Profile

WILSON, David Black
(Service number 16613)

Aliases Enlisted as David WILSON
First Rank Lieutenant Last Rank Lieutenant

Birth

Date 15 January 1890 Place of Birth Waimate

Enlistment Information

Date 23 September 1914 Age 24 years 8 months
Address at Enlistment
Occupation Newspaper manager
Previous Military Experience Cadet Corps - 3 years; Studholme Mounted Rifles N.Z. - 2 years
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Charles WILSON, 45 Parsonage Road, Waimate, Canterbury, New Zealand
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 7 Iinches. Girth fully expanded 35½ inches, range of expansion 3 inches. Physical development good. Teeth - plates top & bottom with 9 false teeth. Complaxion fair. Eyes hazel (yellow). Hair fair.

Military Service

Served with Canadian Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Forces
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 7th battalion, Canadian Infantry
Date 3 October 1914
Transport Ruthemia
Embarked From Quebec Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
Service Medals
Military Awards Mentioned in Despatches (MiD); Military Cross (MC)

Award Circumstances and Date

Mentioned in Dispatches for distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty from September 25, 1917, to February 24, 1918, at Passchendaele.- 7 April 1918. Military Cross for gallantry in the field - 3 June 1919.

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date

Discharge

Date 25 April 1919 Reason Struck off strength

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

23 April 1915 at Ypres - bullet wound causing compound fracture to the metacarpal bones of the right hand - no. 1 Stationary Hospital, Rouen, to 1st Scottish General Hospital, Aberdeen. 5 May 1916 - Gunshot wound to left side on return to France at Ypres - severe shrapnel wound to right leg - operation & skin graft. 1917 & 1918 in France - VD.

Post-war Occupations

Newspaper work

Death

Date 27 December 1967 Age 77 years
Place of Death Queensland, Australia
Cause
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery Mount Gravatt Cemetery, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

David Black Wilson, known as Dave in his youth, was the youngest son of Charles Wilson and Mary Jane née Black, of Waimate, both born in Ireland and early Waimate settlers. He was born on 15 January 1890 at Waimate, into a family which had given over 250 years of yeoman service to the Empire (Timaru Herald, 4 February 1925). His three older brothers (Charles Augustus, George Wynn and Samuel Harold, known as Harold) served in the South African War. His brother George Wynn Wilson also served in the Canadian Forces in World War One. Charles and Harold Wilson founded the Waimate Advertiser when they were just 20 and 17 years old respectively, and were joined the following year by George. All four brothers engaged in newspaper management. Young David was educated at the local Waimate School, where at the 1898 breaking-up ceremony, in Standard III, he was awarded an attendance prize. Further success came his way in early 1903 when he gained Merit in Standard VI at the Waimate District High School. And the following year he may be the David Wilson who qualified for a national scholarship. In October 1899, when just nine years old, playing the role of “Tiny Cub” in the pantomime of “Golden Hair and the Three Bears’ at the entertainment in aid of the Sunday School of St Augustine’s Church, Waimate, David, with a mate, ‘kept the audience in constant laughter throughout their appearance on the stage.’ He was probably the “lad named David Wilson” who suffered a painful accident in May 1902 at Waimate, while exploding some blasting powder and stooping over it received the charge in his face. Although his face and neck were severely burnt, his eyes were not affected and it was reported that he was doing well.

On leaving school David worked in the C.F.C.A. office for some years, then left to take a position as clerk and traveller with de Lambert Bros., Oamaru, after which he went to Sydney, following the occupation of an advertisement writer for some little time. Dave Wilson arrived in Sydney on 20 September 1910, to join his brother George. Prior to leaving he had been working in Oamaru.

“Being of a roving disposition and having a fair knowledge of printing, he shipped as printer on a coaster, transferring from boat to boat until he had visited all the islands in the South Pacific.” In 1912 he returned to New Zealand, and after visiting his home went to Auckland, where he was employed as a clerk in the Auckland Electric Tramways Company offices for about a year, leaving there to join a brother (George) in Vancouver in June, 1913. He arrived at Vancouver on 24 June 1913 from Sydney per the “Marama”. Going to Canada as a visitor in 1913, he was engaged as manager of a newspaper in a small town just outside Vancouver almost immediately. On the outbreak of war he attested, doing so at Valcartier, Quebec, Canada on 23 September 1914 – the first day that the First Canadians called for recruits. David’s mother was active in the Waimate Ladies’ Patriotic Society from the outset, contributing sox and balaclavas for the equipment of men. In 1918 she made a monetary donation to the Lady Liverpool Christmas Gifts fund. His father donated the proceeds of the sale of books to the Red Cross Fund in 1917.

