Avelyn Clarence (Danhill) DUNHILL MC

Badge Number: 434
434

DUNHILL, Avelyn Clarence

Service Numbers: 434, Officer
Enlisted: 26 August 1914, Morphettville, South Australia
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 50th Infantry Battalion
Born: Kersbrook, South Australia, 26 March 1890
Home Town: Renmark, Renmark Paringa, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Clerk, Bookkeeper
Died: Beulah Park, South Australia, 15 August 1968, aged 78 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
Tree Plaque: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Men from Renmark and District Roll of Honor Boards (4), Orroroo Baptist Sunday School Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

26 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 434, Morphettville, South Australia
20 Oct 1914: Involvement Private, SN 434, 10th Infantry Battalion
20 Oct 1914: Embarked Private, SN 434, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Adelaide
30 Aug 1918: Honoured Military Cross, "Peaceful Penetration - Low-Cost, High-Gain Tactics on the Western Front"
7 May 1920: Discharged AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion

WW1

The details provided are taken from the book "Stealth Raiders - a few daring men in 1918" written by Lucas Jordan, published 2017, refer to pages 121/2 & 265. Prior to the war he was a clerk of Orroroo SA. He enlisted 26th Aug 1914 aged 24 years. He served with the 50th Infantry Battalion, gaining a promotion to the rank of Lieutenant, and earning a Military Cross for activities in the war. He survived the war and departed the UK for home 6th May 1919.

LIFE ON A TROOPSHIP: AUSTRALIA TO ADEN

Source: Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record (Renmark, SA) Thursday 7 January 1915, Page 9.

