A lifetime of service

29 March 2019 by Claire Hunter

George Paul

Corporal George Paul served on the Western Front during the First World War.

When George Paul enlisted in 1915, he claimed to be 48 years old. He was actually about 69, one of the oldest recruits to successfully enlist in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War.

An experienced soldier, the Scottish-born Paul had already twice served during the Boer War, and had reportedly fought in the Third Anglo-Ashanti War, the Anglo-Zulu War, and at the Battle of Tel el Kebir.

His story is told at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra as part of a temporary exhibition, A lifetime of service for Australia, which highlights personal stories of Australians who have served in multiple conflicts.

Exhibition curator, Nicholas Schmidt, said that the idea for the exhibition came from a member of the public.

“It was inspired by his grandfather who had served in the First and Second World Wars, but the Memorial expanded that concept and broadened it out to cover all of Australian military history.”

 The exhibition tells the stories of those who served their country, and then chose to redeploy in subsequent conflicts or theatres of operation, from the Boer War through to Afghanistan. 

“These are some of my favourite stories from the Memorial,” Schmidt said.

“I was able to take a fresh look at well-known, long-serving people in Australian military history … but I was also able to find new people and new stories to tell.

“The story of George Paul, who managed to enlist in the First World War at the age of 69, is one of my favourites.

“If you look at his photo, he’s got a big white bushy moustache, and you wouldn’t believe that he could have passed for a 48 year old, but he managed to enlist, served in Australia for a year, and was sent overseas with a tunnelling company.

“Eventually his age did catch up with him, and he only spent a few months at the front in France before he was admitted to hospital and sent home.

“On his return, the newspapers discovered that he had actually served twice in the Boer War before that. He claimed to have served in some of the British colonial conflicts in Africa as well, and although we can’t confirm that, we do know that he served twice in the Boer War, as well as in the First World War, and for the period, he was quite an elderly gentleman to get away with enlisting.”

A lifetime of service for Australia is on display in the Mezzanine Gallery in Anzac Hall until 12 May 2019. For more information, visit here.