|Middle East: Persia
|Last Post film
Australian War Memorial
|Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
|29 December 2015
First World War, 1914-1918
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
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The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1180) Sergeant Wilfred Davis, 17th Battalion, AIF, First World War.
The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on (1180) Sergeant Wilfred Davis, 17th Battalion, AIF, First World War.Film order form
1180 Sergeant Wilfred Davis, 17th Battalion, AIF
DOD 7 July 1918
No photograph in collection
Story delivered 29 December 2015
Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant Wilfred Davis, who died while fighting as part of Dunsterforce in Persia during the First World War.
Wilfred Davis was born in 1889, one of five children of William and Annie Davis of Taree in New South Wales. He lived in the Sydney suburb of Kensington and was working as a tram conductor on the eve of the First World War. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in May 1915, and after a period of training at Liverpool Camp embarked for Egypt to join the 17th Battalion.
The 17th Battalion landed on Gallipoli towards the end of the August Offensive, taking part in the fighting for Hill 60 before assuming responsibility for the defence of Quinn’s Post – one of the most contested positions along the entire Anzac front. In December the battalion was evacuated from the peninsula, and Davis was hospitalised on Mudros with an illness severe enough to keep him away from the battalion for a further three months.
By the time he returned the AIF had undergone a period of massive organisational change, doubling in size, and Davis was transferred to his battalion’s headquarters platoon as a stretcher-bearer just days before setting sail for France.
The 17th Battalion’s first major action on the Western Front was at Pozières on the Somme. On the night of 28 July, after the 2nd Division’s failed attack on the O.G. Lines east of Pozières village, Davis was recovering the dead and wounded under heavy German machine-gun and artillery fire. For his actions Davis was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal – a bravery award second only to the Victoria Cross.
The 17th Battalion moved north into Belgium and spent several months resting in the relatively quiet Ypres sector. In September Davis was transferred to the 5th Light Trench Mortar Battery, where he learnt to operate the brigade’s three-inch Stokes mortars. During this time he was hospitalised with disease, returning to his unit the following April.
Davis remained a regimental stretcher-bearer throughout the fighting at Bullecourt in May 1917. Promoted to lance corporal, he participated in the Third Battle of Ypres, and was awarded the Military Medal for tending to wounded men under fire during the fighting at Menin Road in September 1917.
Davis had capably demonstrated his ability to carry out his work under extreme adverse conditions, and this put him in good stead in January 1918 when Australian commanders sought volunteers for a “very important and special mission” with the British army. Now sergeant, Davis was among 80 Australians selected for what became known as “Dunsterforce” – an allied military mission of 1,000 Australian, New Zealand, British, and Canadian troops whose mission was to gather information while training and commanding Georgian and Armenian militia groups in counter-operations in the Caucasus.
The so-called “Baghdad Party” travelled across France and Italy to Taranto and Alexandria, down the Suez Canal to Kuwait and reaching Baghdad in Mesopotamia, where Dunsterforce assembled. From there the mission set off by foot and armoured vehicle towards the oilfields of Baku on the Caspian Sea, setting up its headquarters at Hamedan in what is now part of Iran.
It is believed that Davis was among the party of Dunsterforce troops that marched without rest through the rugged Persian border to Hamedan in May 1918. Along the way the men were exposed to a number of diseases, and this took a serious toll on the group. When Davis reached Hamedan he was hospitalised with choleric symptoms. He died on 7 July 1918, aged 29.
Davis was originally buried at Hamedan, where he laid at rest for 44 years until his grave was exhumed and relocated to the war cemetery in the British Embassy at Tehran.
Wilfred Davis’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with 60 000 other Australians from the First World War.
This is just one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sergeant Wilfred Davis, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.
Historian, Military History Section
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1180) Sergeant Wilfred Davis, 17th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)