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Pte. William Allan Irwin DCM.

Australian Imperial Force. 33rd Btn. C Company

from:Moree, NSW

(d.1st Sep 1918)

William Allan Irwin DCM was an Aboriginal soldier in the 33rd Battalion, C Company from Moree NSW. He is the only Aboriginal serviceman to receive mention in CEW Bean's History of the Great War.

William was born as William Irwin Allen at Coonabarabran NSW in 1878. He gave his occupation as shearer and stated that he was single and living at Moree, when he enlisted at Narrabri, NSW on 3.1.1916.

He embarked on the "Marathon" for England on 4.5.1916 and was wounded at Messines on 16.6.1917. He was also wounded at Villers-Bretonneux on 6.4.1918 and again during the assault at Road Wood, Mont St Quentin & Hindenburg line on 31.8.1918 as a result of which he died of wounds on 1.9.1918. William is buried at Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France. His grave Reference is VIII. B. 32. and I would love a photo of his grave, if anyone where to visit the cemetery.

William was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) on 27.10.1918.

He had already been wounded on two previous occasions before an engagement at Road Wood on 31st August 1918 in which he was mortally wounded and died on the following day. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal - his citation reads as follows:

No. 792, Private William Allan Irwin - "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the operations at Road Wood on August 31st 1918. Single-handed, and in the face of extremely heavy fire, Private Irwin rushed Three separate Machine-gun posts and captured the three guns and crews. It was while on the point of rushing a Fourth Machine-gun that he was severely wounded. On his irresistible dash and magnificent gallantry, this man materially assisted our advance through this strongly held and defended Wood, and by his daring actions he greatly inspired the whole of his Company."

Two of his 4 medals were presented by the Australian War Dept to his brother (my late wife's Great Grandfather), in the late 1920's - early 1930's the medals were borrowed by an official of the Walhallow Aboriginal Reserve and never returned.

Adrian Altona

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