Service Number: N71515
Enlisted: 30 December 1939
Last Rank: Not yet discovered
Last Unit: Not yet discovered
Born: Barberton, South Africa, 11 February 1906
Home Town: Como, Sutherland Shire, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Bricklayer
Died: Murder/suicide, Australia, 14 June 1942, aged 36 years
Cemetery: Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park, NSW
RCBD - Roman Catholic FM BD, Position 9
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, New South Wales Garden of Remembrance (Rookwood Necropolis)
Show Relationships

World War 2 Service

3 Sep 1939: Involvement N71515
30 Dec 1939: Enlisted N71515
Date unknown: Discharged N71515

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

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Invasion Fear
Led To Tragedy

A soldier is believed to have killed his two children and critically injured his wife at Como yesterday because he feared they might fall into the hands of the Japanese.  He then  cut his throat and died.
Victims of the tragedy were:-
DEAD. — Private Denis Josiah Gaskill, 36, of Keele Street, Como; Bernice Joyce Gaskill, four years and nine months; Joan Denis Gaskill, two years and two months. 
INJURED.— Mrs. Dorothea Gaskill, 33, in a critical condition in St. George District Hospital. 
Neighbors say that Gaskill was extraordinarily fond of his wife and children. He spent his spare time, including recent leave from the militia, improving his house and making  toys for his children.

Tragedy Reconstructed
He had been worried by the thought that his wife and daughters might be tortured by Japanese in the event of invasion, and had said that he would prefer to kill them  painlessly. Detective-Sergeant Payne (Kogarah) and Sergeant Irwin and Constables Wurth and Robinson (Sutherland) reconstructed the tragedy from a short statement by  Mrs. Gaskill and the appearance of the house.
Police say Gaskill reached his home from camp about 1 a.m. yesterday. After talking to his wife of the happiness of their life together, he told her to go to sleep.
She was awakened by a blow on the head, and then lost consciousness. While she was unconscious her throat was gashed with a razor.

Struck On Head 
It is believed that she was struck on the head with a heavy hammer used for trimming sandstone. The throats of the two children were cut deeply with a razor. Police believe  that their father held them in his arms as they slept so, that he could be sure of killing them quickly. Gaskill then cut his throat and ran out of the house. He stumbled about 200 yards downhill until he fell 30ft. over a cliff.
The tragedy was discovered about 10.30 a.m. by Mr. Albert Rollings, who called to deliver milk.
St. George Ambulance took Mrs. Gaskill to St. George District Hospital. Doctors think she may live.

Felt His Mind
Going In Army
Devoted father and husband, Sergeant Denis Josiah Gaskill, 36, returned suddenly from an Army camp on June 14 last and killed his two baby daughters. Gaskill, who left a  letter in which he said he was "mentally gone," then committed suicide. He had also attacked his wife, but she lived to tell police later . . . "He loved me and he loved my children, too. He would not hurt any of us." This was the tragic story revealed at the Inquest today on Gaskill and his children. Bernice Joyce, 4, and Joan Denise, 2. A letter  found in the house at Conio, written by Gaskill. read :
"I am writing while the train is in motion to carry, me, I hope, to my end. So my writing Is worse than usual. I realise now that I have been just a goat over promotion and so forth in the Service. I really thought at one time I was doing a Job. But now I have taken good stock of past events, and can see the whole layout.
"I do not expect any sympathy for myself, but I can't ear the thought of my poor little family being left behind. "From my reasoning, I know now that I am mentally gone. Kids  of mine could have no future, anyhow. I   can't leave them to starve. "But that would be better than throwing them on the world at times like this. I must have been a bigger  dope than I ever knew I was. But I did love inv wife and kids. Gaskell. (The State didn't care, so I did.)"
On the other side of the paper the writing was large" and sprawling, and read: —
"Later I expect that they (the police) are waiting for me at Como, so I'll pack up quick."
Trail Of Blood
Police were called by a dairy-man, Albert Rolling, who went to Gaskili's home at about 10.45 am on June 14 and saw blood on the footpath and a razor in the hall. Rolling found the two children in separate cots, covered with clothes, as though asleep. When he looked at them, he saw their throats were cut. He then heard Mrs. Gaskill gasping on a  pillow soaked in blood.  "Mrs. Gaskill asked how the children were, and I said they were all right," said Rolling. "She murmured. 'Oh, Den, what did you do It for?' "
Following another trail of blood from the house to the river, police found Gaskill's naked body on the rocks. He had cut his throat.
Mrs. Mary Gaskill, when she had recovered from the wound in her throat, a fortnight later, told police that her husband had come home unexpectedly at 1 am on June 14. He  seemed quite happy. She went to sleep and did not remember any thing further. Her husband had never threatened her. Police inquiries revealed that Gaskill had been involved in an accident about four years ago, and had been unconscious for several days
The City Coroner (Mr. Oram), in his finding, said: "Gaskill had a reputation of being a devoted father, very fond of his wife and home, and the only explanation is that his mind  must have given way." Mr. Oram stated.