Military History

The Highest Honour #12 | Arthur Roden Cutler | Henry Dalziel

By The Cove April 6, 2021


SIR ARTHUR RODEN CUTLER VC, AK, KCMG, KCVO, CBE (1916 - 2002, 85yo)

Arthur Roden Cutler was born on 24 May 1916 where he grew up in Manly, New South Wales. At the completion of school he worked for the Texas Company Australasia (Texaco) and studied economics at night. In 1936 he joined the Sydney University Regiment. On 10 November 1939 he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Militia and in May 1940 transferred to the Second Australian Imperial Force receiving a commission in the 2/5th Field Regiment of the 7th Divisional Artillery.  

His unit left Australia for the Middle East on 20 October 1940. On 19 June 1941 the Australian Infantry attacked French positions at Merdjayoun, of which Cutler was part of an artillery forward observation team, attached to the 2/25th Battalion. During the advance, the infantry attack was checked after suffering heavy casualties from an enemy counter attack with tanks. Enemy machine gun fire swept the ground but Lieutenant Cutler, with another artillery officer and a small party, pushed on ahead of the infantry and established an outpost in a house. The telephone line was cut and Cutler went out and mended this line under machine gun fire and returned to the house; from which enemy posts and a battery were successfully engaged. The enemy then attacked this outpost with infantry and tanks, killing the Bren gunner and mortally wounding the other officer. Lieutenant Cutler and one other manned the anti-tank rifle and Bren gun and fought back driving the enemy infantry away. The tanks continued the attack, but under constant fire from the anti-tank rifle and Bren gun eventually withdrew. Lieutenant Cutler then personally supervised the evacuation of the wounded members of his party. Undaunted he pressed for a further advance. He had been ordered to establish an outpost from which he could register the only road by which the enemy transport could enter the town. With a small party of volunteers he pressed on until finally with one other, he succeeded in establishing an outpost right in the town, which was occupied by the Foreign Legion, despite enemy machine gun fire which prevented our infantry from advancing. At this time Lieutenant Cutler knew the enemy were massing on his left for a counter attack and that he was in danger of being cut off. Nevertheless; he carried out his task of registering the battery on the road and engaging enemy posts. The enemy counter-attacked with infantry and tanks and he was cut-off. He was forced to go to ground; but after dark succeeded in making his way through the enemy lines. His work in registering the only road by which enemy transport could enter the town was of vital importance and a big factor in the enemy's subsequent retreat.

On the night of 23–24 June 1941, Cutler, in charge of a 25-pounder, was sent forward into friendly forward defended localities to silence an enemy anti-tank gun and post. This he did and the next morning, the recapture of Merdjayoun was completed. 

Later at Damour on 6 July 1941 when our forward infantry were pinned to the ground by heavy hostile machine gun fire Cutler, with disregard to danger, went to bring a line to his outpost when he was seriously wounded. Twenty-six hours elapsed before it was possible to rescue this officer, whose wounds by this time had become septic necessitating the amputation of his leg.

At Merdjayoun, Cutler proved himself to be a courageous soldier and for his actions over 18 days of fighting that culminated in his wounding and the subsequent amputation of his leg, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was invalided home and was invested with the Victoria Cross, while standing on crutches, by the Governor General of Australia, Lord Gowrie, on 11 June 1942.

Following the war he began a long career in the Australian diplomatic service. He served as the High Commissioner to New Zealand from 1946 - 1952, he served in Sri Lanka from 1952 - 1955 and was then the Australian Minister in Egypt in 1956. In January 1957 he acted as the Secretary-General of the South-East Asia Council of Ministers and from 1957 - 1958 became the Chief of Protocol of the Department of External Affairs. In 1958 he was the State President of the RSL. He was the High Commissioner in Pakistan between 1958 - 1961 and Australian Consul-General in New York from 1961 - 1965, during which period he was the Australian delegate to the United Nations Generals Assembly in 1962, 1963 and 1964. His final diplomatic posting was in 1965 as the Ambassador to the Netherlands but was cut short in 1966 when he returned home as the Governor of New South Wales, an office he served for a record of 15 years.

Cutler was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1957. For his diplomatic services to Australia, he was honoured by The Queen as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1965. He was further honoured as a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KVCO) in 1970 and in 1981 was appointed a Knight of the Order of Australia (AK).

Cutler died on 22 February 2002 following a long illness. He was accorded the rare honour of a state funeral on 28 February 2002 by the New South Wales Government.

 

HENRY (HARRY) DALZIEL, VC (1893 - 1965, 72yo)

Henry Dalziel was born on 18 February 1893 at Irvinebank, Queensland. He was educated in his home town and became a fireman on the Cairns-Atherton railway  Dalziel enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 16 January 1915 and embarked with reinforcements for the 15th Battalion.

Dalziel joined his unit at Gallipoli in July where he served in the battle of Sari Bair and was eventually evacuated with his battalion to Egypt. In 1916 he sailed for France, going into the line at Bois Grenier and also serving at the Somme, Pozières and Mouquet Farm. In 1917 he saw action at Gueudecourt, Lagnicourt, Bullecourt and Messines before being wounded by shrapnel at Polygon Wood on 16 October 1917. He returned to duty on 7 June 1918, first as a driver and then as a gunner.

During the Battle of Hamel, his battalion's advance was met with strong resistance from a heavily armed enemy garrison at Pear Trench. Dalziel as second member of a Lewis-gun team helped his partner to silence machine-gun fire. When fire opened up from another post he dashed forward and, with his revolver, killed or captured the crew and gun, thus allowing the advance to proceed. During this action the tip of his trigger-finger was shot away; he was ordered to the rear, but instead continued to serve his gun in the final storming of Pear Trench. Although again ordered back to the aid-post, he began taking ammunition up to the front line, continuing to do so until he was shot in the head. For his actions he was the 1000th VC recipient of 4 July.

Dalziel's wound was so severe that his skull was smashed and the brain exposed. Miraculously, he survived and received extensive medical treatment in England before returning to Australia in January 1919. While travelling home by train, he received a hero's welcome at every station from Townsville to Atherton. He lived another 47 years before he eventually died of a stroke on 24 July 1965 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, Brisbane, and was cremated with military honours.


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Biography

The Cove

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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