David Vallance Kerr ANDERSON MM


ANDERSON, David Vallance Kerr

Service Number: 13254
Enlisted: 31 July 1915, Melbourne
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 12th Field Ambulance
Born: Buninyong, Victoria, Australia, 15 February 1893
Home Town: Redfern, City of Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Ballarat College, Scotch College & Ormond College, Melbourne University
Occupation: University Student
Died: Gunshot wounds to chest & abdomen, an Shier Farm north of Reninghelst, Belgium, 1 October 1917, aged 24 years
Cemetery: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
Plot XXV, Row G, Grave 3A
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

31 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Melbourne
7 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 13254, Army Medical Corps (AIF), Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
7 Mar 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 13254, Army Medical Corps (AIF), HMAT Karoola, Melbourne
1 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 13254, 12th Field Ambulance, Polygon Wood
24 Jan 1918: Honoured Military Medal, The men of the 12th Field Ambulance toiled solidly throughout the Australian campaigns of 1916 and 1917. Their selfless work was responsible for saving many lives that may otherwise have been lost. It is not known what date young David Anderson successfully brought out several wounded men under a gas cloud, but for his bravery he was awarded the Military Medal. The ribbon was presented to him in the Field by General William Birdwood on 12 September 1917.

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David Vallance Kerr ANDERSON was born in 1893 in Buninyong, Victoria

His parents were Francis Armour ANDERSON and Catherine Smith KERR

He had previous service with the University Volunteers A.M.C before he enlisted on 31st July, 1915 with the Australian Army - he was with the Army Medical Corps, Special Re-inforcements - Unit embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT Karoola on 7th March, 1916

David died on 1st October, 1917 at the No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station of wounds received in Action (gunshot wounds to chest & abdomen) - he is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium & also honoured on the Australian War Memorial 

He was awarded a Military Medal in September 1917


His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the field to the following... D. V. F. Anderson. 

He was also awarded the British War Medal & the Victory Medal


Mount Barker Courier 26th October, 1917


News was received in Murray Bridge during the week of the death in action of David Vallance Kerr Anderson, a former resident of the Bridge and brother to Mrs. D.F. Brandt Young - Anderson was closely connected with all the athletic bodies in Murray Bridge, was a member of the Presbyterian cricket and football clubs and a member of the Kirk and graduated as B.A. at the Ormond College, Melbourne,  Councillor Harvey said that he heard of Private Andersons death with great regret as he had been closely acquainted with him and his boys had been members of the same church & athletic clubs.  A fine young man or a cleaner liver had not existed.


Biography contributed by Evan Evans

Ballarat & District in the Great War

Pte David Vallance Kerr Anderson and his cobber Pte Jim Agnew

‘He made the supreme sacrifice saving others.
Greater love hath no man than this.’

This was an epitaph to David Anderson, a young man of incredible potential and one of incalculable bravery who, sadly, was all too familiar with sudden and tragic loss. His story is one of family and the extended impact of the war on those left behind.

Born at Buninyong on 15 February 1893, David Vallance Kerr Anderson was the youngest of seven children born to Francis Armour Anderson and Catherine Smith Kerr. Like each of his siblings, David was given names that held strong family connections – he was named for his mother’s eldest brother, David Vallance Kerr. Family was obviously very important to the couple.

Frank Anderson, who was born in Ayrshire Scotland in 1847, was also very community-minded and raised his children accordingly. Their mother, Catherine, was Buninyong-born and grew up during the rich gold-mining boom of the 1850’s. The Kerrs had also originated from Ayrshire.

Both families ran produce businesses in Buninyong. Along with his business duties, Frank was a trustee of the Buninyong Cemetery, an active member of the Buninyong Presbyterian Church, and a long-standing member of the Town Council.

