Derwas Cumming

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Derwas Cumming
Personal information
Full name Derwas Goring Charles Cumming
Date of birth (1891-09-24)24 September 1891
Place of birth Millicent, South Australia
Date of death 3 May 1918(1918-05-03) (aged 26)
Place of death Villers-Bretonneux, France
Original team(s) Christian Brothers' College
Position(s) Forward
Playing career
Years Club Games (Goals)
1907–10; 1914 Perth (WAFL) 51 (?)
1911–12 University (VFL) 21 (34)
Sources: AFL Tables,

Derwas Goring Charles "Dave" Cumming MC* (24 September 1891 – 3 May 1918) was an Australian rules footballer and soldier who was killed in the First World War.

Born in Millicent, South Australia, Cumming moved to Western Australia with his family at an early age. He made his senior debut for the Perth Football Club in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) at the age of 15, while still a high school student. In 1911, Cumming moved to Melbourne to attend the University of Melbourne, playing two seasons for the University Football Club in the Victorian Football League (VFL). He then returned to Perth and played one final WAFL season in 1914. Cumming enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force the same year, and served in the Gallipoli Campaign and on the Western Front. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917, and received a bar the following year. He died of wounds after the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.

Early life and football career[edit]

Cumming was born in Millicent, South Australia, on 29 September 1891, the second of five children born to Catherine Frances Henrietta (née Jones) and Charles Walter Cumming.[1] Both his parents were of English origin.[2] At a young age, his family returned to Perth, Western Australia (Charles Cumming's hometown). There, he attended the Christian Brothers' College on St Georges Terrace, serving as a prefect in 1909. According to The West Australian, Cumming was "one of the best known and most popular of the boys attending the secondary schools of Western Australia".[3] At school, he excelled at both cricket and football, captaining the college's cricket team in 1909.[4] The following year, he was named Champion Athlete at the combined athletics carnival of the Public Schools Association,[5] after winning the 100-yard race, 220-yard race, the 440-yard race, the 120-yard hurdles, the high jump, and the long jump.[6]

While playing for the school football team, Cumming caught the eye of recruiters from the Perth Football Club in the West Australian Football League (WAFL), and subsequently made his debut against East Perth on 22 June 1907.[7] He was aged 15 years and 273 days on his debut, making him one of only four people confirmed to have played senior WAFL football before their sixteenth birthday, along with Stan Hussey, Anthony Forrest, and Stan Magro.[8] Cumming did not play in Perth's grand final over East Fremantle in September 1907, in which they recorded their first premiership, but did play in the losing grand finals in 1908 and 1909.[9] After his graduation from Christian Brothers' College in 1910, he left Western Australia to attend Trinity College at the University of Melbourne. While at the university, Cumming played a number for the University Football Club in the Victorian Football League (VFL), during which time he was generally referred to by his nickname, "Dave".[10] He played a total of 21 games for the club, kicking 34 goals, before returning to Perth after the completion of his degree.[11] Cumming's best performance for University was five goals against Geelong in the last match of the 1911 season, out of only seven goals for the team.[12] He finished the 1912 season with 17 goals from 10 games, second only to Bert Hartkopf for the club. This included two goals in University's round-three defeat of Richmond, the only win of Cumming's VFL career.[13]

Military career and death[edit]

Cumming (far left) and his brother, Lieutenant Redmond Cumming (far right), in 1916, along with two other unidentified Australian soldiers.

Working for a time at Yalkin, his mother's farm at Doodlakine, Cumming enlisted in the Australian Army in September 1914.[14] He left Australia on the transport ship Medic in November 1914 as a private in the 1st Divisional Ammunition Column, but transferred to the 16th Battalion in October 1915, where he served in the Gallipoli Campaign. Cumming transferred to the 48th Battalion in March 1916, as a second lieutenant, and was sent to serve on the Western Front with his unit. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Pozières, which necessitated a period of recovery in England, but was promoted to the rank of lieutenant before his return to France.[15] Cumming was again promoted, to captain, in April 1917, and in June of the same year was awarded the Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry and ability in handling two companies of his Battalion participating in the attack", which occurred during "operations for capture of objective east of Messines on June 7th to 9th 1917." It was also noted: "[t]his officer's quick appreciation of the situation and prompt and effective action was greatly responsible for the consolidation and final success."[16] He was also recommended for the Distinguished Service Order, but did not receive the award, possibly due to his rank. In April 1918, Cumming received a Bar to the Military Cross, for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in command of a flank company". He had "repeatedly repulsed" the enemy, then "protected the left, bringing very heavy fire onto the enemy", fighting a "brilliant rear guard action until the battalion was established in fresh positions."[17]

