Whistle from attack on Lone Pine : Brigade-Major D M King, 1 Australian Infantry Brigade, AIF

Accession Number REL/07579
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Personal Equipment
Physical description Nickel-plated brass, String
Maker J Hudson & Co
Place made United Kingdom: England, West Midlands, Birmingham
Date made c 1914
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Tubular police whistle of nickle plated brass manufacture, impressed on the tube body with the maker's details: 'The Metropolitan J. Hudson & Co 13 Barr St Birmingham Patent'. The intergal suspension ring carries a thick cord lanyard with a hangman style of sliding knot.

History / Summary

This whistle was used by Brigade Major Dennis Malcolm King, to commence the attack at the battle of Lone Pine in August 1915.

King was a British staff officer and professional soldier on exchange with Australian forces at the start of the First World War. King was born on 25 November 1886 at Calcutta, India. His first recorded appointment with the British Army is with 1 Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, from October 1906. He was promoted to lieutenant two years later, and served as battalion adjutant from 1909 to 1912. In August 1914 Lieutenant King joined the Australian army Sydney as an exchange officer. He was appointed orderley officer to the commanding officer of the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade, responsible for administrative affairs. King was one of two British officers so appointed – the other was Captain Francis Duncan Irvine, Royal Engineers, who managed brigade operations. King was promoted to captain (and Irvine to major) two days before the Brigade sailed aboard the transport Euripides from Sydney and Fremantle, on 20 October, as part of the First Contingent, bound for Egypt. Training occupied the following 3 months, with King promoted to staff captain on 5 January.

Elements of 1 Brigade (mainly 1 and 3 Battalions) landed at Gallipoli on the morning of 25 April at about 7.50 am and were immediately sent into the line as reinforcements at Monash Valley. By the time of their first relief on 29 April, the Brigade had suffered 60 officers and 1325 men as casualties. The fighting had been fierce, losses heavy. On 27 April at around 3.00 pm, Brigade-Major Irvine was killed at Steele’s Post by a sniper, despite being warned they were active (“It’s my business to be sniped at,” he said moments before he was killed). Ten minutes later, the commanding officer of the brigade, Colonel H N MacLaurin, was killed by the same sniper. C E W Bean wrote later, ‘The tremendous strain of the command on MacLaurin’s Hill had worn out McLagan, and was now telling heavily upon Owen. The brigade-major was dead, and King, the staff-captain, a young and vigorous officer, was near to breaking under the tension’. A day later, a proposed attack for 1 May over the head of Monash Valley and the summit of Baby 700 brought 1 Brigade back into the line, but this was delayed after a reconnaissance by Brigadier General Bridges, accompanied by King, now acting as brigade major, revealed the operation was full of risk and the plans would need to be altered. King was shot in his right thigh during this reconnaissance and was evacuated to 2 Australian General Hopspital in Cairo, where the bullet was ‘detected lying against femur’. It was removed and King recovered quickly. He was discharged on 19 May and rejoined the brigade at Gallipoli on 26 May.

1 Brigade was at the vanguard of the assault on Lone Pine on 6 August, conducted by 2, 3 and 4 Battalions with 1 Battalion in reserve. Bean records that after organising the movement forward of the battalions into their forming up positions, Major King prepared to lead the assault, ‘whistle in one hand, watch in the other’. Three blasts on this whistle signalled the start of the attack. King was highly active in the assault and the desperate underground fighting which ensued, directing defences and the digging of new cross-trenches, and facing the counter-attacks. By 9 August the Turks abandoned their attacks to regain the trench system, having suffered over 6,000 casualties to the 1st Australian Division’s 2,000.

For his involvement in the Lone Pine attack, King was mentioned in Brigadier-General Walker’s despatches of 31 August, it being noted that he and two other staff ‘served with zeal and devotion to their brigade, participating in all the actions now under report. I recommend that their services receive due recognition’. King’s Military Cross for ‘distinguished service’ was announced in the London Gazette of 1 January 1916.

After the evacuation from Gallipoli, King served with 1 Brigade in Egypt before being transferred to the newly-formed 5th Australian Divisional Headquarters on 12 March 1916 as one of its establishment General Staff Officers, Grade II, Temporary. Ellis’s book ‘The Story of the Fifth Australian Division’ mentions that ‘Major King had the ardent and energetic temperament of so many men of Irish extraction, and his personal gallantry and his experience of staff and regimental work promised well for his success as G.S.O. II.’

He moved to France in April 1916 and remained with divisional headquarters, often in front line duties, until temporarily transferred to General Headquarters (2nd Echelon) under Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig from 26 December 1916 to 7 February 1917, and again from 26 February to 21 September. Haig, in his mentioned-in-despatches notice of 13 November 1916 wrote, ‘I have the honour to sumbit the name of the undermentioned officer (D M King) who has served under my command during the period 26 Feb to midnight, 20/21 September 1917 whose distinguished and gallant service and devotion to duty I consider deserving of special mention.’ (London Gazette, 7 Dec 1917 and CoA Gazette No 66 2 May 1918).

Soon after, King’s appointment with the AIF was terminated, on 7 December 1917, ‘having resumed duty with Imperial Army”. He was recommended for the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 12 October 1916 for his work at Gallipoli, his staff work with 5 Division in Egypt and the organisaiton of its disembarkation, and at Sailly from July to September. His abilities as organiser of the Divisional Training Schools and his example to reinforcements at Petillon (19/20 September) are also mentioned.

Major King was awarded a bar to his DSO for ‘conspicuous gallantry and good leadership in organising three successful raids and compelling the enemy to withdraw from an outpost line overlooking our front line’, in November 1917.

After the war, Major King was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and placed in charge of 16 Infantry Brigade, Irish Command, from early January 1920 as part of the British attempt to control republican activity. His interim activities are unknown, but he deployed to India sometime in the 1930s, where he served as assistant Adjutant General, Directorate of Organisation, Army Headquarters, Simla from January 1935. By the time he contacted the Memorial in August 1953 to donate this whistle, he had retired to Cape Province, South Africa, where he died on 12 August 1960.