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Daly, Clarence Wells (1890–1918)

by J. Whitelaw

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Clarence Wells Daly (1890-1918), soldier and bank clerk, was born on 5 May 1890 in Hobart, third son of William John Daly, businessman, and his wife Florence Eleonore, née Beckx. After his family moved to Canterbury, Melbourne, he was educated at Camberwell Grammar School and, from 1905, at Wesley College. He matriculated at the University of Melbourne and became a bank clerk.

Daly showed an early interest in military affairs, gaining a commission as second lieutenant in the 5th Australian Infantry Regiment, later renamed the 64th (City of Melbourne), in January 1911; he was promoted captain in March 1913. An early volunteer for overseas service, he was appointed to the 6th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, on 19 August 1914 and embarked two months later on the Hororata as officer commanding 'D' Company. After training in Egypt his battalion served as an assault unit at the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915: after hours of severe fighting near Pine Ridge, during which they managed to repulse several Turkish attacks, Daly and his party were ordered to retire to 400 Plateau. From this position the 6th battalion held off determined enemy attacks on 27-28 April. Daly was wounded on the day of the landing.

On 6 May his unit was shipped from Anzac to Cape Helles and two days later sustained heavy casualties in the battle of Krithia. Daly was promoted major on 16 May and returned with his battalion to Anzac where, throughout June, it was in reserve. On 6 August he took part in the abortive and costly attempt to capture German Officers' Trench at Lone Pine. Afterwards the 6th was sent to Lemnos for a rest but returned in November and remained until the evacuation.

Daly's unit left Egypt for the Western Front early in 1916 and fought in the battles of Pozières and Mouquet Farm before withdrawing to the relative quiet of the Ypres sector. From 22 August to 26 September and for several periods in October-December Daly was the battalion's acting commander. In January 1917 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and mentioned in dispatches. Promoted lieutenant-colonel on 25 February, he was appointed commanding officer of the 6th Battalion—at the age of 26—and from then until his death also periodically took temporary command of the 2nd Brigade. Though wounded in action at Tremincourt on 26 April, he resumed duty for the 2nd battle of Bullecourt, and for rallying his brigade at Menin Road on 20 September won a second mention in dispatches. He was wounded again at Broodseinde on 4 October.

On 13 April 1918, immediately before the battle of the Lys, Daly checked that his battalion was in position and was riding forward to reconnoitre at La Motte-au-Bois when he was wounded in the abdomen by a shell fragment. He died later that day and was posthumously mentioned in dispatches. Daly Window in Adamson Hall, Wesley College, is in memory of him. Two of his brothers served in the A.I.F., one in the 12th and the other in the 23rd Battalion. Daly was unmarried.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1921, 1924)
  • E. Nye (ed), The History of Wesley College 1865-1919 (Melb, 1921)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • G. Blainey et al, Wesley College. The First Hundred Years (Melb, 1967)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 May 1918.

Citation details

J. Whitelaw, 'Daly, Clarence Wells (1890–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/daly-clarence-wells-5873/text9991, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 15 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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