Colt New Service Revolver Holster : Captain H B Wanliss, 14 Battalion, AIF

Place Europe: Belgium, Flanders, West-Vlaanderen, Ypres, Zonnebeke
Accession Number RELAWM01131.003
Collection type Technology
Object type Firearm accessory
Physical description Brass, Leather, Plastic, Steel
Place made United States of America
Date made c 1915
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Colt New Service revolver holster. Brown leather open top service holster which has a shoulder strap with an adjuster buckle stitched in two places at the rear on either side of the belt loop and has a single securing strap that fits over a brass stud on the front. A brass cleaning rod is fitted into a leather loop pouch stitched onto the back.

History / Summary

This pistol was worn by Captain Harold Boyd Wanliss 14 Battalion AIF during the action which cost him his life.

Wanliss was born at Ballarat, Victoria on 11 December 1891, the only son of John Newton and Margaret Wanliss. He was 23 years old when he enlisted in the AIF on 28 April 1915. Previously he had served in cadets.

Second Lieutenant Wanliss embarked from Melbourne with the 2nd reinforcements for 29 Battalion on 29 October 1915 aboard HMAT Demosthenes. He arrived in Egypt on 30 January 1916. While still in Egypt he transferred to 14 Battalion in March and was promoted to lieutenant in April. He embarked with his unit for France and was selected to lead the first raid against the Germans in the Bois Grenier sector, south of Armentieres. The raid took place on the night of 2-3 July. Unfortunately for the raiders an earlier allied mortar attack had not cut the German barbed wire. The Germans attacked the raiders with machine guns and artillery fire. Despite this setback, Wanliss led the raiders through the uncut wire and cleared a section of German trench. He was wounded three times during the raid, but was able to direct the assault and organise the withdrawal. For this action Wanliss was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). During the raid a bullet passed through from the left of his neck through his right cheek, causing the loss of his upper right teeth. He also received wounds to his right cheek and chest. Wanliss' father travelled to England to see him while he was recovering from his wounds.

On 27 September Wanliss rejoined his unit in France and in January 1917 he was appointed adjutant and was promoted to captain in March. He remained the adjutant for several months until he asked to be transferred to a fighting company and was given command of 'A' company a few weeks before the Battle of Polygon Wood. During this battle, in September 1917, Wanliss was shot as he led his company to its objective. The second in command of the company at the time, Lieutenant Norman Charles Aldridge witnessed his death, stating he had been hit in the throat, heart and side by machine gun fire and had died instantly.

Wanliss was buried later that day in a shell hole near where he died by 1447 Private Jack Andrews, who collected this revolver from his body. Andrews gave the revolver to Mr Wanliss who was still in England. Lieutenant Aldridge later passed on the map reference, Sheet 28 (1:40,000) J.4.b.4.3, where Wanliss was buried to Mr Wanliss. By the early 1920s Wanliss' grave had not been located by the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC), who were consolidating the ad hoc burials made in the field into permanent cemeteries. Mr Wanliss contacted the IWGC, providing information he had obtained from Albert Jacka VC and other members of 14 Battalion regarding the location of his son's burial. Jacka provided the map reference, 'Becelaere part of sheet 28' (1:10,000), grid reference J.4.b.4.4., which was close to Aldridge's map reference. Mr Wanliss hoped that the provision of these details would assist in the recovery of his son's body. However, despite his father's attempts it seems Wanliss' grave was never identified. Given the nature of trench warfare, it is possible his grave was later destroyed by shelling, or that he had been found but there was nothing on the body to definitively identify it as his. As a result Harold Boyd Wanliss' name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. In addition to his DSO, Wanliss was also Mentioned in Despatches and received a Commander in Chief's Congratulatory Card. Mr Wanliss later wrote the history of his son's unit 'The History of the Fourteenth Battalion, A.I.F'.

Wanliss was greatly admired and widely known for his intelligence and courage. His colonel wrote: "Many brave men - many good men I have met...but he was the king."