Wilbur Taylor Dartnell

Wilbur Taylor Dartnell

Infobox Military Person
name=William Thomas Dartnell

born=6 April 1885
died=3 September, 1915
placeofbirth=Collingwood, Melbourne
placeofdeath=Voi, British East Africa
nickname=Wilbur Thomas Dartnell
serviceyears=February 1915 – September 1915
rank=Temporary Lieutenant
unit=25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
awards=Victoria Cross

William Thomas Dartnell VC (6 April 1885 – 3 September 1915) (enlisted as Wilbur Taylor Dartnell) was an Australian posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Dartnell was born in Melbourne, Australia. After marrying Elizabeth Smyth, he moved to South Africa, where he was living at the outbreak of World War One. He enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers and was shipped to British East Africa. On 3 September 1915, whilst his company were being evacuated, stayed behind in an attempt to save the lives of the wounded.

Early life

William Dartnell was born on 6 April 1885 at Collingwood, Melbourne, to Henry Dartnell, an English-born fruiterer, and his Australian wife Rose Ann, née Hanley. He was brought up in Melbourne and after leaving school, he became an actor. He married Elizabeth Edith Smyth on 15 April 1907, at Queen Street, Melbourne. Soon after, they settled at Fitzroy.cite web |url=http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A080235b.htm |title=Dartnell, William Thomas (1885 – 1915) |publisher=Australian Dictionary of National Biography |accessdate=2008-01-16]

World War One

At the age of 27 Dartnell settled in South Africa. When World War One started, he volunteered for service and sailed for England. 12 February 1915, using the name Wilbur Taylor Dartnell, joined the 25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He was promoted to temporary Lieutenant on 25 July 1915.cite web |url=http://www.army.mod.uk/fusiliers/battalions/1st_battalion/victoria_cross/royal/lt_dartnell_wilbur_taylor_.htm |title= Lt DARTNELL, Wilbur Taylor |publisher=Royal Fusiliers |accessdate=2008-01-16] The regimental history notes, this battalion "included men of various ages and with strange experience from all quarters of the globe". [Kelleher, J.P,] Raised especially for use against German troops in British East Africa, it was the only British unit sent on active service during the war without preliminary training. The Fusiliers reached Mombasa on 4 May and went at once to their military post on the Uganda railway: their main task was to protect the railway from enemy raiding parties. In June, Dartnell retrieved the Imperial Ensign from the local headquarters at Bukoba, the German base for attacks on the Uganda frontier. The regiment were subsequently awarded battle honours for "Bukoba".

Victoria Cross

Shortly after the victory at Bukoba, the battalion moved to Voi in preparation for an allied advance towards German East Africa. Two companies were dispatched by rail to Maktau, a small village in the lee of the Taita Hills; thirty-five miles from Voi, it was the railhead of the military railway then under construction towards Taveta. On 3 September 1915 his mounted infantry patrol was ambushed.

"On 3 September 1915, near Maktau, Kenya, during a mounted infantry engagement, the enemy were so close that it was impossible to get the more severely wounded away. Lieutenant Dartnell, who was himself being carried away wounded in the leg, seeing the situation, and knowing that the enemy's black troops murdered the wounded, insisted on being left behind, in the hope of being able to save the lives of other wounded men. He gave his own life in a gallant attempt to save others."(Gazetted, 21 December 1915LondonGazette |issue=29414 |date=21 December 1915 |startpage=12797 |supp=yes |accessdate=2007-01-16] )


Dartnell is buried in the township of Voi, 100 miles inland from the port of Mombassa on the East African coast. His headstone lies in a Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery. [cite web |url=http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=125299 |title=CWGC: Casualty Details |publisher=Commonwealth War Graves Commission |accessdate=2008-01-16] His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Australian War Memorial. [cite web |url=http://www.awm.gov.au/virtualtour/valour.htm |title=Hall of Valour |publisher=Australian War Memorial |accessdate=2008-01-16]


* "Elegant Extracts" - The Royal Fusiliers Recipients of the VC (J.P. Kelleher, 2001)
* Monuments to Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
* The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997)

External links

* [http://www.frontiersmenhistorian.info/fusiliers.htm The Frontiersmen]

NAME=Dartnell, William Thomas
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Dartnell, Wilbur Taylor
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Soldier, Victoria Cross recipient
DATE OF BIRTH=6 April 1885
PLACE OF BIRTH=Collingwood, Victoria
DATE OF DEATH=3 September 1915

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