David Wilson had served three years with the Cadet Corps and two years with the Studholme Mounted Rifles. At the Studholme Mounted Rifles camp in January 1909 Trooper D. Wilson won the prize of £1.1s for the “best turned out mounted file”. “Shooting was his greatest hobby, and almost every half-holiday saw him out with his gun.” He nominated his father, of Parsonage Road, Waimate, as his next-of-kin. His brother, George Wynn Wilson of Vermont, Los Angeles, USA, was also a contact. Standing at 5 feet 8 inches, he weighed 145 pounds and had a fully expanded chest measurement of 36 inches. He was of fair complexion, with hazel eyes and fair hair. Twenty-four years old, he listed his occupation as newspaper manager – specifically an advertisement writer, and gave the Church of England as his religious affiliation. Sergeant Wilson embarked almost immediately – on 3 October 1914, per the S.S. Ruthemia from Quebec, with the 7th Battalion (11th Irish Fusiliers of Canada), Canadian Infantry. David had written to his family at Waimate on 25 August from the training camp at Quebec, saying that he was holding the rank of acting sergeant in the 11th Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment from British Columbia. News reached Waimate in December that the Princess Patricia’s Regiment of Canadians, to which Dave was attached, had reached the firing-line. The Duchess of Connaught sent a box of maple sugar as a 1914 Christmas present to every member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, along with her photo and autograph. Sergt. D. Wilson sent his on to his father at Waimate as a curio. On 8 January 1915 he wrote a postcard – “”Good-bye to England to-day. Am as fit as a fiddle.”

Extracts from letters which were written on 7 January 1915 at Salisbury Plain and published in the Waimate Daily Advertiser of 10 March, give a vivid picture of the conditions faced by the Canadian forces, and their great spirit. “. . . . . . Expected we would be leaving for the Continent in about a week’s time, but we have an epidemic of spinal meningitis to cope with now, . . . . . . The 5th battalion is quarantined, and yesterday morning it was found closer [to] home. G company of my own battalion was quarantined to-day . . . . . . Unlike the New Zealanders and Australians we have do our training under conditions that are far from being ideal. Until a few weeks ago we were still under canvas . . . . . The mud and water round the tents made dry feet an unknown quantity. . . . . . Even though the men have had to put up with all kinds of hardships and discomforts there is a remarkable absence of grumbling. . . . . . They march back to camp, and whether it is night or day, rain or fine, they always laugh and crack jokes as if on holiday. I have charge of a section of about thirty men all of them miners, trappers and ranchers from the interior of British Columbia—rough as the devil, but just the kind of fellows I would pick out to take into the firing line. . . . . . We sergeants are living like lords and our mess compares very favourably with that of the officers. When I was living in Vancouver I used to pay 40 dollars (£8) per month for living that was no better than at present . . . . . .

Have just returned from a week’s trip through England and Scotland. I have never had a better holiday in my life. Hogmanay Night in Glasgow was well worth travelling a long way for. There weren’t many Canadians in Glasgow at New Year time, so that is perhaps the reason we were treated so well. Nothing was too good for us, and I must say my opinion of the Scotch people changed considerably. The Scotch are always credited with being close and niggardly, but whether it was the uniform or not that aroused their patriotism to the extent of treating us like long lost friends I cannot say, but all the same they did treat us fine. If I am fortunate enough to come out of this war alive I intend to spend my furlough in Glasgow.

Quite a number of our fellows have taken commissions in Kitchener’s new army. Was offered one myself the other day but turned it down. I would sooner be a sergeant in the Canadian Contingent than an officer in any other outfit. . . . . One of our battalions has already tasted war. That is the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry. As far as we can make out they suffered pretty heavy losses in their first engagement, but we have to expect that. . . . . .

On enlistment he was rated as a corporal, by virtue of his territorial training, and earned his other stripe in the training camp at Valcartier. On 18 December 1914 at Larkhill (Wiltshire, England) he had been promoted to Sergeant. From February 1915 he was acting lieutenant, as his platoon officer was killed at Ploogstert, and he had full charge. In September 1915 he was to be Company Sergeant Major in the Field, and in early 1916 he was recommended for a commission. In April 1917 he was to be Temporary Lieutenant, before being promoted to first lieutenant.