— Letter from Pt. A. C. Dunhill —
Dear "Pioneer,"
We are informed that letters for Australia will not now be censored, and so I am sending you an account of the trip of this troopship. As the boat has been the home for just five weeks of 20 men who enlisted at Renmark, a description of our quarters may prove interesting to your readers:
We have travelled at an average speed of 11 knots, and this is not nearly fast enough to please the 1,700 men on board. 1000 of these are South Australian infantrymen, the other 700 being soldiers from W.A., who have come prepared to "pad the hoof" at their country's call. There does not seem to be quite a fair distribution of the spacious ship. Officers and Sergeants, of whom there are not more than 150, have fully held the boat, amidships, whilst 1550 men have been presented with the remainder in which to live. This space is allotted to the W.A. boys aft, and the S.A. lads forward. The troops are accommodated on what corresponds to the basement, and one still lower floor, of an ordinary building. This means that those men who are billeted on the lower deck space have two flights of stairs to climb each time they want a glimpse of the sun. This climbing up and down is almost the best exercise we have, there being practically no room to exercise upstairs. The climbing of 14 or 28 stairs several times a day puts a decided edge on one's appetite, on each of these decks some 220 men help each other pass away monotonous days existence by putting in the time necessary to eat three meals a day, drink one pint of beer (which they pay for) and have such sleep as the military regulations allow. The deck on which the majority of the Renmark volunteers are camped, and which is identical with the other decks, has a floor space of about 60 ft x 70 ft. It is interesting to watch 220 men doing justice to their meal in as short a time as possible, and in this small space. One could not by any stretch of imagination describe it as a sanatorium for a person suffering from a nervous breakdown. Over the seven tables, at a height of about 4ft., there are iron bars, and from these our hammocks are swung at night. In the morning we have to take the hammocks down, roll them up, and stow them right out of the way, so that there may be as much space as possible. Lifebelts are handy, in a couple of racks fastened on four of these bars. So that it is only a matter of seconds to tumble out of bed get a lifebelt and fasten it well to one's body in case of need. This provision certainly lends a feeling of security to our slumbers. These, by the way, are supposed to commence not later than 9 p.m., and end at 6 a.m. They do not always commence at the scheduled time, but they certainly end punctually. Hammocks have to be properly stowed by 6.15, so there is not much time to waste. The man who is anxious to have "just another snooze" often times runs up against some fatigue duty (not always pleasant) which speedily convinces him that it is better to be safe than sorry. After hammocks are out of sight we are permitted to do as we like (within reason of course) until 7.15, when there is usually a sort of hurry-scurry to the breakfast table. Immediately this is over, upstairs is the order of the day, so that those who are in charge of cleaning operations may get to work and have everything spick and span in time for the inspection. Inspection hours are usually between 10 and 11 a.m., and this cleaning business is not to be played with. The tables are soaped and scrubbed. Knives, forks, and spoons properly cleaned, and floors must be thoroughly soft dished scoured. Then everything must be spread out in fancy array to show off their brightness. As a rule, whilst the cleaners are busy we put in from an hour to two hours on parade of some sort. Work is then over for the day so far as we are concerned, and we can do our duty for the rest of the day by sitting round reading or sleeping. At 11 o'clock the bugle sounds and those who wish to may gather downstairs and drown their sorrows in a pint of rather flat beer, This takes the place of tea for the midday meal, which is due to arrive about 12.15. Five o'clock finds us again prepared to feed, and it is usually carried out pretty thoroughly.
With the exception of one or two little happenings in the day's work, this has been our programme since quitting S.A. shores. The week we spent in Fremantle was one of those breaks, but as I did not have the opportunity to get on shore, except when we put in one day route marching, our stay there did not figure so largely in the line of eventful happenings as it might have done. Our second day out from Fremantle on the run to Colombo provided our three boats with the finest sight it has been my lot to witness. This was the meeting of the whole fleet, and the sight was indeed an impressive one. We sighted the first boat about half-past two and for an hour spars and funnels continued to loom up in all directions. These gradually grew into troopships and cruisers, until at last it seemed as if we were in one big harbour for a great review. In this fleet there were thirty-nine vessels all conveying Australian and New Zealand troops to an unknown destination. Added to the number there were, according to popular report, nine escorting cruisers. This day, Tuesday, the 3rd inst. was the day which many will be prepared to support as being the date on which they witnessed the finest sight of their lives. From this time till Saturday night there was nothing worthy of note except a burial at sea on Thursday morning."
The occasion of the "burial" (which Mr Dunhill discusses at length, was the arrival at the breakfast table of some very "high" stew, which the men reluctantly "passed"' till the conclusion of the meal. Then, with pipes playing the Dead March and all due solemnity a bowl of the objectionable stuff was reverently committed to the deep. The incident is described as the funniest of the trip, and is said to have been carried through without any suggestion of flippancy.
"Saturday night saw the whole fleet getting downstairs for a "fire" drill, which came on at 8 o'clock, this was the first drill we had gone through, and it was treated somewhat as a joke, but there would not have been so many smiles had we known the reason for the drill. It is not altogether a joke to sit still and silent with a life belt on, and then be marched upstairs and have to stand without saying a word for a period of half an hour. The whole business lasted for an hour and was carried out with no lights upstairs and only one or two very dim ones below. Still we went through it satisfactorily; quite sure that those responsible were a lot of asses to have us out like this, when we could have been much more profitably engaged — talking. Nine-thirty Monday morning saw our opinions undergoing a slight change, as we learned the notorious Emden had been drifting quietly round in our vicinity on Saturday, and nobody really knew whether there might not have been a stray mine or two looking for something to blow up. Simultaneously with this news coming round one of our escorts, a Japanese cruiser, came steaming across the front of the fleet and took up a position on our left, while the cruiser that was originally in this spot shifted further away to our left and out of sight. At the same time one of the rear guard cruisers dodged away in the same direction. From this time on till about 11.30 there was consider able speculation as to what was happening. Just about 11.30, however, our wireless operator received word that the Emden was a back number, one of our boats having given her "one below the belt." It is not difficult to imagine the scene which followed. Patriotic songs were sung, bands played, and everybody cheered everybody else and one other. Half an hour of this saw us all a bit tired and ready for dinner, which was nearly due. A move was made in this direction, only to be arrested, however, by the news that it was an Australian boat which had done the trick. The result was another outburst, cut a little shorter than the previous one, owing to the sight of dinner wandering down stairs. This was the last thing of much interest until Ceylon was sighted on Sunday morning.
"The troops were disappointed in their hopes of seeing anything at Colombo. The ships anchored about a mile out from the town, and all that was seen of the place or its inhabitants was a number of Cingalese sailing round the ships in "boats" which excited much wonder among the troops.
"How in the name of goodness they manage to scramble round and balance themselves on these things whilst hoisting and lowering their one sail I cannot understand. Three or four men were on pretty well all that came our way and so far as could be seen their boats were more like hollowed-out logs than anything else. The hollow is not anything to 'write home, about,' so far as room is concerned. When each of the four crew get one leg apiece into it there is room for nothing else. What they do with their other leg is a mystery, unless it is left at home with their clothes. Most of the time they are not satisfied to sit respectably with one leg in the hollowed out portion, but must be scrambling around on a wet slippery lump of wood, seemingly risking a wetting every moment. However nothing happened whilst we were enjoying the show. I have on occasion seen fellows enjoying themselves on a log in the Murray, but there were no sharks about, neither were the fellows out several miles from shore, with some pretty big waves playing iggy-touch-wood with their log.
"On the run from Colombo to Aden Ascanius and Shropshire collided in the early morning (4.35 a.m.) of the Saturday after leaving Ceylon. The Shropshire's anchor struck the Ascanius in the bow, and dragged along the side, leaving a "dent" about 30ft. long, from 4ft to 18in wide and from 2ft. to about 9 inches deep, 1½in steel plates. The men, of course, were in bed at the time of the accident, and conjectures were rife as to what had happened.
"The sight of a boat right across our bows told us pretty quickly what had happened, however, and those who were sleeping up on deck decided to get downstairs and put lifebelts on. No practice about this. When we got these on each lot of men sat quietly at their particular table whilst the roll was called to see that everybody was accounted for. After about 20 minutes wait which was carried through in perfect order, we were marched upstairs, and had to make another wait of about half an hour whilst the ship’s authorities examined the boat to see the extent of the damage. At the end of this time we were dismissed, as it was found that there was no danger. (The 'dent' was 15ft. above the water line). The behaviour of the men was splendid. There was not the slightest sign of panic or fear, and with the exception of a few, who could be counted on a man's fingers, there was not the least indication from the news heading that anything more than a practice was being carried through. The Bishop of Kalgoorlie said at Church parade on Sunday morning: - 'Surely the behaviour of the men on this occasion was sufficient proof that they would behave in a manner worthy of the great traditions of the British soldier, when at the front." Whatever may happen I am sure that there will be no need for Australia ever to be ashamed of the part our boys will play in the grim game of war should it be necessary for them to take a hand.
"Taking all things into consideration it is remarkable the way we have got through this trip to date. There have been about 1,200 men on this boat for just exactly 5 weeks and 700 for nearly 4 weeks, and of this number only one man, a W.A. lad, has gone under. He, poor chap, put up a hard fight against an attack of pneumonia for a week or so, but all to no purpose. He was buried at sea with all the honour due to a man who had just as truly died for his country as any soldier at the front.
"During the whole 35 days we have been on board there have not been more than three days on which there was anything more than an easy swell on the water, and on no occasion have we had what might be called (illegible) weather."
Mr Dunhill concludes his letter with expressions of goodwill and Christmas greetings for Renmark friends, and attaches a list of the troopships in the order in which they travelled as far as Colombo) and also of the names of Renmark lads on board the Ascanius, "as far as we can find out." These are printed hereunder.;