Cumming died of wounds after the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, on 3 May 1918. It was originally believed he was buried at the Australian-British Cemetery, but in 1923 it was discovered the site supposed to be his grave was marked with a military cross, rather than a grave marker. However, his name is included on the Villers–Bretonneux Australian National Memorial.[16] Cumming's uncle, Brigadier General Michael Derwas Goring Jones, CMG, DSO, was killed in a poison gas attack during the same month,[18] and his older brother, Redmond Harry Owen Cumming, had been taken as a prisoner of war in April 1917, and later poisoned himself, several years after the conclusion of the war.[19]


Military Cross with Bar Victory Medal 1914–15 Star British War Medal

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Derwas Goring Charles Cumming – GENi. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  2. ^ THRILLING PIONEERING. Originally published in The Register, 28 April 1926. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  3. ^ "Captain Cumming was one of the best known and most popular of the boys attending the secondary schools of Western Australia. He was a good athlete, and a natural leader." DEATH OF CAPTAIN DERWAS CUMMING.The West Australian. Published 21 May 1918. Retrieved 6 April 2012, from Trove.
  4. ^ "Mr. Derwas Cumming, the captain of the College Cricket Club, and one of the prefects of the school, on behalf of the teachers and students, then presented Lady Bedford with a handsome silver-mounted toilet case [...]" CHRISTIAN BROTHERS' COLLEGE.The Western Mail. Published 10 April 1909. Retrieved 6 April 2012, from Trove.
  5. ^ "Christian Brothers' College were also represented by the most successful athlete in Cumming, who, it may be stated in passing, is a prominent League foot-baller." SECONDARY SCHOOLS' SPORTSThe Western Mail. Published 10 December 1910. Retrieved 6 April 2012, from Trove.
  6. ^ SECONDARY SCHOOLS' SPORTSThe West Australian. Published 27 October 1910. Retrieved 6 April 2012, from Trove.
  7. ^ "It was the first appearance of Cumming, who hails from the Christian Brothers' College [...]" EAST PERTH V. PERTHThe West Australian. Published 24 June 1907. Retrieved 6 April 2012, from Trove.
  8. ^ Greg Wardell-Johnson and Steve Davies. "Youngest WAFL footballers"
  9. ^ THE FINAL MATCHThe Daily News. Published 26 September 1908. Retrieved 7 April 2012, from Trove.
  10. ^ Holmesby, Russell & Main, Jim (2007). The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers. 7th ed. Melbourne: Bas Publishing.
  11. ^ Dave Cumming – AFLTables. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  12. ^ University v Geelong, Sat, 2-Sep-1911 3:00 PM – AFL Tables. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  13. ^ 1911 Player Stats: University – AFL Tables. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  14. ^ Info 3f, Derwas Cumming – JCC Glass. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  15. ^ Copy of Attestation Paper – National Archives. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  16. ^ a b Derwas Goring Charles CUMMING – The AIF Project. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  17. ^ "He saw much service at France, was wounded at Pozieres, gained the Military Cross at Messines, and the bar to the Cross at Albert, in April 1918." THE BRAVE PIONEERSThe Advertiser. Published 27 June 1919. Retrieved 7 April 2012, from Trove.
  18. ^ "[...] also May 1919, his uncle, Brigadier General Michael Derwas Goring Jones, C.M.G., D.S.O., the result of gas on the Somme." Family NoticesThe West Australian. Published 5 May 1921. Retrieved 7 April 2012, from Trove.
  19. ^ Redmond Harry Owen CUMMING – The AIF Project. Retrieved 7 April 2012.