Military History

The Highest Honour #13 | Wilbur Dartnell | Phillip Davey

By The Cove April 12, 2021


Lieutenant William Thomas Dartnall, VC (1885 - 1915, 30yo)

William Thomas was born on 6 April 1885 in Melbourne and at the completion of his education became an actor. At the age of 16 he served in the South African War with the 5th Victorian (Mounted Rifles) Contingent. Dartnell was in South Africa at the outbreak of World War One. He went to England and on 12 February 1915 joined the 25th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers as a temporary Lieutenant.

In August 1915 the Battalion had its headquarters at Voi, Kenya and two of its companies were stationed at Maktau to patrol the frontier. On 1 September Dartnell was assigned to a mounted infantry patrol and two days later, near Maktau, his party was ambushed. In the fighting that followed he was wounded in the leg and was being carried away when he realised that the badly wounded could not be removed. 'Knowing that the enemy's black troops murdered the wounded' he 'insisted on being left behind in the hopes of being able to save the lives of the other wounded men'. Though he was twice asked to leave he ordered his men to abandon him and began firing on the Germans who were within twenty-five yards of his post. When his body was found, seven enemy dead lay around it. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for giving his own life in a 'gallant attempt to save others'.

Dartnell was buried in Voi cemetery, East Africa. He was survived by his wife and daughter.

 

Corporal Phillip Davey, VC, MM (1896 - 1953, 57yo)

Phillip Davey was born on 10 October 1896 at Unley, South Australia and at completion of his schooling worked as a horse-driver. Davey enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force on 22 December 1914.

Davey embarked on 2 February 1915 at Melbourne with the 10th Battalion's 2nd reinforcement and proceeded to Egypt and Lemnos prior to the attack on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He was present at the landing and took part in four days of heavy fighting which followed. He was engaged in the subsequent trench fighting until eventually invalided from the peninsula with enteric fever. After treatment at the 1st Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis, Egypt, he returned to Australia in January 1916. In June Davey re-embarked with the 10th Battalion's 18th reinforcements and proceeded to England. He joined his battalion in France in September just before it moved into the line at Hill 60 in the Ypres sector. He was accidentally wounded on 15 March 1917 and was gassed on 3 October. At Warneton, Belgium, in the Messines sector on 3 January 1918, Davey gained the Military Medal for crawling into no man's land under heavy fire to rescue a badly wounded comrade. His brother Claude, serving in the same battalion, had received the same award the previous year, only three months before he was killed in action at Bullecourt in 1917. Another brother, Richard, was also awarded it.

Davey was promoted Corporal on 24 April 1918. He took part in an attack on enemy positions at Merris, France on 28 June. His platoon came under heavy fire and the commander was killed. Survivors were forced to shelter in a ditch under almost point-blank fire from a German machine-gun. Davey then made a single-handed attack on the enemy post until forced to return to his own position for more hand-grenades; attacking again, he killed the crew and captured the gun. He then mounted the machine-gun in a new post and efficiently used it during a counter-attack until he was wounded. For his bravery and determination in this action he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

He suffered from bronchitis and emphysema for years before his death from a coronary occlusion at the Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, on 21 December 1953. He was buried with full military honours in the A.I.F. Garden of Memorial cemetery, West Terrace, Adelaide.

 


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

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.



Comments

William was my great great uncle on my father's side. I would be very interested in hearing from anyone else related to him, or that can tell me more about his awesome story...

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