Interspersed with these appointments and promotions were injuries and hospitalisation. In the big engagement of the Canadians, on 23 April 1915 at St Julien, Ypres, France, he suffered a bullet wound - a compound fracture to the metacarpal bones of the right hand. Although more than three-quarters of the brigade were lost, Sergt. David Wilson and another New Zealander came out “all right”. He was taken to the Clearing Station at Poperinge and given tetanus anti-toxin. In a message – written to Waimate on 29 April by proxy – David said that he was in No. 11 Stationary Hospital at Rouen, France, with injuries to his right hand, adding that it was not serious. The bullet struck while he was carrying his rifle, and he had, in fact broken three bones. It was in June that Mr Charles Wilson of Waimate received the following telegram from the Minister of Defence: - “Sergeant Wilson, First Canadian Contingent, is in the First Scottish Hospital at Harre with a bomb wound in his hand.” After he had passed through several hospitals (on 27 May he was admitted to the 1st Scottish General Hospital at Aberdeen), it was found that small splinters of bone had come away with dressing at Rouen. The advice Mrs C. Wilson received in late June was that he was doing well. A Canadian Red Cross visitor reported that he had a piece of bone removed and the wound was healing. He would have only partial use of the fourth and fifth fingers. David himself said, in a post-card, that he was leaving for a convalescent camp near Aberdeen (Buckie) on 25 May. His hand was very weak, and although he probably would not get back to the front until the end of June, he hoped to get the rank of lieutenant permanently. Some weeks later he was discharged from the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Monks Horton ‘Fit for Duty’ and he returned to France, only to suffer a gunshot wound to his left side soon after. At the end of August after Sick Furlough he rejoined his unit. He had, in fact been severely wounded and gassed at Ypres, and pneumonia had developed.

In mid June while at Buckie, when his hand had improved, Sergeant David Wilson wrote another detailed and graphic letter, this time describing “the mix-up” at St Julien. [See Waimate Advertiser. 30 July 1915]. “They have a high velocity, short-range gun we call “Little Willie” and the discharge and explosion are heard at practically the same time. . . . . . . . . Then suddenly the shells started to come our way. The big “Jack Johnson” shells came over to St. Julien in threes, and burst with a "woof, woof, woof.” It sounded all the world like a monster dog coughing, and the force of the explosion made the whole ground tremble. We saw big buildings crumbling up like packs of cards and saw some of our Highlanders who were billeted right in the village running for dear life, trying to get out of that inferno. All this was happening a few hundred yards from us and the shells began to come closer, so all my boys seized their rifles and equipment and got out into the fields away from the village. Then they started sending over shrapnel high explosive and asphyxiating shells. They burst all round us and how we got out of that without being killed I don’t know.”

Sergt Wilson was still in the convalescent camp at Buckie in mid July. “It is a funny thing that in spite of the hardships and danger that there is some sort of fascination about the whole business that makes a fellow want a second dose of it. . . We had some lovely shooting the last two days at the front, and I often sit and smile when I think of how we made the Germans crumple up with a bullet through them,” he wrote. Writing a couple of months later to acknowledge letters received while he was away from the front, he said that the usual custom was for a wounded man’s parcels to be divided among his platoon and newspapers destroyed.

Dave Wilson was back in action for the Battle of Loos (25 September – 8 October 1915). Writing from Belgium on 2 October, he said of the great bombardment which preceded the attack - “Our shells came over the trenches we were in not in twos or dozens, but in swarms. . . . . I had a couple of narrow squeaks; one big shell landed slap bang on the particular piece of parapet which myself and a Lance-Corp. were sheltering behind with the result that we were both buried. Got out with nothing more than a shaking up although two different pieces of shell tore their way through [my] overcoat. Again that night the Germans threw over a bunch of shrapnel and one piece passed right through the leg of my pants without doing me any damage. After that we got through our tour of the trenches safely and are now out on rest.” (Waimate Daily Advertiser. 24 November 1915). Again from the trenches in Belgium on 15 November he wrote – “The other day a German biplane and a British one had a nice scrap at the back of our lines with the result that Mr Hun started to come down and volplane towards his own line. I was on duty in the trench, and when I spotted him coming towards the back of our trench, about 100yds up, I grabbed a rifle and passed the word along for every available man to line the back of the trench and open up rapid-fire. The way the boys rapid-fired was great. . . . . . The observer was killed and the pilot wounded. The strangest part of all was the fact that the German biplane had a Colt machine-gun captured from our I4th Battalion at Ypres, and the boys of that battalion are tickled to death to have it back and well they might.” (Waimate Daily Advertiser 14 January 1916)

