Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gaby, Alfred Edward (1892–1918)

by D. Elliott

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

Alfred Edward Gaby (1892-1918), by unknown photographer

Alfred Edward Gaby (1892-1918), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, A02622

Alfred Edward Gaby (1892-1918), soldier and labourer, was born on 25 January 1892 at Springfield, near Ringarooma, Tasmania, seventh son of Alfred Gaby, farmer, and his wife Adelaide, née Whiteway. Little is known of his early years other than that he was educated at Scottsdale and worked on the family farm after leaving school. He then spent some time in southern Tasmania. While working on his father's farm he had joined the militia and served for three years with the 12th Infantry Battalion (Launceston Regiment). Two elder brothers had seen active service in the South African War.

Before the outbreak of World War I Gaby followed one of his brothers to Western Australia where he worked as a labourer at Katanning. On 6 January 1916, after having been twice rejected for active service, he enlisted the Australian Imperial Force as a private, and after training at Blackboy Hill camp was posted to the 10th reinforcements of the 28th Battalion. He sailed on the troopship Ulysses in April and joined his battalion in France on 6 August. His previous military experience brought him rapid promotion: from lance corporal on 13 August through all the ranks to sergeant on 30 December. On 7 April 1917 he was commissioned second lieutenant; he was promoted lieutenant on 26 September and was wounded in action (gassed) on 29 October.

Gaby was acting as commander of 'D' Company when, as part of the 2nd Division, his battalion was engaged in the great allied offensive of 8 August 1918. The 28th Battalion attacked German positions east of Villers-Bretonneux and in the course of this action Gaby showed conspicuous bravery and dash in leading and reorganizing his company when it was held up by barbed wire entanglements. He found a gap in the wire, and single-handed, approached an enemy strong point in the face of machine-gun and rifle fire. 'Running along the parapet, still alone, and at point-blank range, he emptied his revolver into the garrison', driving the crews from their guns and capturing fifty men and four machine-guns. He then reorganized his men and captured his objective. On 11 August 1918 in another attack near Lihons, during which he again showed bravery and coolness in engaging an enemy machine-gun position, he was killed by sniper fire.

In recording his death the war diary of the 28th Battalion paid special tribute to this gallant officer. He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously and was buried in Heath cemetery, Harbonnières. Lieutenant Gaby was unmarried.

Select Bibliography

  • K. R. Cramp, Australian Winners of the Victoria Cross: A Record of the Deeds that Won the Decoration During the Great War, 1914-1919 (Syd, 1919)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1918 (Syd, 1937, 1942)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963)
  • London Gazette, 30 Oct 1918
  • Mercury (Hobart), 8 Jan 1919, 30 Jan 1956
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

D. Elliott, 'Gaby, Alfred Edward (1892–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gaby-alfred-edward-6266/text10795, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 1 November 2014.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Alfred Edward Gaby (1892-1918), by unknown photographer

Alfred Edward Gaby (1892-1918), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, A02622