Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Chinese Australian Exservicemen Database


Prepared by Ian Welch and Mary Boland

This database includes information about Australians of Chinese ancestry who served in the Australian Armed forces prior to World War II (1885-1918) and some information about those who served during World War II. It was compiled from material collected by Mrs Mary Boland of Canberra from service records in the Australian War Memorial and an honour list of Australian ex-service personnel of Chinese descent prepared by Mr Gilbert Jan on behalf of the Australian Chinese Exservicemen’s Association. Mr. Jan’s list is available at the Mitchell Library in Sydney, New South Wales (http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/find/). Ian Welch collated and edited this information and produced the database.

Australians of Chinese ethnic descent served Australia in every war in which Australia participated from 1885 to the involvement in Iraq in 2005. The earliest Chinese-Australian serviceman is Sergeant John Joseph Shying who served with the New South Wales Contingent to the Anglo-Egyptian War in the Sudan in 1885. Shying’s father, Mak Sai Pang came to Sydney 1818. He married Sarah Ferguson in 1823. Sarah was a free settler who came with her convict mother. Christopher Shying, another family member, served in the 1st AIF.

Preliminary work on World War II servicemen shows that some men served in both World War I and World War II. Where possible, information about their World War II service has been included in the database. Unfortunately inclusion of World War II servicemen has proved impossible for the present authors due to other commitments. Some information about later servicemen can be gleaned from Mr. Jan’s honour list. There are also many names of recognizable Chinese origin on the Second World War Nominal Roll (http://www.ww2roll.gov.au/) available online from the Australian War Memorial.

Most of the men listed in the database have a Chinese male ancestor. For some, it was their father but for others it was a grandfather, or great grandfather. Most mothers were of European origin. Chinese born overseas who did not seek naturalisation were, as aliens, not eligible for military service.

Entries have been kept as short as possible and information is not always available for all searchable fields. The Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo (http://www.goldendragonmuseum.org/) holds individual records including diaries, letters, etc. The Australian War Memorial (http://www.awm.gov.au) is the most important and valuable repository of individual military records. It also holds a vast number of other manuscripts and published unit histories including Red Cross reports on prisoners of war. The best start to accessing this material is to use the sites above and follow up the long list of items that will appear using any of the standard search engines, such as Google, Looksmart, AltaVista, etc.

A range of abbreviations have been used in the database. Some are identified below. The Australian War Memorial website, and other websites on Australian military history can provide explanations for many terms.

ADBD - Australian divisional base depot.
Btn - Battalion
Bde - Brigade
Crp/Corp - Corporal
Coy - Company (an element of a battalion)
Div - Division
LH Regt - Light Horse Regiment (Australian mounted infantry)
Sgt - Sergeant.
Tpr - Trooper (Light Horse)

Information in the database is incomplete. We believe family research may yield many more names and hope that family members and other researchers will let us know so that the necessary additions can be made. Please email Ian Welch (ian.welch@anu.edu.au).

We offer this information with apologies for any errors or omissions. It is our hope that access to this file will encourage recognition of the depth of Australian multicultural history and the contribution of Australians of Chinese ancestry to the common good.

Mary Boland and Ian Welch, Canberra