David Wallace CALDWELL

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CALDWELL, David Wallace

Service Numbers: 290, Officer - not allocated a service number
Enlisted: 26 January 1915, Keswick South Australia Australia
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Port Adelaide South Australia Australia, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Semaphore, Port Adelaide Enfield, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Carpenter
Died: Killed in Action, Warlencourt-Eaucourt Nord-Pas-de-Calais France, 2 March 1917, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Warlencourt British Cemetery
(VI. H. 33.) Warlencourt British Cemetery
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, National War Memorial (South Australia)
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World War 1 Service

26 Jan 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 290, 27th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
26 Jan 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Keswick South Australia Australia
26 Jan 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 290, 27th Infantry Battalion
31 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, HMAT Geelong (A2)
12 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Regimental Sergeant Major, SN 290, 27th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC Gallipoli
2 Mar 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer - not allocated a service number, 27th Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages
Date unknown: Involvement 27th Infantry Battalion, Pozières

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Biography

Adapted from AWM Biography and Service Papers:

David Wallace (sometimes Wallis) Caldwell was born in Port Adelaide during 1892 to David and Margaret Caldwell. A carpenter living in Semaphore before the First World War, Caldwell enlisted on the 26 January 1915 and was assigned to the Infantry Base Depot. He was promoted to sergeant and departed Adelaide with 'B' Company of the 27th Infantry Battalion from Adelaide aboard HMAT Geelong (A2) on the 31 May 1915.

The 27th Battalion sailed to Egypt were they stayed for two month while undertaking additional training, (see photo of sergeants from 'B' Company, 27th Battalion in Egypt.) Then the battalion from Alexandria sailed to Gallipoli were the battalion landed on the peninsula on the 12 September, 1915. Caldwell served with the 27th Battalion on the Gallipoli Peninsula for the remainder of the campaign without incident apart from been promoted to the rank of temporary Company Sergeant Major after Company Sergeant Major Ryan took ill on the 1 December, 1915.

In late December, along with most of the other units posted to Gallipoli, the 27th Battalion was evacuated back to Egypt, ending the campaign. While in Egypt the battalion trained, while the AIF underwent its 'Doubling'. In March 1916, Caldwell was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 2 and relocated with his battalion to France via the port of Marseilles. He served in France and Belgium over the next couple months including taking part in a damaging trench raid on night of 28/29 June 1916 just south of Messines, Belgium. According to the battalion diary, "During night our raiding party entered enemy trenches at Ontario Farm under Artillery Barrage and did some damage. Killing 17 enemy and taking 4 prisoners. Retaliation by Bosche Artillery severe. Our casualties Wounded Lts Sommerville JR and Gooden SR. Other Ranks Killed 4, Wounded 26."

In July 1916 Caldwell was transferred to the 9th Officers Cadet Battalion in England beginning his studies there in early August 1916. As a result Caldwell missed out on the terrible fighting at Pozieres in Somme. On completing his studies at the School of Instruction, he was discharged from Gailes Ayrshire on the 20 November 1916 and told to report to Perham Downs. It was here that he re-joined the 27th Battalion reinforcements undergoing their training with the 7th Training Battalion. On the 23rd he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and by December 1916 was back in France. He joined the 27th Battalion on 13 December.

In February 1917 the Germans suddenly took the Allies by surprise starting to retreat from their front line to their much stronger and shorter mileage Hindenburg Line. The 27th Battalion for its part, followed the retreating Germans as they went. On the 24 February Caldwell was promoted to Lieutenant, just several days before he was Killed in Action. As part of their retreat German forces had left behind fortified towns and isolated fortified positions to slow down the Allied advance. The 27th Battalion was responsible for attacking one of these isolated fortified positions near Warlencourt. As a result on the night 2/3 March 1917 the 27th Battalion attacked the German Mault (Malt) Trench near the Butte du Warlencourt. Orginally only D Company was send forward in the attack, however, after suffering mass casualities and the threat of a German counter-attack more forces were moved forward to crush the attack and these were finally successfuly in gaining their target trench. 

In this action Lieutenant Caldwell was Killed in Action. In total just over 20 men from the battalion, including 3 officers (Lt. Caldwell, Lt. Botten and Lt. Lucas) were killed. Red Cross files, if they exist at all, give little indication as to how each member of the battalion was killed. However, the offical history of the 27th Battalion 'The Blue and Brown Diamond' indicates that Lieutenant Botten was killed in the initial attack by the 27th Battalion, whilst Lieutenant's Caldwell and Lucas were killed by a shell in Loupart Road (the name of a road that crossed through the middle of No Man's Land at the time) as part of the counter-attack force.

Originally buried in a grave containing the bodies of all three officers (Lt. Caldwell, Lt. Botten and Lt. Lucas) (see photo of grave), the bodies were separated after the war and reburied individually in Warlencourt British Cemetery next to each other.

Lt. David Wallace Caldwell was aged 24 years. During the war Lt. Caldwell was an extensive writer, writing many letters to his mother that are available to view at the AWM site (see side-bar links).

 

1914/15 Star: 22916

British War Medal: 13779

Victory Medal: 13060

Memorial Plaque: 356618      

 

 

Nathan Rohrlach, March 2014

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