CAVANAGH, Brian Hugh

Service Numbers: 517, VX80832, Officer
Enlisted: 23 February 1915, Place of enlistment - Horsham, Victoria
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 22 Training Battalion
Born: Horsham, Victoria, Australia, 6 November 1894
Home Town: Brimpaen, Horsham, Victoria
Schooling: The Geelong College
Occupation: Station Hand
Died: Mildura, Victoria, Australia, 24 April 1983, aged 88 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Mildura (Nichols Point) Public Cemetery, Victoria
Memorials: Geelong College WW1 Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

23 Feb 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 517, 23rd Infantry Battalion, Place of enlistment - Horsham, Victoria
1 May 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 23rd Infantry Battalion
10 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 517, 23rd Infantry Battalion, Embarked on HMAT 'A14' Euripides from Melbourne on 10th May 1915, disembarking Egypt.
30 Aug 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 517, 23rd Infantry Battalion, Proceeded to join Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces in Gallopoli.
19 Mar 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 517, 23rd Infantry Battalion, Embarked from Alexandria, Egypt on 19th March 1916, disembarking at Marseilles, France on 26th March 1916 to join British Expeditionary Force.
6 May 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Corporal, 6th Light Trench Mortar Battery
5 Aug 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 517, 6th Light Trench Mortar Battery, Gunshot wound to the arm, transferred to England and admitted to Lord Derby War Hospital, Warrington. This wound would lead Corporal Cavanagh to be discharged medically unfit for duty.
22 Sep 1916: Honoured Distinguished Conduct Medal, Corporal Brian Hugh CAVANAGH
'For conspicuous gallantry in action. He kept the Trench Mortar in action till seriously wounded being the only survivor of the detachment. On a previous occasion he put out of action two hostile Machine Guns and a Bomb Thrower.'
12 Nov 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 517, 6th Light Trench Mortar Battery, Embarked on HMAT 'A18' Wiltshire from Portland, England on 12th November 1916, disembarking Melbourne on 31st December 1916. Admitted to 11th Australian General Hospital, Caulfield Melbourne.
11 Jul 1917: Discharged AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 517, 6th Light Trench Mortar Battery, Discharged as medically unfit due to wounds.

World War 2 Service

31 Jul 1942: Enlisted SN VX80832, Place of enlistment - Caulfied, Melbourne Victoria
31 Jul 1942: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Lieutenant, SN VX80832
3 Nov 1943: Discharged Lieutenant, SN Officer, 22 Training Battalion

Help us honour Brian Hugh Cavanagh's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Daryl Jones

CAVANAGH, Brian Hugh DCM (1894-1983)

Brian Cavanagh was born at Horsham in 6 November 1894, the son of William Arthur Cavanagh (Inspector of Schools) and Jane Gwendolen nee Jason. He was enrolled at Geelong College for a single year in 1909. His entry address was Laurel Bank Parade, Geelong.

After enlisting (No 517) on 23 February 1915, he embarked on HMAT A14 Euripides on 10 May, with the 6 Light Trench Mortar Battery and served at Gallipoli and France where he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, gazetted 22 September 1916. The citation read: 'For gallantry and devotion to duty in action in keeping his mortar in action at Pozieres on 4th until seriously wounded, being the only survivor of the detachment. The emplacement was known to be a dangerous one and Cpl Cavanagh applied to be detailed for the work. Previously brought to notice at Armentieres for silencing two machine-guns and a Minenwerfer.'

War historian, C E W Bean described his work at Pozieres Heights on 5 August 1916:
'A trench-mortar under Cpl. B H Cavanagh also covered this flank. Its position was known to be a dangerous one, but Cavanagh, who applied for the task, kept the gun in action after all his team had been hit, until he himself was seriously wounded.'

Ron Austin wrote of his recuperation from his wounds in Forward Undeterred:
'Meanwhile an angry Cpl Brian Cavanagh who was recovering from the wounds he had received at Pozieres where he won the DCM, wrote to his mother from his hospital bed in the Lord Derby War Hospital in Lancashire. 'Things have been booming here, I will be glad to get out of the place. The place is all right, but it is the people who come fooling around pestering the life out of me to let them have my photo, and to sign autograph books, that get me. It’s the limit, just because I have had the luck (bad luck I say) to win a decoration there, old fools (most of them are old, if they were nice young things it wouldn’t be so bad) mess round me and have nothing to do with other fellows who are more in need of attention than I am. I’m all right, I don’t want me photo took. Damn my decoration! I say.'

The Australian War Memorial Collection holds letters written from the Military Hospital in England after his wounding in France, it contains few details, mainly about the injury sustained. He was invalided home on 12 November 1916, as reported in Pegasus of December 1917: 'Corporal B H Cavanagh DCM, has returned to Victoria, and during November was decorated by the Governor-General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, together with nine other Australian soldiers in Melbourne.'

His brothers, Arthur William Cavanagh (1891-1953) and Eric Richard Cavanagh (1891-1976) who were also awarded the DCM were also educated at Geelong College.

The Pegasus of June 1943 noted: 'In the last war the Cavanagh brothers won fame by collecting three DCMs, and this war finds these 'three musketeers' still on service. Eric, who was with the AFC in 1914-18, holds the rank of Flight Lieutenant and is a 'defence officer' - he was present at the Milne Bay action and his duties entailed much travelling under rough conditions. Brian, who has a son in the Air Force, was in the Middle East with the AIF and is now a very busy officer of the ASC attached to an Armoured Division somewhere in Australia. Arthur, a senior Inspector of the Lands Deparhnent, holds the position of equipment officer in the Geelong Squadron of the ATC.'

In 1920, Brian married Miss Bessie Evelyn Hill, the daughter of George and Hannah(Bowman) Hill, of Tallangatta.

During World War II, Brian enlisted (No VX 0832) in the Second AIF on 31 July 1942, and served as Lt B H Cavanagh at 2/22nd Training Battalion, Wilsons Promontory, working alongside two Englishmen, Captains, Mike Calvert (Royal Engineers) and 'Freddie' Spencer Chapman (Seaforth Highlanders), Calvert was to achieve legendary status leading the Chindits in Burma. Spencer Chapman fought behind Japanese lines in Malaya.

He was discharged on 3 November 1943 and died at Mildura in 1983.

Source : The Geelong College -