Douglas (Poppenjerry) GRANT

GRANT, Douglas

Service Number: 6020
Enlisted: 13 January 1916, Scone, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 13th Infantry Battalion
Born: Atherton, Queensland, Australia, 7 January 1889
Home Town: Annandale, Leichhardt, New South Wales
Schooling: Annandale, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Mechanical draughtsman
Died: Natural causes, Little Bay, New South Wales, Australia, 4 December 1951, aged 62 years
Cemetery: Botany General Cemetery, New South Wales
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World War 1 Service

13 Jan 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 6020, Scone, New South Wales
22 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 6020, 13th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '11' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Wiltshire embarkation_ship_number: A18 public_note: ''
22 Aug 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 6020, 13th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Wiltshire, Sydney
11 Apr 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, 6020, 13th Infantry Battalion, Bullecourt (First)
11 Apr 1917: Imprisoned Bullecourt (First)
9 Jul 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, 6020, 13th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by John Edwards

"...Indigenous serviceman 6020 Private Douglas Grant, 13th Battalion. On 11 April 1917, he was wounded and captured during the 1st battle of Bullecourt. He was held as a prisoner of war (POW) in a camp at Wittenberg, and later at Wunsdorf (Wuensdorf), Zossen..." - SOURCE (

"One hundred years ago an Australian Aboriginal soldier, Douglas Grant, found himself in a prisoner of war camp south of Berlin. Captured at the Battle of Bullecourt in April 1917, he had already spent months at other camps across Germany doing hard labour and working in mines. But he was soon to find that Wünsdorf was a camp unlike any other. With all its prisoners from countries that had been colonised, it became the site of racial science experiments and a secret service jihad program.

Born into the rainforest Indigenous Nations in the area now known as the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland around 1885, Grant lived through a traumatic period. The brutality of the frontier resulted in Grant's separation from his family after a massacre in the area. He was taken to Sydney in 1887 by a Scottish couple who were in the Atherton area collecting specimens for the Australian Museum. In Lithgow and Sydney, he grew up as part of the Scottish community in which his foster parents moved. Schooled in the Sydney suburb of Annandale, he later worked as a draughtsman in nearby Balmain.

But all of this must have seemed a long way from the Wünsdorf POW camp in 1917. After being captured as a POW by Germans in April 1917, Grant was sent to the Wünsdorf camp after a chance meeting with a German anthropologist he had known at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Grant was one of more than 1,000 Indigenous men who served in World War I, and he was certainly not the only Aboriginal man to be taken prisoner. Indeed, he met at least one other Indigenous soldier, a Ngarrindjeri man named Roland Carter (/explore/people/162574), at this odd camp..." - READ MORE LINK (


Biography contributed by Evan Evans

Research prepared by Drs Aaron Pegram, Meleah Hampton and Lachlan Grant, Military History Section, Australian War Memorial, 28 March 2019.

Private Douglas Grant #6020
, 13th Battalion, was born into a traditional Aboriginal community in the Bellenden Ker Ranges, Northern Queensland, in the early 1880s. In 1887 his parents and much of his Aboriginal community were killed but no records were kept regarding the circumstances. Grant was adopted by a white family. He enlisted in 1916 and with the intervention of his foster father, was accepted for active service overseas. He was wounded and captured by the Germans at Bullecourt in 1917 and remained a prisoner for the duration of the war.

After his capture, Douglas spent two months in France with the other Bullecourt prisoners, who were used as forced labourers for the German Army. Owing to his dark complexion, Douglas ended up at the German camp for Muslim prisoners at Zossen in the German state of Brandenburg, where he supervised the distribution of comforts to Indian prisoners as a member of the British Help Committee.

Douglas’ role in distributing comforts was an extremely important one. Not only did the parcels lift the men’s spirits with much-needed essentials, but the system also provided the opportunity to accurately record who had been taken prisoner and where they were held. This vital information could make a huge difference for families at home in Australia who were waiting for news of their “missing”.

A highly educated man, Douglas returned to a society that was ruled by the White Australia Policy, and he struggled to find work during the Depression. He was hospitalised with severe depression at least once, and never found steady work, and did not receive benefits such as the Soldier Settler Scheme, and was subjected to racial discrimination because of his heritage. He struggled with alcoholism but continued to be an active member of various soldiers’ associations, and was politically active in arguing for rights for Indigenous men and for returned soldiers. He died alone and in obscurity in 1951.