Book follows life of Aboriginal hero


Historian and Hamilton resident, Emeritus Professor John Ramsland OAM, has released his latest book The Legacy of Douglas Grant. A Notable Aborigine in War and Peace.

Ramsland’s 25th book follows the life of Aboriginal hero, Douglas Grant, who, as a two-year-old, survived a massacre in north-eastern Queensland.

Douglas was rescued and adopted by Scottish immigrants, Mr Robert and Mrs Elizabeth Grant.  

They raised him in Sydney where he went through school and became a sportsman, playing rugby union while being trained as a mechanical draftsman.

Ramsland writes about Douglas’s time working at Mort’s Dock Engineering Company in Balmain and studying wool classing at night at Sydney Technical College.

In 1912, the story finds Douglas’s wool classing at a station near Scone, under the mentorship of Belltrees station owner, Henry Luke White.

At the age of 30 he joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), where he was promoted to Sergeant in the 34th Battalion, Maitland’s Own.

Before the troopship sailed, authorities demoted him to private in the 13th Battalion because of his race.

He fought in the First Battle of Bullecourt, where he was wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans.

During his time as prisoner, Douglas suffered through slave labour in the coal mines.

Following this, he was finally recognised as an Australian Prisoner of War and was placed in the Crescent Concentration Camp for Muslim and Sikh soldiers from British, French and Russian armies.

Ramsland reveals that his leadership qualities and education led him to be appointed inmate in charge of around 5,000 prisoners.

Douglas achieved great things during his time at the camp – he saved the lives of 300 prisoners.

Following this, the book continues to follow his life, right up until his death, at the age of 67.

Ramsland explores the journey he went on to find his way back to his tribal identity. He has recreated the hero’s life through the historical events and adventures Douglas was a part of.

This gripping tale shows that Douglas was a talented and courageous man, he was much more than the Aboriginal identity known to the popular press at the time.

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