No.1875 – Lieutenant Andrew Henry (Danny) Duke – 8th Battery 3 Field Artillery Brigade AIF


Throughout these operations he displayed the greatest resource and personal courage, inspiring the drivers with his own spirit, and enabling the battery to continue operations throughout when at times the shortage of ammunition was most acute.   

 



Andrew Henry (Danny) Duke was born in Stirling Castle in Scotland, on the 30th of November 1886, to Thomas Duke (English Soldier) and Elizabeth (Irish Midwife).
 
In February 1906 Danny enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps, in Kent England, and in April transferred to Royal Horse Artillery, serving in India from December 1908 until January 1913. He then immigrated to Australia, arriving in Fremantle in April 1913, and married Louisa Lightfoot in June 1914.
 
Following Great Britain declaring war on Germany on 4 August 1914, recruitment for Australian Imperial Forces began on 10 August. Danny enlisted on 1 September (No. 1875) at Blackboy Hill Camp. On 31 October 1914, two months before his son was born, he embarked for active service on HMAT Medic at Fremantle as a Gunner and member of the 8th Battery, 3 Field Artillery Brigade (FAB). The embarkation roll shows his address as 22 Queen Victoria Street, Fremantle.
 
On 25 April 1915, landing commenced at Gallipoli, Turkey. As Danny was presumably one of the most experienced Gunners in the 8th Battery it is likely that he would have gone ashore with the first gun, meaning that he could have landed at Gallipoli as early as the 25th or 26th of April 1915. The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918 documents the many battles of the 8th Battery in Gallipoli. After landing at Gaba Tepe, a number of battles took place in interestingly named locations such as Baby 700; 400 Plateau, Lone Pine; the Pimple; Battleship Hill; the Nek, and the Chessboard.
 
The Official History includes the two following descriptions of actions involving the 8th Battery:
 
"On the night of May 9th it had taken eighty men of the 2nd Battalion two hours to drag one of Bessell-Browne’s guns to the Pimple. A long sap as wide as a carriage road had to be cut for that battery alone. Half the energy of the field companies (engineers) was at that time devoted to constructing gun-positions.”
The Official History of  Australia in the War  of 1914-1918, Vol II, Ch IX: The Growth of the Anzac Line.

"Other gun-detachment were ordered to stand by, in order to "carry on” if either of the crews were disabled. The expected happened. After several high-explosive shells from the 75’s had burst on the parapet, another struck the shield of No 1 gun and blew away its crew. Sergeant Taylor, covered with wounds, struggled to continue firing, but the relieving attachment, which had sprung at once to the gun, forced him, strongly protesting, away from it. "See after the others,” he said, "I’m only scratched.” Of "the others” one gunner, Barrett-Lennard (of Guildford WA) a youngster of twenty-one, lay with an arm and thigh shattered, but life lingered for a minute or two. "Look after the sergeant,” he insisted. "I’m all right – I’m done, but, by God, you see, I’m dying hard.” Another, Stanley Carter (of Fremantle WA), part of his back had been torn away, also regained a brief consciousness before he died. "Is the gun all right, sergeant?” were his first words. Of such mettle were the men who, under the insuperable difficulties of Anzac, fought their guns throughout the campaign.”
 The Official History of  Australia in the War  of 1914-1918, Vol II, Ch XI: German Officer's Trench: An extract from "July 13th to July 17th".

Danny was evacuated from Turkey on 13 of October 1915 to a hospital in Malta, and then on to England where he was admitted to Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol with dysentery. On 14 January 1916 he rejoined his unit at Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt, from England.
 
