Harold Boyd Wanliss

Harold Boyd Wanliss

Male 1891 - 1917  (25 years)

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  • Name Harold Boyd Wanliss 
    Born 11 Dec 1891  Ballarat, Victoria, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    • WANLISS, HAROLD BOYD (1891-1917), soldier and orchardist, was born on 11 December 1891 at Ballarat, Victoria, elder child of John Newton Wellesley Wanliss (1861-1950), solicitor, and his wife Margaret, née Boyd. Newton, brother of «u»David Sydney Wanliss«/u», was educated at Ballarat College and Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., LL.B., 1884; M.A., 1887). He became a solicitor at Ballarat and was active in the Federation campaign. Harold was also educated at Ballarat College (dux 1908) and travelled with his father in Europe before attending Hawkesbury Agricultural College, New South Wales, for one year (dux 1912). In 1913 he took up 295 acres (119 ha) near Lorne, Victoria, to plant an orchard, and nearby found the falls on the Erskine River which were later named after him.
      Serious, popular, dark haired and well built, a non-drinker and non-smoker, Harold Wanliss lived plainly, rose early and worked hard. He had 'special powers of application' and fine instincts for the future of Australia and the civilizing mission of Empire. In August 1914 he broke his leg in a riding accident which prevented him from joining the Australian Imperial Force, but typically he spent his convalescence studying the history and theory of war. After enlisting on 28 April 1915, he was selected for officer training at Broadmeadows. Promoted second lieutenant in July 1915, he embarked with the second reinforcements of the 29th Battalion on 29 December.
      In March 1916 Wanliss was posted to the 14th Battalion. He was chosen to lead its first raid in France against the German trenches in the Bois Grenier sector on the night of 2-3 July. Although the raid was personally planned by «u»Brigadier General (Sir) John Monash «/u», it was a disaster. The raiders found the German wire uncut, and were caught by German machine-gun and artillery fire. Almost all the eighty-nine raiders-picked men, 'the flower of the A.I.F.'-were hit, and they failed to take a prisoner. Wanliss showed exceptional courage and leadership. He led his party through the uncut wire and, although wounded three times, cleared a section of the German front trench; he then covered the withdrawal of his men and, under heavy fire, continued to direct them until he collapsed from loss of blood. He won the Distinguished Service Order, the first A.I.F. subaltern so decorated in World War I.
      Recovering from his wounds, Wanliss rejoined his battalion on 27 September. He became battalion adjutant in January 1917 and a captain on 6 March, and in these months helped to make an already famous battalion one of the most efficient in the A.I.F. His work was marked by attention to detail and untiring concern for his men, notably during the 1st battle of Bullecourt in April. He began a range of recreational activities for troops out of the line, including a series of lectures and debates on post-war Australia and the Empire. In mid-1917 Wanliss requested transfer to a fighting company and was made commanding officer of 'A' Company on 13 August. On 26 September he led it into the battle of Polygon Wood. Just as he reached his battalion's objective a German machine-gunner shot him through the heart, throat and side. He died instantly, and was buried where he fell.
      In addition to his D.S.O., Wanliss had been mentioned in dispatches and twice recommended for a decoration, and his comrades mourned his death. 'Many brave men-many good men have I met … but he was the king', his colonel wrote. A brother officer thought him 'the best man and the best soldier and the truest gentleman in our Brigade', while one of his men called him 'the finest Officer ever I met'. Australia's loss was at least as grievous. «u»Charles Bean «/u» reported the opinion of Monash and others that Wanliss was 'possibly destined, if he lived, to lead Australia'. Wanliss had spent his A.I.F. leaves studying new industries which might benefit post-war Australia, and searching for various kinds of work for disabled ex-servicemen. His death demonstrates that Australia's World War I losses cannot be measured simply by numbers.
      Harold's sister Marion Boyd Wanliss (1896-1984), born on 28 December 1896, attended the University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1920; M.D., 1929); after research into cancer as a postgraduate in Vienna, she practised as a physician at Camberwell, Melbourne, and later in Collins Street. She became an honorary physician at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital. A member (1928) of the Royal College of Physicians, London, and a fellow (1954) of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, she was also a prominent conservationist. She died on 28 June 1984; in accordance with her will, her body was delivered to the university's medical school.
      After World War I Newton Wanliss wrote the story of his son's battalion, «i»The History of the Fourteenth Battalion, A.I.F.«/i» (1929). One of the best 1st A.I.F. unit histories, it reveals a competent researcher, a good writer, and a proud and grieving father. On 12 November 1943 he concluded his will: 'I desire to place on record the pride that I have always felt in the achievements and characters of my two children … and … my gratitude for the companionship and devotion they have both invariably extended towards me'. His son had been dead for 26 years.
    Military 14th Battalion, Australian Infantry, AIF 
    • Harold Boyd WANLISS DSO, Captain 14th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F. who died on Wednesday, 26th September 1917. Age 25. Son of Newton & Margaret WANLISS, of "Rayleigh", Point Londsdale, Victoria. Native of Ballarat, Victoria.
      [Commonwealth War Graves Commission]
    Died 26 Sep 1917 
    Obituary 20 Oct 1917  Edinburgh, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    The Scotsman 
    • Capt. Harold Boyd Wanliss, D.S.O., Australian Infantry, who was killed last month, was the only son of Mr. Newton Wanliss of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, and nephew of the Hon. Sir William Irvine, formerly Attorney General of the Australian Commonwealth. Born in Ballarat in 1891, he was educated at the Ballarat College, of which he was dux in 1908. He subsequently took a year's course at Hawkesbury Agricultural College (New South Wales) and was dux of his year. He then acquired property in the Orway ranges, Victoria, and discovered falls on the Upper Erskine River, which have been named after him. He enlisted in April 1915 in the Australian Imperial Force and went to the front i June 1916. He won the D.S.O. as a subaltern in his first engagement in July 1916 "for conspicuous gallantry and determination in leading an attacking party during a raid", forcing his way through uncut wire and retaining command though three times severely wounded. On recovering from his wounds he rejoined his old battalion in Sept 1916 and acted for some months as adjutant, but was given command of a company in August last. He fell in a successful attack, just when his company had reached its objective. His C.O. writes "He was a brilliant soldier, fearless in all his actions and beloved by us all. His loss as a leader and comrade is sadly felt throughout the battalion."

