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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wallis, William Dane (1882–1955)

by George Dicker

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

William Dane Wallis (1882-1955), soldier and rural worker, was born on 14 February 1882 in Perth, son of William Alfred Wallis, builder, and his wife Harriett Henrietta Maria, née Jones. Enlisting for service in the South African War, young William left Fremantle in March 1900 as a bugler with the 3rd Western Australian (Mounted Infantry) Contingent which merged with a contingent from Victoria to be known as the '3rd Bushmen'; it served under Lieutenant-General Carrington in Rhodesia and, after the relief of Eland's River, under Lord Methuen and General Plumer.

Returning to Western Australia in May 1901, Wallis took up farming at Wagin. On 19 March 1908 he married Beatrice Annie Clark in the local Methodist Church. Giving his occupation as commercial traveller and his marital status as single, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 17 August 1914 and, with the rank of sergeant, left for Egypt in October with the 8th Battery, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade. Commanded by Major A. J. Bessell-Browne, the battery landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 but its guns were not immediately brought ashore. On 4 May two field-guns were hauled up the precipitous slopes of Plateau 400. Under orders from Major General (Sir) William Bridges, Wallis led one of the crews which, three times on 5-6 May, used dragropes to bring its gun onto the crest whence it bombarded the enemy trenches at a range of 450 yards (411 m) while fully exposed to cross-fire. Awarded the Military Medal, he was mentioned in dispatches and commissioned on 16 August in the 1st Divisional Artillery; he was promoted lieutenant in December.

In March 1916 he embarked from Egypt for the Western Front with the 23rd Battery which became part of the 21st F.A. Brigade in May and saw action at Pozières. Evacuated ill in December, Wallis returned to the front in April 1917 and was appointed divisional trench mortar officer, 5th Divisional Artillery. He was promoted temporary captain next month, mentioned in dispatches for his 'initiative and determination' in the Ypres sector from July, and confirmed in rank on 5 September.

Commended for his work in the line from February to September 1918, Wallis won the Military Cross for his action on 17 October: while his unit supported the advance from the Selle River, he fearlessly rode forward on a motor cycle and obtained valuable information about the attacking troops. Promoted major that month, he was appointed commander of the 5th Divisional Ammunition Column and attended training at the School of Artillery, Shoeburyness, England. In January 1919 he was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross.

In December Wallis arrived in Australia; his A.I.F. appointment ended in March 1920. Although his wife and two children remained in Western Australia, he was demobilized in New South Wales. He worked as an agricultural labourer before becoming a clerk at Casino where he was a foundation member (1925) and later president of the sub-branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. In World War II he served as an enlistment officer; he was a board member (chairman 1944-50) of Casino Memorial Hospital and was prominent in the town's sporting activities. Wallis died in Concord Repatriation General Hospital on 28 March 1955 and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Dontingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol 2 (Syd, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, Two Men I Knew (Syd, 1957)
  • Reveille (Sydney), 1 May 1955
  • Richmond River Express, 30 Mar 1955
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

George Dicker, 'Wallis, William Dane (1882–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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