Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Daniel Alexander Daley (1916–1949)

by A. J. Hill

This article was published:

Daniel Alexander Daley (1916-1949), grazier and soldier, was born on 6 August 1916 at Moree, New South Wales, only son and youngest of four children of James Joseph Daley, labourer, and his wife Ethel Maud, née Smith, both native-born. James established himself as a grazier and acquired two properties, The Point, and Springfield, near Biniguy, on which the family lived. Educated at Pallamallawa Public School and The King's School, Parramatta, Dan left in December 1932 to work with his father. Tall and dark, a good boxer and a skilled horseman, young Daley became widely known in show rings and at rodeos in the State's north-west. He was a 'very popular man in the community'.

In March 1939 he joined the 24th Light Horse Regiment (Militia) and on 27 June 1940 enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. With other light horsemen, Daley volunteered for the 20th Infantry Anti-Tank Company in July and in October sailed for Palestine. In February 1941 his unit moved to Cyrenaica, Libya, where it was involved in the withdrawal to and the defence of Tobruk. There Daley knocked out several enemy tanks and was appointed lance corporal.

After returning to Palestine in September, his company was absorbed into the 2nd/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment. Daley was made lance sergeant in April 1942. Back in the Western Desert in July, he had charge of a 2-pounder (0.9 kg) gun at El Alamein. On 17 July he supported the 2nd/32nd Infantry Battalion in the fighting for Makh Khad Ridge. Through heavy shelling and machine-gun fire, he kept his gun and crew in action, but suffered a slight wound. German tanks then attacked. Although under a hail of armour-piercing bullets which seriously wounded him and his gunlayer, he put six of the tanks out of action. 'By his courage and determination he materially assisted in breaking up the counter-attack, and in no small degree inspired the gunners of the troop in rear of him.' While recovering in hospital, Daley was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He rejoined his regiment on 27 October during the climactic battle of El Alamein.

Promoted acting sergeant, Daley arrived in Sydney with the 9th Division in February 1943. He served in Papua and New Guinea from August, but, as there were no Japanese tanks, his battery was used as labour and in coastal defence near Finschhafen. The great days were over. At home, his father (whose health was failing) struggled to keep the properties going. Obtaining release on compassionate grounds, Daley returned to Australia in April 1944 and was discharged on 22 May. He then took over management of Springfield and The Point.

Dan Daley's enjoyment of life as a grazier in the postwar boom was brief. In the early hours of 20 August 1949, while driving five friends to Moree, he and four of his companions were killed when the motorcar failed to take a bend. Daley was buried in Moree cemetery with Anglican rites. He was unmarried.

Select Bibliography

  • 'Silver John' (J. N. L. Argent), Target Tank (Parramatta, 1957)
  • B. Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein (Canb, 1966)
  • Australian War Memorial records
  • newsclippings from Moree Champion and Warialda Standard, no dates, Aug 1949 (held in ADB file)
  • private information.

Citation details

A. J. Hill, 'Daley, Daniel Alexander (1916–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


6 August, 1916
Moree, New South Wales, Australia


20 August, 1949 (aged 33)
Moree, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.