William Allan (Jack) IRWIN DCM

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IRWIN, William Allan

Service Number: 792
Enlisted: 3 January 1916, Narrabri, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 33rd Infantry Battalion
Born: Coonabarabran, New South Wales, 20 August 1878
Home Town: Moree, Moree Plains, New South Wales
Schooling: Moree Public School
Occupation: Shearer
Died: Died of wounds, France, 1 September 1918, aged 40 years
Cemetery: Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Moree ANZAC Centenary Memorial
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World War 1 Service

3 Jan 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 792, Narrabri, New South Wales
4 May 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 792, 33rd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
4 May 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 792, 33rd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Marathon, Sydney
31 Aug 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 792, 33rd Infantry Battalion, Mont St Quentin / Peronne, 3rd occasion
31 Aug 1918: Honoured Distinguished Conduct Medal, Mont St Quentin / Peronne, "'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations at Road Wood on 31 August, 1918. Single handed and in the face of heavy fire, he rushed three separate machine gun nests, capturing the guns and crews. While rushing a fourth, he was severely wounded. His irresistible dash inspired the whole of his company".

Parentage

Police Station Moree - 06 October 1919
I beg to report that from inquiries made, I have ascertained that the late No 792 Private W A IRWIN, DCM 33rd Battalion, was a son of William ALLAN who resided at Goondiwindi with a woman named Eliza GRIFFIN, there were three boys born to this union viz:- William ALLAN IRWIN, Henry Terrence ALLAN IRWIN and John Donald ALLAN IRWIN. The Mother and Father not being married they took the name of IRWIN from an Uncle.

While very young the Mother left the Father at Goondiwindi and lived with a man named William GROSE, the Father then left Goondiwindi and lived with another woman at Quirindi, nothing since can be found of the Father and he is supposed to have died at Quirindi 2 years ago.

There were three more boys born after the Mother went to live with GROSE, and the three ALLAN IRWINS, then took the name of GROSE, and dropped the name of ALLAN IRWINS.

The Mother died at Gunnedah on the 14th June 1913, leaving six boys, three of these were ALLAN IRWINS taking the name of GROSE and the other three step-brothers were GROSE.

it is the eldest one of these brothers William ALLAN IRWIN, that is the deceased soldier, and the next eldest brother, Henry Terrence known as Harry GROSE would be next of kin.

The brother referred to holds all correspondence and Military papers belonging to the his deceased Brother.

Sergeant O'Neill, Moree. (this information appears in his Service Records)

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Biography contributed by John Edwards

Pte. William Allan Irwin DCM is thought to be one of only three Aboriginal Soldiers to be Awarded the D.C.M. in the great war, the other two being 792 L/Cpl. Richard Norman Kirby, DCM (/explore/people/102272)  and 5709 Cpl. Albert Knight, DCM (/explore/people/290488) - SOURCE (blogs.slq.qld.gov.au)

"William Allan Irwin, Single-handed, and in the face of heavy fire, he rushed three separate machine-gun nests, capturing the guns and crews. While rushing a fourth, he was severely wounded. This is a description of Private William Irwin’s final encounter with an enemy against whom his country was at war. They are the actions of a brave Australian soldier serving in France during the First World War. He is one of many who lie buried on the other side of the world, close to where they fell.

William, who was born in Coonabarabran in New South Wales, was from a large Indigenous family. He had two brothers and three step-brothers. His parents separated when he was young, and he lived with his mother and step-father for most of his childhood. A country boy at heart, he later worked as a shearer. Together with his two brothers, he worked on farms all over the north west of New South Wales and the St George district of Queensland.

William was 37 years old when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in January 1916, although he did not see active service immediately. First, he undertook the long sea voyage with the 33rd Battalion, leaving Sydney on 4 May 1916 and arriving in England three months later. There he trained for a number of months. His service records list his character as “good”. However, like many other soldiers, he sometimes broke the rules, going absent without leave, and on two occasions had to forfeit 15 days’ pay as punishment.

In late November 1916 William sailed for France with his battalion and finally arrived on the Western Front. He was frequently involved in the fighting and was wounded in action more than once; he suffered fractured ribs and a gunshot wound to the right arm. At times he was sent to hospital, including in England, so that he could be treated and recover.

In August 1918 his company was involved in intense fighting near Mont St Quentin. The battalion was trying to get control of German-held positions at a place called Road Wood, where they faced intense German machine-gun fire. Leaving his battalion and acting alone, William captured the enemy machine-gun posts and their crews, one after another. When he tried to capture a fourth, he was severely wounded. His "irresistible dash" inspired those around him, and William’s great bravery was officially recognised. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations at Road Wood on 31st August, 1918".

Sadly, the wounds William received at Road Wood, to his back and thigh, led to his death. He was admitted to the 6th Australian Field Ambulance and then to the 61st Casualty Clearing Station in France, but died the next day on 1 September. He was buried locally, in Daours. He died just a couple of months before the end of the First World War." - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au)

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