Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Day, Robert Alexander (1888–1966)

by Chris Cunneen

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

Robert Alexander Day (1888-1966), soldier, was born on 29 June 1888 at Rosario, Argentina, son of English-born Robert Day, station-owner, and his second wife Ann, née Allardyce. About 1870 his father had spent some time in New Zealand. In 1911 the family moved to Southernwood, Withersfield, Queensland, where his father took up a sheep and cattle selection, on which Day also worked.

On 2 March 1916 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and embarked from Brisbane with reinforcements for the 15th Battalion in the Itonus on 8 August. In January 1917, while with the 4th Training Battalion, he was promoted corporal, and joined the 15th Battalion in France in June, seeing action at Messines and Polygon Wood. In February 1918 he was promoted sergeant and in July, after the battle of Hamel, company sergeant major.

Day distinguished himself in the attack east of Amiens on 8 August, in which the battalion's task was to capture Cérisy. On 3 September he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal 'for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty [obtaining] much useful and accurate information by daring patrol work. He also took charge of a bombing party and drove the enemy from a troublesome post'. From 18 to 24 September Day took part in his battalion's last engagement, for the outposts of the Hindenburg line near the village of Jeancourt, and was awarded the Military Medal and Bar. His particular combination of three medals for bravery was rare. Unsuccessful in an attempt to obtain discharge in England, on 8 May 1919 he returned to Australia and on 11 August was demobilized.

Day never returned to Queensland. After sending a telegram to his mother he sailed, via the United States of America, to Argentina, where he took up sheep and cattle raising. In 1924 he married Ana Maria Underwood; they had three children. He died on 1 April 1966 at Trevelin, province of Chubut. The museum there holds a small collection of weapons Day had brought back from the war.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1918 (Syd, 1937, 1942)
  • T. P. Chataway, History of the 15th Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces, War 1914-1918, P. Goldenstedt ed, rev edn (Brisb, 1948)
  • London Gazette, 3 Sept 1918, supplement, 11 Feb, 17 June 1919
  • war diary of the 15th Battalion, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Day, Robert Alexander (1888–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/day-robert-alexander-5924/text10093, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 17 November 2018.

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

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018