In Egypt Danny spent the first two months in various hospitals still recovering from diarrhea and dysentery, and on 22 March was ‘Taken on strength 15 Field Artillery Brigade (FAB)’ at Tel-el-Kebir as a Gunner ex 8th FAB and was posted as a Gunner to the 59th Battery. 15 FAB was part of 5th Division AIF, which was formed in Egypt from February 1916 from members of the Divisions that had served on Gallipoli and reinforcements. This was part of the duplication of the Anzac force. (Following the withdrawal from Gallipoli the Australian forces were expanded from 2½ divisions to five.) Initially, the division was stationed on the Suez Canal. On 26 March 1916 Danny was promoted to Bombardier (Temporary) in 15 FAB, and on 23 April to Sergeant in 15 FAB. (The doubling of the divisions at this time may, in part, explain him being promoted to Bombardier and then Sergeant in such a short period.)
 
On 24 June 1916 Danny disembarked at Marseilles, France. From early July his Battery was involved in the Battle of Fromelles. The records state: "Fromelles is in the Nord Department of France, which borders on Belgium and is west of Lille on D141. This is part of French Flanders. The Battle of Fromelles was a diversionary action to discourage the Germans from moving troops from this region to the Somme as reinforcements”.
 
On 23 January 1917 Danny was transferred from the 15th FAB to the 6th Army Field Artillery Brigade and posted to the 17th Battery. In June 1917 he was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 2 and appointed as Battery Sergeant Major 17th Battery. Throughout September, October and November 1917, the 17th Battery provided fire support to operations to the east of Ypres in Belgium. The resupply route to the 17th Battery was via ‘Hellfire Corner’. The following photo and description, held by the Australian War Memorial and dated 27 September 1917, are appropriate to show the conditions he would have experienced. (Today Hellfire Corner is a traffic roundabout.)
 
Hellfire Corner on Menin Road, in the Ypres Sector
 
"Description: Hellfire Corner on the Menin Road, in the Ypres Sector. This well named locality was continually under observation and notorious for its danger. At night this road was crammed with traffic, limbers, guns, pack animals, motor lorries and troops. Several motor lorries received direct hits at different times and were totally destroyed. The dead bodies of horses, mules and men were often to be seen lying where the last shell had got them. The neighbourhood was piled with the wreckage of all kinds of transport. A 'sticky' spot was always taken at a trot. Left to right is Ypres Woods on Railway Ridge in background, hessian camouflage on the corner, Hooge, track to Gordon House veers to the right with Leinster Farm in the distance."
 
In the period of September to October 1917 the Australians participated in the following actions that were part of what are now referred to as the Third Battle of Ypres: 
  • 20 September - Battle of Menin Road; 
  • 26 September - Battle of Polygon Wood; 
  • 4 October - Battle of Broodseinde Ridge; and 
  • 9 - 12 October - Battle of Passchendaele.

As a result of his heroic efforts in leading ammunition supply teams through Hellfire Corner in September and October 1917, Danny was nominated for the CHEVALIER de l’ordre de la COURONNES (Knight of the Order of the Crown) but was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre First Class (War Cross). He was formally awarded the Croix de Guerre by His Majesty the King of the Belgians on 19 July 1918. 

The Award Nomination reads: Award Nomination dated 21 December 1917 (ex Australian War Memorial). 6th Army BDE Aust. F.A., 17th Battery - W.O. Class II Andrew Henry DUKE. Read an extract below:

 "This W.O. was B.S.M. of the battery throughout the September, October and November operations in the PASCHENDAELE sector. During the September-October operations the ammunition supply had to be brought up by pack horses through constant and very heavy shelling. W.O. Duke had charge of arrangements throughout bringing the teams through extraordinary shelling on a great number of occasions. During two engagements when the Battery was very short of ammunition he obtained and brought through heavy barrages ammunition most urgently wanted by the battery in action, going back on each occasion twice through heavy barrages, whilst surrounding 18-pdr batteries did not get theirs for hours afterwards. Throughout these operations he displayed the greatest resource and personal courage, inspiring the drivers with his own spirit, and enabling the battery to continue operations throughout when at times the shortage of ammunition was most acute.”

