Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Brothers in Arms Braved Battles at War, Home

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Brothers in Arms Braved Battles at War, Home

Article excerpt

THEY faced the same enemy as their comrades, braved the same harsh conditions and risked their lives for the same cause, but when First World War brothers in arms Caleb and Sidney Shang returned home to Australia they were ostracised for the colour of their skin.

Just being able to join the Australian Imperial Forces was a battle for the Shangs who were among about 200 Chinese-Australians to fight in WWI.

They were initially denied entry to the AIF because their father was Chinese and the Defence Act of 1909 only allowed men "substantially of European origin" to enlist.

They were eventually allowed to join our nation's WWI efforts when the government loosened its Euro-centric recruitment policy, allowing men of men of mixed ethnic heritage to join if they had one European parent.

Caleb was born in Fortitude Valley in 1884 and Sidney was born in Rockhampton in 1891.

Their parents Jane Noon and Lee Wah Shang moved the boys and their 11 siblings to Cairns where the family continues to have strong connections.

Sidney was the first of the Shangs to enlist when he made the journey to Townsville in January of 1916 at the age of 24. Caleb was not far behind, with the older brother joining the AIF five months later.

Both Caleb and Sidney did their country proud on the battlefields of France.

Sidney served in the 12th Battalion, fighting at Ypres in Flanders and on the Somme.

His battalion helped block a German offensive in 1918 near Amiens on August 8.

Sidney earned a British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his battlefield heroics.

His brother was one the few Australians to survive the first Battle of Bullecourt on April 11, 1917 in France.

Knowns as "the blood tub", some 3300 Australians were killed and 1170 taken as prisoners of war within a few hours of the under-prepared Australians launching their assault on the significantly stronger German enclave on the Hindenberg line.

Caleb was known to be a heroic jack-of-all-trades soldier, usually taking on the roles of runner, signaller, scout and sniper. …

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