Private Henry Dalziel, c.1919
18 February 1893|
|Died||24 July 1965
Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland
|Buried at||Mt Thompson Crematorium|
|Years of service||1915–19
|Unit||15th Battalion (Queensland & Tasmania)|
First World War
Henry Dalziel, VC (18 February 1893 – 24 July 1965) was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was awarded the VC while serving with the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War. Dalziel's VC was the 1,000th awarded. After the war, Dalziel returned to Australia and tried to make a living by farming. Troubled by the injuries he sustained during the war, he left the land and took up factory work. He moved between jobs several times during the 1930s, and led something of a transient lifestyle, even at one stage turning to gold prospecting. In the mid-1930s he rejoined the army in a part-time capacity and during the Second World War served in a training role in Australia. He died in 1965 at the age of 72.
First World War
Dalziel volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in early 1915 and was posted to the 15th Battalion as a reinforcement. He served throughout the Gallipoli Campaign until he was evacuated, along with the rest of his battalion, to Egypt in December 1915. From July 1916, he served on the Western Front in France and fought in the Battles of the Somme, Pozières and Mouquet Farm. His service continued into 1917, including the Battle of Messines but he was wounded during the Battle of Passchendaele at Polygon Wood. He returned to the front in June 1918.
It was during the Battle of Hamel that Dalziel performed the deed for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). Assigned to the battalion's transport company as a driver, he volunteered to join the attack to make up for a manpower shortage that the battalion was experiencing at that time. On 4 July 1918 at Hamel Wood, when determined resistance was coming from an enemy strong-point which was also protected by strong wire entanglements, Dalziel, armed only with a revolver, attacked an enemy machine-gun. He killed or captured the entire crew and, although severely wounded in the hand, carried on until the final objective was captured. He twice went over open ground under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire to obtain ammunition and, although suffering from loss of blood, continued to fill magazines and serve his gun until wounded in the head.[Note 1] The citation for his VC, published in the London Gazette, read:
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in action with a Lewis gun section. His company met with determined resistance from a strong point which was strongly garrisoned, manned by numerous machine-guns and, undamaged by our artillery fire, was also protected by strong wire entanglements. A heavy concentration of machine-gun fire caused many casualties, and held up our advance. His Lewis gun having come into action and silenced enemy guns in one direction, an enemy gun opened fire from another direction. Private Dalziel dashed at it and with his revolver, killed or captured the entire crew and gun, and allowed our advance to continue. He was severely wounded in the hand, but carried on and took part in the capture of the final objective. He twice went over open ground under heavy enemy artillery and machine-gun fire to secure ammunition, and though suffering from considerable loss of blood, he filled magazines and served his gun until severely wounded through the head. His magnificent bravery and devotion to duty was an inspiring example to all his comrades and his dash and unselfish courage at a critical time undoubtedly saved many lives and turned what would have been a serious check into a splendid success.— The London Gazette, 17 August 1918
Dalziel's VC was the 1,000th such medal to be awarded. His wounds were so severe that his brain was exposed and he was evacuated to England for medical treatment. It was not until January 1919 that he returned to Australia.
Discharged from the AIF in July 1919, the following year he married Ida Maude Ramsay, who had served as a nurse with the 17th Australian General Hospital. The couple took up a block of land for farming but his wife was primarily responsible for its running. After a few years, Dalziel tired of farming and moved to Sydney where he took up factory work. His wife remained on the farm. He then tried his hand at gold mining in the Bathurst region before later returning to the farm when his wife became ill. By 1933, he was living in Brisbane but out of work. At this time, having maintained an interest in song writing since his time in hospital recuperating from his war wounds, he had some of his work published in England and the United States.
From 1933, Dalziel served in the Citizen Military Forces and was a sergeant in the 9th/15th Battalion. During the Second World War, he did not serve abroad. Instead he supported recruitment and funding drives. He also conducted talks for troops at training camps. His final posting before he was discharged from the Army in December 1943 was to the 11th Training Battalion. In 1956, he travelled to England for the VC centenary celebrations. In late life, Dalziel lived in Oxley.
On 24 July 1965, Dalziel suffered a stroke and died at the Greenslopes Private Hospital in Brisbane. He was cremated with full military honours. A plaque in his memory is laid at Mount Thompson Crematorium, Brisbane.
On 25 November 2010, a group of Dalziel's medals and associated documents were auctioned by Noble Numismatics in Sydney, fetching AUD $525,000 + commission.
Tributes to Henry Dalziel VC include:
- Dalziel Street in Nundah, an inner suburb of Brisbane, was named after him in about 1948.
- Henry Dalziel Oval at Irvinebank, North Queensland is named in his honour.
- There is a memorial to Henry at Loudon House Museum at Irvinebank.
- The bar at the Atherton, Queensland, Returned Servicemen's Club is called The Harry Dalziel VC Memorial Bar.
- In a park in Atherton a mounted WWI artillery piece stands as a memorial to Private Harry Dalziel VC.
- The Army barracks at Enoggera (Queensland) and Singleton (NSW) both have roads named in his honour.
- The officers' club at the Army's Enoggera Barracks is named 'The Henry Dalziel VC Club'.
- The Henry Dalziel VC Dialysis Centre, Greenslopes Private Hospital, Greenslopes, Queensland opened and named in his honour on 28 August 2003 by the Hon Danna Vale MP, Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. She said,
"The brave actions of Henry Dalziel are typical of the Australian spirit that burned brightly in World War I. It helped us to define ourselves as a nation. It gave us values and traditions that today echo and shine in the present generation of Australian servicemen and women. His bravery in the face of the enemy and his refusal to leave his mates despite being wounded are the actions that make his story so special. He was a true Anzac. He never gave up and he always looked after his mates."
- Dalziel's personal account of the action was as follows: "We were harassed by murderous fire from a nearby enemy stronghold, the Australian advance was held up. My gun had cleaned up one [machinegun] nest, but another planted in a different direction opened fire. I dashed at it killing seven Germans with my two revolvers. One German bloodhound wounded me in the hand, but I soon had him on the ground. I lunged at him with my German dagger, catching him right over the heart. His dying cry upset me and I shivered."
- Mays 1981, pp. 202–203.
- "Henry Dalziel – Discovering Anzacs". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- Chataway 1948, pp. 213–214.
- Laffin 1999, pp. 77–78.
- Barlass, Tim (14 November 2010). "World War I VC to go up for auction". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
- The London Gazette: . 17 August 1918. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
- Wigmore 1963, pp. 129–130.
- "Dalziel, Henry". World War II Nominal Roll. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- Willey, Harry. "Private Harry Dalziel". firstworldwar.com. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
- "Lot 4315". Retrieved 2016-09-20.
- Chataway, Thomas (1948). Goldenstedt, Paul, ed. History of the 15th Battalion 1914–1918. Fortitude Valley, Queensland: William Brooks & Co. OCLC 35124181.
- Laffin, John (1999). The Battle of Hamel: The Australians' Finest Victory. East Roseville, New South Wales: Kangaroo Press. ISBN 0-86417-970-7.
- Mays, Helen (1981). "Dalziel, Henry (1893–1965)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Volume 8. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
- Wigmore, Lionel, ed. (1963). They Dared Mightily. Canberra: Australian War Memorial.
Media related to Henry Dalziel at Wikimedia Commons