William Stanley CANNAN DCM

CANNAN, William Stanley

Service Number: 1821
Enlisted: 20 July 1915
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 13th Field Artillery Brigade
Born: Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Eaglehawk, Greater Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
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World War 1 Service

20 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 9th Light Horse Regiment
11 Jan 1916: Involvement Private, SN 1821, 9th Light Horse Regiment
11 Jan 1916: Embarked Private, SN 1821, 9th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Borda, Adelaide
24 Apr 1918: Honoured Distinguished Conduct Medal, Villers-Bretonneux, This N.C.O during the period 25 February to 16 September, 1918, he has been of most valuable assistance to his battery commander by the manner in which he has on several occasions kept his gun in action under heavy fire. After the hostile attack on Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April, 1918 when his battery was heavily shelled when he set a splendid example by his bravery and utter disregard for personal safety. On 9 August, His battery was heavily shelled and several casualties caused; this N.C.O kept his gun in action while supporting our Infantry advance until the operation was concluded, then, without hesitation and while the hostile fire continued, assisted in the removal of the wounded. He has commanded a sub- section during the whole of the advance since the 8th August 1918, and has on all occasions exhibited a cool and courageous manner and high standard devotion to duty.’ Recommended by ( Sgd ) A.J Bessell-Browne. Brig.Gen. C.R.A 5th Aust. Division (Sgd) J. Talbot Hobbs, Major general Commanding 5th Australian Division Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 135 Date: 11 December 1919
22 Aug 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Sergeant, 13th Field Artillery Brigade

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

William Stanley CANNAN

Distinguished Conduct Medal

'This N.C.O during the period 25 February to 16 September, 1918, he has been of most valuable assistance to his battery commander by the manner in which he has on several occasions kept his gun in action under heavy fire.                                                               After the hostile attack on Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April, 1918 when his battery was heavily shelled when he set a splendid example by his bravery and utter disregard for personal safety.                           On 9 August, His battery was heavily shelled and several casualties caused; this N.C.O kept his gun in action while supporting our Infantry advance until the operation was concluded, then, without hesitation and while the hostile fire continued, assisted in the removal of the wounded. He has commanded a sub- section during the whole of the advance since the 8th August 1918, and has on all occasions exhibited a cool and courageous manner and high standard devotion to duty.’

 Recommended by (Sgd ) A.J Bessell-Browne.

Brig.Gen. C.R.A 5th Aust. Division (Sgd) J. Talbot Hobbs, Major General. Commanding 5th Australian Division

Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 135. Date: 11 December 1919

 

William Stanley Cannan was rewarded for bravery in two of the most crucial battles involving Australian troops in the Great War.

Born and raised in Eaglehawk his parents were Robert and Jane (Iles) Cannan who lived at Lester Street, Eaglehawk.

At age 20, he initially join the Reinforcements for the 9th Light Horse Regiment enlisting in Bendigo on July 20, 1915.

His Light Horse regiment was recruited largely from South Australia with a third coming from Victoria. He and other reinforcements would sail from Adelaide on HMAT Afric A19 on January 11, 1916 landing in Egypt to find the remnants of the ANZAC forces returning from the Gallipoli campaign. Fresh troops were arriving daily and the AIF underwent significant transformation and expansion in Egypt over the first six months of 1916. William would find his way to the 13th Field Artillery Brigade attached to the 5th Division. Given his light horse experience it is likely he has a role in moving artillery and ammunition. By August 1917 he is promoted from Gunner to Bombardier and by the end of that year is a Corporal.

Each Division had an Ammunition Column to keep ammunition up to the guns by moving it from "Third line" storage up to the Front ("First Line"). It was a mammoth task involving motor and horse drawn transport, heavy and light rail and tramways. Ammunition dumps and transport near the Front Line were high priority targets of the enemy's guns, and later, aircraft. 

Horse drawn transport laden with ammunition is a doubly risky business.  Horses are vulnerable to all forms of small arms and artillery and the cargo is such that a hit is generally catastrophic. [1]   

As his recommendation would describe, William would play a lead role in the Artillery Brigade in repelling the Spring German offensive in March and April 1918 at Villers-Breteounoux and then in supporting the famous Infantry offensive at the Battle of Amiens on August 8. 

Australian infantry troops would be withdrawn behind the front lines in early October, however, the Field Artillery would still be called upon to support British, American and Dominion troops in those final weeks. William would be wounded in action with a ‘GSW’ Gun Shot Wound to the left arm in October 24, 1918 in the final weeks of fighting and treated in France returning to his unit to be promoted to Sergeant.
William Stanley Cannan would return to Australia on May 15, 1919.

No Individual photo has been identified of William Cannan as yet.

 

SERVICE DETAILS:  

Service Number: 1821

Born: Eaglehawk  1894   

Address on Enlistment: Lester Street, Eaglehawk

Age at Enlistment: 20

Occupation: Labourer

Served: Egypt / Western Front.

Unit: 13th Field Artillery Brigade

Final Rank: Sergeant

Fate: Returned May 15, 1919. Married Mary Ann Fisk and together they had seven children.

DCM Medal Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette'

11 December 1919 on page 2377 at position 6

During the period 25 February to 16 September, 1918.

This period coincides with the weeks preceding the German Spring Offensive in early March 1918 through to the final weeks of battles involving Australian Divisions. German forces were stopped on April 25, 1918 at Villers - Bretonneaux by two Brigades of the AIF and then Allied forces progressively pushed the Germans back over 100 days to their Hindenburg Line fortress with Australians spearheading the attack. 


[1] (Source – Virtual War memorial Australia https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/units/126 )

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