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Henry (Harry) Dalziel (1893–1965)

by Helen Mays

This article was published:

Henry Dalziel, c.1918

Henry Dalziel, c.1918

Australian War Memorial, A05444

Henry Dalziel (1893-1965), soldier, locomotive fireman and farmer, was born on 18 February 1893 at Irvinebank, Queensland, son of James Dalziel, miner, and his wife Eliza Maggie, née McMillan, both of whom were native-born. He was educated at Irvinebank and became a fireman on the Cairns-Atherton railway.

Dalziel enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 16 January 1915 and embarked with reinforcements for the 15th Battalion. Joining his unit at Gallipoli in July, he served in the battle of Sari Bair in August and was eventually evacuated with his battalion to Egypt. On 31 May 1916 he sailed for France, going into the line at Bois Grenier and from July serving on the Somme, at Pozières and Mouquet Farm. In 1917 Dalziel saw action at Gueudecourt, Lagnicourt, Bullecourt and Messines before being wounded by shrapnel at Polygon Wood on 16 October. He resumed duty on 7 June 1918, first as a driver and then as a gunner.

For valour during the battle of Hamel on 4 July Dalziel won the thousandth Victoria Cross awarded. When his battalion's advance met with strong resistance from a heavily armed enemy garrison at Pear Trench, Dalziel as second member of a Lewis-gun team helped his partner to silence machine-gun fire. When fire opened up from another post he dashed forward and, with his revolver, killed or captured the crew and gun, thus allowing the advance to proceed. During this action the tip of his trigger-finger was shot away; he was ordered to the rear, but instead continued to serve his gun in the final storming of Pear Trench. Although again ordered back to the aid-post he began taking ammunition up to the front line, continuing to do so until he was shot in the head.

Dalziel's wound was so severe that his skull was smashed and the brain exposed. He received extensive medical treatment in England before returning to Australia in January 1919. While travelling home by train, he received a hero's welcome at every station from Townsville to Atherton. On 8 April 1920, at the Congregational manse, South Brisbane, he married Ida Maude Ramsay, a nurse who had served with the 17th Australian General Hospital. They took up a soldier-settlement block, which they named Zenith, on the Tolga railway line. As Dalziel was unable to cope with the day-to-day duties of a small mixed farm his wife assumed most of the work-load.

His interest in farming waned after a few years and Dalziel left her to run Zenith and moved south. He worked in a Sydney factory in the late 1920s but by 1933 had settled in Brisbane where he was out of work for some time; he later received a war pension. In the early 1930s he joined the Citizen Military Forces, becoming a sergeant in the 9th/15th Battalion. He developed an interest in song-writing, cultivated at first during long periods of hospitalization; some of his songs, such as A Song of the Tableland and Love Time, Merry Love Time, were published in England. In 1956 he went to London for the V.C. centenary celebrations.

Dalziel died of a stroke on 24 July 1965 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, Brisbane, and was cremated with military honours.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • T. P. Chataway, History of the 15th Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces, War 1914-1918 (Brisb, 1948)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963)
  • London Gazette, 17 Aug 1918
  • Reveille (Sydney), Feb 1929, May 1932, Dec 1964, Sept 1965
  • Mufti, 4 Dec 1965
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 21 May 1919, 15-16 Aug 1933, 23 Aug 1956, 26-28 July 1965
  • Age (Melbourne), 26 Apr 1927, 27 July 1965
  • Herald (Melbourne), 25 Jan 1935
  • Sun (Sydney), 10 Jan 1937
  • Labor Daily, 11 Jan 1937
  • Tablelands Advertiser, 25 Apr 1979
  • private information.

Citation details

Helen Mays, 'Dalziel, Henry (Harry) (1893–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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