However, grief was to be a recurring theme for the Anderson family. David was just two years-old when his older brother, Willie, died on 27 July 1895. Death of children was unfortunately something that was all too familiar during this pre-antibiotic era, but the loss of 14 year-old Willie, regarded as being on the cusp of manhood, would have had a devastating effect on his entire family.

Life, though, has an inexorable way of continuing in spite of grief.

When David was old enough, he was enrolled at the Buninyong State School. He also joined his older siblings at the Sunday School classes held at the Buninyong Presbyterian Church. In December 1902, both he and his brother, Robert, were amongst the school prize winners.

After finishing his primary education, David was given the opportunity to receive advanced schooling as a day boy at Ballarat College. He was by this time already well-known in Buninyong and a very popular boy.

David was then enrolled at Melbourne’s Scotch College as a boarder in 1909 and it was there that he completed his secondary education.

It was also during his time at Scotch that David became firm friends with fellow student, Glasgow-born Jim Agnew. The pair were to become inseparable.

His final year at Scotch College (1910) was one of considerable upheaval. On 13 May, his eldest brother, James died. David found comfort in the familiar confines of the school and continued to pursue his studies. By December, he had produced outstanding results in English and history.

At the Scotch College Speech Day, as a part of the school’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, he was awarded Dux in both subjects and the Melville and Mullen’s Prize. His 1st Class Honours earned him a highly prized Public Exhibition to Ormond College at Melbourne University. He was to be joined in the Bachelor of Arts (Law) course by his mate, Jim Agnew.

However, what appeared to be a wonderful way to end 1910, came to naught with the unexpected death of his mother. On Saturday evening 17 Dec 1910, his mother became suddenly ill. Dr Longden was immediately summoned, but his pronouncement that she was in a serious condition with left little hope of recovery. Catherine lingered for over a week before she died at 1:30 on Thursday afternoon, 29 December 1910.

The family was further devastated by the sudden death of David’s only surviving brother, Robert, on 27 May 1911. The popular young man had been working at the Euroa Post Office before moving to Melbourne. It was observed at the time that ‘his health had not been too vigorous’, so when he caught a cold that then developed into pneumonia, he quickly succumbed.

When the family patriarch, Frank Anderson, likewise became dangerously ill in early December 1912, the doctor once again pronounced there was little chance of him recovering. His death on 10 December was therefore not unexpected.

David was now the only surviving male member of his family. He continued on with his studies at Ormond, producing excellent results in his favourite subjects of English and history. In November 1913 it was announced that he had been awarded a resident scholarship of £50 for English and was equal first in history.

Results for 1914 showed that David was thriving under the university tutelage with 2nd Class Honours in British History and 1st Class in psychology, logic and ethics, for which he also received an Exhibition and Prize.

David seemingly spent all his holidays with his eldest sister, Catherine, and her family at Murray Bridge. He certainly spent enough time in the township to become regarded as somewhat of a local. He was connected with all the athletic clubs in the Bridge, and played both football and cricket for the local Presbyterian Church. Like his brother, Robert, David was also a fine singer and especially enjoyed performing songs from the Scottish repertoire. As a result, he was in great demand for social events.

In February 1915, having successfully completed his 2nd year of his Arts degree, David, along with Jim Agnew, was offered a further resident scholarship. However, the pair decided to forgo their studies, choosing instead to offer themselves as recruits in the Australian Army Medical Corps.

David had gained military experience serving with the University Volunteers, but his initial attempts to enlist met with rejection because his teeth weren’t up to standard. One report said that he had tried eight times before being accepted.

On 31 July 1915, David presented himself at the Melbourne Recruitment Depot for a second time. This time he successfully passed the medical examination – all other physical requirements being easily met: he was 5-feet 9½-inches tall, weighed 11-stone and could expand his chest to 38-inches. The Medical Officer noted a scar on the inside of his right shin and that he had no vaccination marks, when he recorded David’s fresh complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair. His extra two months voluntary service with the AMC also added to his suitability. After swearing his oath to serve King and country, David completed his enlistment with his characteristically neat, small signature of “D. V. K. Anderson.”

