 September 1919, almost exactly two years after his diagnosis with the disease.

He was buried the following day at the West Terrace Cemetery, just outside Light Oval which had already been set aside for the AIF Cemetery. His funeral costs were paid by the Army.

In January 1920, Mr Mat Kropinyeri wrote to The Register newspaper asking for donations to build a memorial for Miller at the cemetery, as his grave had no headstone. At that time, he was the only Aboriginal returned soldier buried in West Terrace cemetery. In response, a donation of several pounds was received by The Register from the patients at the Bedford Park Sanatorium. They wrote that he had a "kindly and manly nature, he endeared himself to us all, and when he 'went west' we felt we had lost a dinkum pal. Those of us who knew him in camp and abroad can testify to his sterling qualities as a soldier and a man."

In the end though, it was the Office of Australian War Graves that placed a marker on his otherwise unmarked grave.

On Friday 24 March 2017, a hearse and its veteran motorcycle escort pulled up at the gate of the Raukkan Aboriginal community, which is located on the Coorong in South Australia. Its arrival marked the end of a 98-year long journey for Miller Mack to return to his country.

In 2011, Aboriginal Veterans SA had become aware of his grave and subsequently brought the attention of family members to it with the offer of helping to ensure it was moved to a more appropriate place.

Miller’s family decided that he should come home to his country at Raukkan. After approval by the South Australian Attorney-General, and with the assistance of the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, Veterans SA, RSL Care SA and Fulham Funerals, this came to pass on 24 March. It was a very special day, with hundreds of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and many veterans in attendance. A full military funeral including a gun carriage and firing party was provided by the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and the Commander 1st Brigade flew down from Darwin to represent the Chief of Army. As the soldiers carried Miller into the little chapel that features on the $50 note, we looked up to see a formation of three pelicans flying directly above the chapel, welcoming him home after 98 years.

Later, as we filed past his new grave, in the hill-top cemetery overlooking the waters of Lake Alexandrina, with the shots of the firing party still ringing in our ears, I heard a veteran behind me whisper, “You’re home now mate”.
Lest we forget.
Ian Smith
Anzac Day Committee

Miller Mack: from "Ngarrindjeri ANZACs" by Doreen Kartinyeri



Father John Mack and Mother Pinkie Mack, who lived at Port McLeay, South Australia
(noted 7/5/1924 - father has passed away).

Described on enlisting as 22 years 6 months old; single; 5' 8 1/4" tall; 144 lbs;
dark complexion; brown hair; black hair; Church of England

16/8/1916        Completed medical in Adelaide - fit for service

23/8/1916        Enlisted in Adelaide
                        C Company, 2nd depot, Mitcham Camp

6/11/1916        Embarked from Adelaide on board HMAT Afric A19
                        as a Private with 7th Reinforcements
9/1/1917          disembarked into Plymouth, England
                        marched in to 7th Training Brigade, Codford

29/1/1917        Sick to camp hospital

7/2/1917          Marched in to 7th Training Brigade, Codford

22/2/1917        Sick to Grays Hospital - Influenza

9/5/1917          Proceeded overseas to France

13/5/1917        Taken on strength into 50th Battalion, France

7/7/1917          Whilst serving in France he became ill and was evacuated to England
                        where he was diagnosed as suffering from severe bronchial pneumonia.

26/9/1917       Private Mack returned to Australia, on board HMAT A30 Borda

20/5/1918       Discharged from service

Later admitted to the Bedford Park Hospital, Adelaide.

3/9/1919         He succumbed to his illness and passed away

Buried in:        Grave 14,  AIF West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide.

British War medal (18231) and Victory medal (18020).

Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan.  29/11/2014.  Lest we forget.