Black Diggers

Black Diggers

by

Tom Wright

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Black Diggers Characters

Nigel

The Indigenous soldier whose story opens and closes Black Diggers, Nigel grows up in the wilderness of Bellender Ker, Queensland, but his parents are murdered by white settlers and he is only spared… read analysis of Nigel

Harry

At the beginning of the play, Harry listens to an old Retired Schoolmaster and some of his friends discuss the coming war, but does not seem to pay it much attention. Later, however, he ends… read analysis of Harry

Ern

Ernest Hopkins, called Ern throughout the play, is a friend of Bob and Norm’s from Barambah in Queensland. All three sign up for the war together and end up severely injured—Ern loses an… read analysis of Ern

Archie

A soldier notable for writing a series of letters home to his Auntie May, which track his increasing sense of alienation and shock throughout the war. In the closing scene of the play’s first… read analysis of Archie

Laurie

A soldier who clearly sees the hypocrisy in his treatment during the war. He first jokes about how he is “arriving in boats uninvited on someone’s beach,” which is exactly what European settlers did before… read analysis of Laurie
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Mick

Another Aboriginal soldier. Early on, he meets four Trinidadians in Ypres and beats them up after they call him an “Australian Nigger.” Later he kills a number of Germans and takes pride in his “warrior… read analysis of Mick

Bertie

An underage soldier who grows up in the wilderness of New South Wales with his mother and grandad. Excited by the opportunity to fight for his country and see a “bigger world,” he convinces… read analysis of Bertie

Tommy

A soldier who fights with Bertie at Pozieres. They watch another Indigenous soldier, Frank, get shot and cut a lock of his hair, knowing they cannot give him a traditional burial. Later, they… read analysis of Tommy

Norm

A friend of Ern and Bob’s from Queensland. Lacking opportunities and hoping that their service will make whites see them as equals, they enlist in the Australian military in 1915, although they initially encounter… read analysis of Norm

Bob

A friend of Norm and Ern’s who enlists in the military alongside them and ends up injured with them in Abbeville. Blinded and with bandages covering his eyes, Bob laments that he has… read analysis of Bob

Taxidermist

A settler who saves Nigel from being murdered by other white men as a boy, although only because Nigel is a “perfect specimen.” In a later scene, it becomes clear that he has raised Nigel… read analysis of Taxidermist

A Ghost

Delivers a lengthy, undated monologue in the middle of Act One. He offers a sort of prototypical Aboriginal war story, elaborating on his sense of creeping madness in France and shock at watching his bunkmate… read analysis of A Ghost

Bertie’s Mom

Although she initially insists that he is making a mistake by trying to enlist in the military, Bertie’s mother agrees to forge his birthdate when he insists, but promises him that his time in… read analysis of Bertie’s Mom

Bertie’s Grandad

An elderly Aboriginal man who has lived all his life on his family’s ancestral land in New South Wales, he encourages his grandson Bertie to remember Indigenous people’s long fight against and suffering because… read analysis of Bertie’s Grandad

Stan

A white soldier who serves with a number of the Indigenous diggers, including Harry, Mick, Archie, and Ern. On the battlefield at Polygon Wood, Stan and Harry have a… read analysis of Stan
Minor Characters
Aunty May
The recipient of Archie’s letters from the war, Auntie May represents the too-often invisible ripple effect of soldiers’ trauma, which deeply affected their families as well.
Retired Schoolmaster
An “older white bloke with a stick” who berates Harry, Norm, Ern, and Bob about joining the war in order to defend Australia from foreign invaders—utterly missing the irony that, for Indigenous people, this has already come to pass.
Recruiting Sergeant
A sergeant who processes Norm, Ern, and Bob when they sign up for the war. The sergeant looks past a vague, racist law stating only those of “Substantially European” descent may sign up.
German Soldier
A soldier whom Archie strangles to death on the battlefield. His last words translate to “Black devil. Black devil with white eyes. Black devil … last thing that I see.”
German Prison Guard
After Nigel is captured by the Germans, a guard lectures him about colonialism and tries to convince him that he is being oppressed by Britain.
Bloke With a Glass of Wine
An unnamed Indigenous veteran who gives a short monologue in 1949 about how the war gave him a sense of dignity.
Overseer at Bertha Downs Cattle Ranch
The manager of the ranch where Archie works following the war.