      22 Oct 1917 - He is the only son of Newton Wanliess, Melbourne, and grand-nephew of Mrs Bell, Tedlanet, Perth.
    • Sad remembrance of a war hero, 91 years on
      By John Masanauskas
      Herald Sun Thursday 25 September, 2008
      Tom Wanliss never knew his cousin Harold, a World War I hero, but tales of his deeds were family legend. And he believes his brave relative's life and sacrifice deserve wider recognition. Capt Wanliss was only 26 when he fell on a Belgian field, 91 years ago this week.
      Serving with him at the battle of Polygon Wood was legendary Australian Victoria Cross winner, Albert Jacka.
      Tom Wanliss, 82, said that from all reports his cousin was a striking man of fierce intellect destined for greatness.
      "Everyone who spoke of him said he could have been prime minister", he said.
      Born in Victoria, Capt Wanliss was dux of Ballarat College. His grandfather Thomas Drummond Wanliss had been an MLA and a member of Peter Lalor's committee at the Eureka Stokade.
      Capt Wanliss was commanding the right flank of the 14th Battalion AIF when felled by two bullets during an assault on German lines near Ypres on September 26, 1917.
      'He died on the field of honour, at the head of his men, in a victorious attack... devoted wholly to his country's cause," said an official account of his death.
      Capt Wanliss's distraught father, Newton, placed a memorial notice in Melbourne newspapers on each anniversary of his son's death until his own demise in 1951.
      Author Michael Lawriwsky, who wrote about Capt Wanliss in a book on Jacka, will put a similar notice in the Herald Sun for the 91st anniversary tomorrow.
      Dr Lawriwsky said that while a waterfall at Lorne was named after Capt Wanlliss, few people today knew of him. "A future Australia was lost, and Harold had the potential to be a leading architect of that future", he said.

      Notice that Newton Wanliss placed in the Melbourne 'Argus', 26 September, 1945:
      "WANLISS - In proud memory of my heroic son, Captain Harold Boyd Wanliss DSO killed in action September 26, 1917. None perhaps fell that day with more glory; yet many fell and there was much glory"
    Person ID I47  49: David Wanliss & Janet Moon
    Last Modified 4 Nov 2014 

    Father John Newton Wellesley "Newton" Wanliss,   b. 9 Dec 1861, on the ship Wellesley at sea enroute from Melbourne to London Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1950, Kew, Victoria, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 88 years) 
    Mother Margaret Boyd,   b. Abt 1867,   d. 19 Sep 1900, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 33 years) 
    Married 12 Mar 1891  Ballarat, Victoria, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Family ID F15  Group Sheet

  • Photos
    Harold Boyd Wanliss
    Harold Boyd Wanliss

    Obituary: Harold Boyd Wanliss, 1917
    Obituary: Harold Boyd Wanliss, 1917
    Killed in World War I. [The Scotsman, 20 Oct 1917]

  • Sources 
    1. [S22] Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition, (http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120730b.htm).

    2. [S21] Newspaper or Magazine.
      The Argus - 18 April 1891- Marriages
      Wanliss - Boyd: On the 12th ult. at Ballarat, by the Rev. T.R. Cairns, Newton Wanliss, solicitor, eldest son of T.D. Wanliss, to Margaret, eldest daughter of the late John Boyd, of Narmbool, Elaine.