— Australian Troopships. —
1st Column — Wiltshire, Medic, Ascanius, Star of England, Geelong, Port Lincoln, Karoo, Martre. Clan McCorquodale. '
2nd Column — Orvieto, Southern, Pera, Armadale, Saldanha. Katuna, Hymettus, Suffolk, Anglo Egyptian.
3rd Column — Euripides, Argyleshire, Shropshire, Afric, Benalla, Rangatira, Star of Victoria, Hororata, Omrah, Miltiades. Grantala, hospital ship.

— New Zealand Troopships —
Wanganui, Orari, Star of India, Limerick, Tahiti, Athenic, Hawes Bay, Ruapehu.

— Renmark Boys on Ascanius. —
A. Company—G. W. Bennett, A. C. Dunhill, F. W. Fisher, F. L. Kaerger, T. Kelly, I. G. W. Palmer, W. S. Pendle, B. F. Rambert, F. Sharp, A. A. Smith, J. S. Turnbull, B. V. Tydeman, A. J. Vallis, W. H. Waters, F. C. B. Wilkinson.
C. Company—H. Goodyear.
D. Company — B. Chadwick, R. Woods.
E Company—H. F. Black, E. F. Huselius, J. W. Johnson.
F. Company—C. Sale, S. Tindale, A. Topliffe.
G. Company—A. H. Jackson, A. K. Marshall.

A. C. DUNHILL.
S.S. Ascanius, Nov. 23, 1914.

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Biography

NOTE: Name incorrectly spelt on Embarkation Roll (www.awm.gov.au) as Avelyn Clarence Danhill, actual spelling Avelyn Clarence Dunhill (see Nominal Roll (www.awm.gov.au)).

 

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Biography contributed by Kathleen Bambridge

General Birdwood presented Lt. AC Dunhill with his Military Cross on the 6 March 1920 in Adelaide.