Military History

The Highest Honour #45 | Edgar Towner | Frederick Tubb | Blair Wark

By The Cove November 21, 2021


Major Edgar Thomas Towner VC (1890 - 1972, 82yo)

Edgar Towner was born on 19 April 1890 near Blackall, Queensland. At the completion of schooling he worked on his father's grazing property until he got his own piece of land where he worked on it until the outbreak of war. Towner enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force on 04 January 1915 as a Private where he was assigned to the transport section of the 25th Battalion.

In March 1916 he fought at Belgium and France and worked his way to the rank of Sergeant. In 1917 he transferred to the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion where he was commissioned a Lieutenant and twice Mentioned in Dispatches for his leadership. On 10-11 June 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross at Morlancourt, France. He was one of the first to reach the objective near the town of Albert and he quickly brought his section into action where they assisted troops from the 7th Infantry Brigade to advance and consolidate; while also making use of captured enemy machine-guns. On the morning of 11 June 1918 he capped his gallantry with a feat of daring in daylight, helping to re-establish a post under heavy attack 'at great personal risk'.

On 01 September 1918 he again distinguished himself at Péronne during the assault on Mont St Quentin. In the early stages of the advance Towner single-handedly captured an enemy machine-gun, then brought his men forward to produce 'such effective fire that the Germans suffered heavy losses'. He later took twenty-five prisoners before capturing another machine-gun 'which, in full view of the Germans, he mounted and fired so effectively that the enemy retired, thus enabling the Australians to advance'. Even when wounded, Towner continued to fight and to inspire his men. For his actions he was awarded the Victoria Cross which was gazetted on 14 December 1918.

Towner returned to Australia in April 1919 where he continued farming and working in the bush. He never married and on 18 August 1972 died and was buried with full military honours at the Longreach cemetery.

 

Major Frederick Harold Tubb VC (1881 - 1917, 35yo)

Frederick Tubb was born on 28 November 1881 at Longwood, Victoria. At the completion of schooling he managed the family farm, later moving onto his own land. He initially volunteered for service with the Victorian Mounted Rifles followed by the Australian Light Horse. In 1912, he joined the 60th Battalion were he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and in 1913 transferred to the 58th Battalion.

Appointed into the Australian Imperial Force on 24 August 1914 in the 7th Battalion he was promoted to Lieutenant on 01 February 1915. He arrived at Gallipoli on 06 July 1915 and was gazetted a Captain on 08 August 1915. On the same day he took over a vital sector of captured trench at Lone Pine, with orders to 'hold it at any cost'. Early on the following day the Turks launched a furious attack, advancing along a sap which had been barricaded with sandbags. From the parapet, with eight men, Tubb fired at the enemy; two corporals in the trench caught enemy bombs and threw them back or smothered them with greatcoats. Although Tubb was blown from the parapet and the barricade repeatedly wrecked, each time it was rebuilt. He inspired his men, joking and shouting encouragement. A huge explosion blew in the barricade and killed or wounded most of the defenders. Wounded in the arm and scalp, Tubb was left with Corporals A. S. Burton and W. Dunstan; he led them into action, shooting three Turks with his revolver and providing covering fire while the barricade was rebuilt. A bomb burst, killing Burton and temporarily blinding Dunstan. Tubb then obtained additional help, but the Turks did not renew the attack. For his gallantry at Lone Pine he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Due to his injuries he was evacuated to England and then invalided to Australia. He convinced the medical board that he was still fit to fight and rejoined his Battalion in France in December 1916 and promoted the following February. His company had an important role in the Menin Road attack, 3rd battle of Ypres, on 20 September 1917. Before the battle he was troubled by his hernia, yet refused to be evacuated. With dash and courage he led his company to its objective, but was hit by a sniper; while being taken out on a stretcher, he was mortally wounded by shell-fire. Tubb was buried in the Lijessenthoek military cemetery, Belgium.

 

Major Blair Anderson Wark VC (1894 - 1941, 46 yo)

Blair Wark was born on 27 July 1894 at Bathurst, New South Wales. At the completion of his schooling he was a quantity surveyor. From 1911 he was a senior cadet and enlisted in the 18th Infantry, Australian Military Forces where he was commissioned in 1913.

On 05 August 1915 he was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force and deployed for Egypt with the 30th Battalion in November. Promoted to Captain from 20 February 1916 followed by a Company Commander, he arrived on the Western Front in June where he was wounded in the battle of Fromelles. He returned to duty with the 32nd Battalion in November. His actions at Fromelles and Sunray Trench in March 1917 led to a recommendation for the Distinguished Service Order. No award eventuated but was promoted to Major on 27 April 1917. In late September and early October, while in command of the front line east of Ypres, his vigorous patrolling and personal reconnaissance kept his sector secure and enabled him to repulse one counter-attack and to thwart another. He won the Distinguished Service Order for this achievement and for his previous courage and devotion to duty. In May 1918 he was Mentioned in Dispatches.

Experienced and self-reliant, careless of his own safety, yet full of concern for his men, at the age of 24 Wark was given temporary command of the 32nd Battalion in operations against the Hindenburg Line that began on 29 September 1918. Often moving ahead of his troops in the face of heavy fire, he secured the help of a passing tank near Bellicourt and attached two hundred leaderless Americans to his command before rushing a battery of 77mm guns which were firing at his rear companies: he captured four guns and ten of their crews. With two non-commissioned officers, he surprised and captured fifty Germans near Magny-la-Fosse. On 01 October 1918 he 'dashed forward and silenced machine-guns which were causing heavy casualties'. For his bravery he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On return to Australia he was married and was discharged in September 1919. He continued working as a surveyor and in 1940 was appointed to the 1st Battalion, Australian Military Forces and assumed command with the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel. While on exercise in Puckapunyal he died suddenly from coronary heart disease.


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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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