Wallet, personal effects : 3347 Sergeant D E Coyne, 31 Battalion, AIF

Place Europe: Western Front
Accession Number REL/18694.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Personal Equipment
Physical description Leather
Maker Various
Date made Unknown
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Rectangular folding leather wallet with a nickle plated catch and a number of internal divisions. The wallet is marked inside "SGT D E COYNE B COMPANY 67TH BATTN AIF (LATE 31ST)".

The wallet originally contained a notebook, notepad with an incomplete list of Sergeant Coyne's platoon members and twenty seven photographs of various size of family, fellow soldiers, camps etc. (see REL/18694.002, .003, .004 and .005 for these other items).

History / Summary

This wallet was among the personal effects taken from the body of Sergeant David Coyne after his death, and sent home to his family. They consist of a leather wallet containing a group of twenty seven personal photographs, a small notebook with a green-grey watered silk cover, and a second notebook in fine green bookcloth with a black elastic retainer.

3347 David Emmett Coyne was a farmer of McKay in Queensland, who enlisted at Rockhampton on 25 January 1916, aged 19. He embarked from Hobart aboard the transport Seeang Goon on 10 May 1916 and after training in Egypt, England and France, was transferred to 31st Battalion in France in late December 1916. He received training as a bombing (grenade) instructor in June 1917 in England, rejoining his unit in October 1917 with the rank of sergeant with 14 Platoon, D Company.

On the night of 15 May 1918, at Vaire-sur-Corbie, France, 14 Platoon was manning a post in the support lines, supported by their Lewis gun team. At about 11:30 pm, being doubtful about the quality of some Mills grenades in a box in the trench and aware of his recent training and orders from his lieutenant to regularly inspect the grenades, Coyne decided to test one by throwing it over the parapet. "Make sure there’s no one out in front," he said, warning his six colleagues of his intention.

801A Lance Corporal W E Martin heard this and recalled 'from my dug-out I saw him put one foot on the firestep and swing his arm back to throw the bomb. I cannot say whether he struck his hand on the parados of the trench or whether his foot slipped. I next heard him cry out "Get out of the trench! There’s a live bomb in it!" I heard the explosion and immediately afterwards I heard Private O’Sullivan ask "Is anyone hurt?" Sergeant Coyne replied "Yes Sully. I got the whole issue. I laid on the bomb. I didn’t think you chaps could get out in time…. Is anyone else hit?"
Private O’Sullivan said "No." "I’m glad of that." [responded Coyne]'.”

The men of 14 Platoon helped rush David Coyne to the 61st (British) Casualty Clearing Station, where Captain Jagger of the Medical Corps examined him. He found 'multiple bomb wounds all over body. Fractured right leg. Injuries severe.' Coyne did not last the night. He was buried at Vignacourt British Cemetery near Amiens.

For his unselfish actions in saving his fellow-platoon members, by throwing himself on the live grenade Sergeant Coyne was recommended for an immediate posthumous award of the Victoria Cross. However, since no action had taken place against the enemy, this recommendation was altered to the Gold Albert Medal, awarded 'for gallantry in saving life on land'. He was the only member of the AIF to be awarded this medal during the First World War.