Hugh Reid Black was born in Partick, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 13 August 1889. He came to Australia in 1911 arriving at Fremantle on the Bremen.
He moved to North Queensland and enlisted early in the First World War in Townsville, on 12 December 1914 after undergoing his medical examination in Ingham three days earlier. He was aged 25. At that time Black was a single man; his closest kin were his father and mother, Thomas and Margaret Black (née Reid), who were residents of Glasgow, Scotland. When he enlisted at Townsville he gave his home address as Cardwell. He was assigned to the 2nd Light Horse Regiment. At that time men enlisting were so plentiful that the standard of physical fitness and efficiency was high. Many men brought their own horses and these were purchased by the Remount Section Officer and then issued to their previous owners. Those who failed the riding test were assigned to an Infantry Battalion.
On 9 February 1914 Black’s unit (3rd Reinforcements of the 2nd Light Horse) boarded HMAT Itria and sailed from Brisbane. He had a traveling companion from home on the outbound ship to Egypt: Alan Gordon Clark-Kennedy. Like many of the troops leaving Brisbane for the War, he was photographed for the Queenslander newspaper and his image appeared with those of his comrades on 20 March 1915. One trooper recorded that as they left Pinkenba wharf the men felt “we would all be striking a blow for our glorious Empire”. The Light Horse did not take part in the Gallipoli landing but was later deployed without its horses to reinforce the infantry on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
The 2nd Light Horse Regiment first landed on the peninsula in late May 1915 to join the infantry and was attached to the 1st Australian Division. The Reinforcements were sent on from Alexandria as they arrived from Australia. Black’s records show he left Egypt to join his unit on the front on 9 July 1915. The daily routine was one of digging and being shelled. On 7 August the 2nd Light Horse led an attack from the notorious Quinn’s Post, a position crucial to the defence of the Anzac situation where the Turkish and Allied trenches were so close that the men could hear each other cough. The struggle here was bitter and constant. The attacking men “hadn’t Buckley’s chance” as they went over the top in full view of the Turkish machine-guns. The 2nd Light Horse lost 17 men in a few moments. They lost 69 dead and 221 wounded in 130 days.
Black was hospitalized suffering from severe dysentery, transferred to hospital in Egypt and was unable to see further service in Gallipoli, Egypt or Sinai. This illness, suffered by so many soldiers in WW1, probably saved his life. He embarked at Port Said, Suez, for Australia on the Ulysses on 3 January 1916 and was discharged, being medically unfit, at Brisbane on 19 April 1916. He had completed 494 days of service, of which 362 days were overseas.
He served with the rank of trooper and his regimental number was 758. He was awarded the standard three medals for his war service: the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and later applied for and was granted the Gallipoli medal.
Black returned from the war to the Cardwell area and lived on “Bleckill”, (Portion 51, Parish of Meunga) the property on the northern bank of Meunga Creek which he had resided on previously and where he was in partnership with Thomas Mitchell. Mitchell served on the Shire Council for a number of years. As he was incapacitated during his wartime service, Black was granted a soldier’s pension of £52 per annum (about $2 a week). In addition he worked for the local council as Rat Exterminator in 1921 and 1922 and also as Acting Inspector of Nuisances (Sanitary Inspector). His duties included distributing rat poison, examining sanitary conveniences and reporting thereon, serving notices and summons and generally keeping the Shire clean and healthy. He had the use of Council’s horses on long trips. During the council elections of 1922 he was Presiding Officer for Banyan.
Although he purchased a property from A. J. Henry in 1922, he left the district soon after to reside in Sydney and then Brisbane. During the Second World War he again answered the call on 13 January 1942 in Brisbane (Q124469). He joined the 5th Australian Ordnance Stores Company and attained the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 before being discharged in August 1952. He died in Brisbane on 30 May 1968 at the age of 78.
Trooper Hugh R Black
[photo from The Queenslander, 20 March, 1915]