 

 About this time he was also offered a commission, with the choice of being commissioned in the field or to attend the No. 1 Royal Artillery Officer Cadet School at St. John’s Wood in England. He chose the latter and proceeded there on 2 November 1917, commenced his course on 7 December 1917, graduating as a Second Lieutenant on 24 May 1918.

After Danny graduated he was posted to Field Artillery Reinforcements as 2nd Lieutenant (26 June 1918). He departed Southampton, England for Harve, France on 19  July 1918, the date when he also was awarded the Croix de Guerre by His Majesty the King of the Belgians.

On his return to France he joined the 6th (Army) Brigade Australian Field Artillery and was posted to Brigade Ammunition Column. Records show that the 6th (Army) Brigade Australian Field Artillery was involved with the following actions: The Battle of Amiens that took place to the south-east of Villers-Bretonneux; Lihons, which took place on 8 August (Lihons is east of Villers-Bretonneux and south east of Albert in the Somme region); and ‘Haig’s Second Stroke’. This action took place at Chuignolles, to the south of Albert in the Somme region of France. 

On 24 August Danny was posted to 106 Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery, which records show was involved in the following actions: Mont Saint-Quentin, just north of Peronne in the Somme Region (into September); and Hindenberg Outpost Line. This series of actions took place from east of Peronne to the Hindenberg Line, which ran north from the town of St Quentin.

The Hindenberg Outpost Line was most likely the last battle in which Danny participated. Being an Army unit, his unit most likely supported this battle because General Monash was a great believer in maximising the use of his artillery. On 26 September 1918 Danny was promoted to Lieutenant.

On 8 October he embarked at Taranto, Italy, on the HMT Kaisar-I-Hind for his return to Australia on ‘1914 Special Leave’. The British War Cabinet had been told by General Haig that the war would last at least until 1919 and possibly until 1921, and the Australian Prime Minister, Bill Hughes, ordered that his ‘1914 men’, who had not had home leave, be granted home leave. Danny was on the second boat home. While he was not involved in the last AIF battle of the war (the capture of Cambrai on 9 October 1918), he was still serving in Europe when this last AIF battle took place, and still in Egypt when the end of the war was declared on 11 November 1918. On 15 November 1918 he left Suez on HT Port Darwin.

Currently, there is no record for him between 24 November 1918 and 2 March 1919, though there is some circumstantial evidence that he was back home as his only daughter was born on 26 September 1919. On 2 March 1919 his appointment was terminated from the Fifth Military District (ex AIF; ex "Wyreema”).

Over the next five years two more sons were born to him and his wife, Louisa; their family consisted of one girl and four boys.

According to family oral history, in December 1941, at the age of 55 years, Danny dyed his hair and put his age down by 10 years to enlist to serve in the 2nd World War. He enlisted in the Australian Military Forces (Volunteer Defence Corps), in Perth. He was discharged on 29 December 1944 as a Warrant Officer Class 2 in 6 Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps. Two of his medals pictured below are from WW2 (War Medal and Service Medal).

Danny died on 20 July 1968 at Hollywood Hospital, in Nedlands.

Like many who have served in wars, Danny did not talk a lot about his experiences to his family; his children and grandchildren remember mainly some funny stories.

 

This account for the Fremantle ANZAC Centenary website about Andrew Henry (Danny) Duke as an ANZAC in WW1 has been compiled mainly from official records about the groups he fought with including Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918  from the Australian War Memorial website, and Service Record Documents from the National Archives of Australia.

One of his grandsons, Danny Duke who lives in Sydney, has compiled a timeline of Andrew Henry Duke’s whole life. The timeline information has come from various official records and references, and ancestry information collected by a granddaughter Elaine Malpeli. Another grandchild, Jan Kornweibel (nee Duke) who is a Fremantle resident, wrote this story of Andrew Henry (Danny) Duke’s time in WW1 from the comprehensive information that they have gathered.

 

Many thanks for sharing Andrew Henry (Danny) Duke's story. 


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