Military History

The Highest Honour #15 | William Dunstan | John Dwyer

By The Cove April 26, 2021


Corporal William Dunstan VC (1895 - 1957, 61yo)

William Dunstan was born on 8 March 1895 in Ballarat East, Victoria. He left school at 15 to be a clerk and at the same time served under the Compulsory Training Scheme as a cadet, gaining the cadet rank of Captain. In July 1914 he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the militia with the 70th Infantry (Ballarat Regiment). On 02 June 1915 Dunstan enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a Private and two weeks later embarked for Egypt as an acting Sergeant of the 6th Reinforcements of the 7th Battalion.  

Dunstan was Mentioned in Dispatches before taking part in the battle of Lone Pine, where he was to win the Victoria Cross. On 09 August 1915, Dunstan was part of a group of soldiers defending a newly captured trench when the Turks made a determined counter-attack. Dunstan, together with Lieutenant Frederick Tubb, Corporal Burton, and six others, kept firing over the parapet. When a large explosion blew down the barricade, Dunstan and Burton began to rebuild it, while Tubb kept the enemy at bay. Before the work was complete a bomb burst between the men, killing Burton and temporarily blinding Dunstan.

On 10 June 1916 he was presented with the V.C. by the Governor-General on the steps of Parliament House, Melbourne. This was the occasion for an outburst of exceptional public fervour. 'A reserved man disliking fuss', Dunstan found it a great ordeal. Survived by his wife and children, Dunstan died suddenly of coronary vascular disease on 02 March 1957 and was cremated after a funeral service at Christ Church, South Yarra, attended by over 800 people including seven V.C. winners.

Sergeant John Dwyer VC (1890 - 1962, 71yo)

John James (Jack) Dwyer was born on 09 March 1890 at Port Cygnet, Tasmania. From 1910 he cut cane and timber in Queensland before returning to Tasmania in 1913 to work on the Lake Margaret Hydro-Electric Power Scheme. Dwyer enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 04 February 1915 and joined the 15th Battalion at Gallipoli in August.

Following the evacuation in December, he was sent to Egypt and transferred to the 4th Machine-Gun Company. He moved to France in June 1916, but it was near Zonnebeke, Belgium, on 26 September 1917 where Dwyer had charge of a Vickers machine-gun during an attack. When an enemy machine-gun began to inflict casualties among his comrades, he rushed his Vickers forward, fired at point-blank range, killed the German crew and carried their gun back to his lines. Commanding both weapons, he helped to repulse a counter-attack. The next day he fought with equal determination and inspired his sector. He was awarded the Victoria Cross. 

Commissioned in May 1918, he was promoted Lieutenant in August and returned home in October. His A.I.F. appointment terminated on 15 December 1918. 

In 1961 Dwyer spent time in hospital with dermatitis, which his family attributed to exposure to mustard gas during World War I. Survived by his wife, son and five daughters, he died on 17 January 1962 on Bruny Island; he was accorded a state funeral with military honours and buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery.

 


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.



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