Initially David and Jim received further training at the Castlemaine and Ascot Vale Camps. They also performed administrative duties at the No5 Australian General Hospital, in St Kilda Road, and the Clearing Hospital at Broadmeadows before embarkation. Certainly, this did not sit well with Jim, who had begun to chafe at the delay. "I didn't enlist to *be stuck here," he said. "I want to get away."

As part of the Special AMC Reinforcements, the two friends finally sailed from Melbourne onboard HMAT Karoola on 7 March 1916.

They reported for duty with the 12th Australian Field Ambulance at Serapeum on 20 April. David, who had held the rank of acting-sergeant during the voyage, reverted to the ranks on joining his unit.

With the Gallipoli Campaign over, the urgency was then to move troops to the Western Front as quickly as possible. As a result, David and Jim spent less than two months in Egypt. They sailed from Alexandria on 4 June onboard the transport Scotian, which, given that both young men were intrinsically Scottish, was seemingly most appropriate.

The men of the 12th Field Ambulance toiled solidly throughout the Australian campaigns of 1916 and 1917. Their selfless work was responsible for saving many lives that may otherwise have been lost. It is not known what date young David Anderson successfully brought out several wounded men under a gas cloud, but for his bravery he was awarded the Military Medal. The ribbon was presented to him in the Field by General William Birdwood on 12 September 1917.

It quickly became common knowledge throughout the 12th AFA that David and Jim ‘were great pals’ and had been ‘school chums.’ Therefore, what occurred on 29 September 1917 had a profound effect on the entire unit.

The 12th AFA was positioned at Van Shier Farm north of Reninghelst. It was approaching midnight when Jim led his squad, including David Anderson, of stretcher-bearers out from a central position to a relay post. They had just returned from bringing in a wounded soldier, when they got caught by an enemy barrage. A high explosive shell landed right in front of them and Jim was killed instantly. David was struck in the chest and abdomen. Although mortally wounded, he survived long enough to reach the 10th Casualty Clearing Station at Lijssenthoek where he died on 1 October.

Such was the respect for Jim Agnew, his body was carried back behind the line to be buried at the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. David Anderson was buried by Reverend J. A. Townson with full Military Honours just near his mate.

News of David’s death was greeted with an outpouring of sadness in his hometown of Buninyong and at Murray Bridge, where he had made such an impact. A Memorial Service was convened at the Buninyong Presbyterian Church on Sunday 10 November to honour both David and Ern McLure, who had been killed in action on 4 October. The large congregation listened as Reverend Henry Hull delivered the address and the choir performed suitably poignant anthems.

Knowing full well the danger he was facing, David had left his Last Will and Testament with the Ballarat Trustees before leaving home. His Will was very precise and shows exactly how important his remaining family were to him.

‘…To Francis Henry Greaves ANDERSON and Kathleen Grace Anderson, son and daughter of Francis James Anderson, deceased of Buninyong, the sum of £100 each free of legacy duty to be paid to each on reaching the age of 25 years. To Donald Sutherland Brandt, son of David Fleet Brandt [brother-in-law], 39 Pitt Street, Redfern, NSW, the sum of £100 free of duty; to Margaret Dunoon Brandt and Patricia Brandt, daughters of David Fleet Brandt…the sum of £25 each free of duty; the remainder of real estate to be divided equally between Catherine Grace Brandt and Mary Armour Beardon [sisters], Inkerman Road, Caulfield; to Mary Beardon, his carpet and 2 armchairs; to Catherine Brandt the remainder of personal estate…’

Both families, the Andersons and the Agnews, continued to mark the passing of the two young soldiers for many years, always linking their names in death as they had been in life. For Catherine and Mary Anderson, however, the loss closed an entire chapter – David was their last brother. When choosing an epitaph for his headstone, this appears to have been at the forefront of their minds.