On 5 May 1916 at Ypres, D. Wilson, 16613, suffered another gunshot wound, this time a severe shrapnel wound (the size of a half-crown) to his right leg, the entire mid third of his leg being lacerated, resulting in an operation and his wound being sewed up. He was admitted to the No. 24 General Hospital, Etaples, France. Subsequently he was removed to the 2nd West General Hospital at Manchester, where he had a skin graft operation, and spent time at the King’s Canadian Red Cross Convalescent Hospital and at the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Epsom, for physical training. Company Sergeant-Major Wilson, writing on 11th May, stated that he got his wound at the same place where he got his former wound. He said that even if he could not go back to the trenches again, he reckoned his length of time there would compare favourably with that of most men. On 14th May he wrote again saying he was getting around on crutches, and expected to be moving about as usual shortly. After convalescence at Woodcote he was discharged in early October.

As of 27 February 1917, Lieutenant David Wilson was at the Officers’ Training Corps, C.M.S., Cranborough, England. He had been marked down as unfit to return to the front, and expected to be detailed for instructional duties either in England or in Canada; but a letter from his Colonel wanting to know when he could expect him to rejoin decided Lieut. Wilson to go to the doctor’s again and plead to be passed as fit. They passed him fit again, and he expected, after finishing his commissioned officer’s course, and getting the two stars, to be in the big offensive in France. June 1917 brought admission to the Casualty Clearing Station with acute VD; and in 1918 a month was spent in the General Hospital at Etaples, again with acute VD (recurring gonorrhea).

David Wilson was appointed to a commissioned rank in the 1st Reserve Battalion on 28 April 1917. By December 1917 he was lieutenant in charge of a Lewis gun with the Canadian Forces in Flanders. He had the honour of being Mentioned in Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatch of 7 April 1918, this being notified in the London Gazette of 28 May 1918. He was sent for by his Colonel and congratulated on his recognition for distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty from September 25, 1917 to February 24, 1918 at Passchendaele. September following he was granted 14 days leave in the UK. In March 1919 he proceeded to England, pending return to Canada. He was recommended as fit for Garrison Duty but unfit for General Service for 6 months. David Wilson was left with a star-shaped scar and callus on his right hand, which caused little pain but resulted in weakness and put pressure on a nerve; and a pear-shaped scar (6 inches by 3) on his outer right thigh, which was attached to the muscles beneath it, and while there was no loss of function in the leg, ankle and foot, it throbbed and became painful with exertion. It was considered that he could resume his former occupation. On 30 March 1919 Lieutenant David Wilson signed as DBW, that he was satisfied with the report of his “medical history of an invalid”, prepared by the Medical Board. On 10 April he sailed from Liverpool. Having served in Canada, England and France with the 7th Battalion, 30th Reserve Battalion, 1st Reserve Battalion, he was demobilised and struck off strength (discharged) on 25 April 1919. Following his war service, David Wilson planned to return to Auckland or Waimate, New Zealand.

The good news for his parents – Dave Wilson was to reach Waimate on the evening express of 7 June 1919, after seven years away and service in France for the duration of the war. And more good news in late December 1919 – Lieut. David Wilson had been awarded the Military Cross on 3 June 1919 for gallantry in the field. The delay in communication was on account of sending to the wrong addresses.

While David was on active service his pay was assigned to his brother George in the USA. After the war his bank account was transferred from Canada to Auckland, New Zealand. In 1925 when his father died, he was living in Auckland where his journalist brother Charles was living. He was very likely a publisher in Auckland in 1928. David Black Wilson died on 27 December 1967 in Queensland, Australia, aged 77 years. Mrs B. Williams of NSW, Australia, notified the Canadian Department of Veterans Affairs. David Black Wilson was a newspaper rep in New South Wales in the 1960s. He is buried in the Mount Gravatt Cemetery, Brisbane, Queensland. The grave stone bears the inscription “In Loving memory of Lt David Wilson, MC, MID.” His brief will dated 31 January 1915 and entrusted to his brother George reads – “In the event of my death I give the whole of my property & effects to my mother.” From April 1916 Sergt.-Major D. Wilson – later Lieut. D. Wilson - was recorded as ‘Having Answered the Call’ in the Waimate Daily Advertiser’s regular Roll of Honour. A photo of Sergeant David Wilson of the 1st Canadians was printed in the Auckland Star on 16 June 1915.

Sources

Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force Attestation Paper (archives.ca - ancestry.com.au) [07 April 2014]; Canadian Expeditionary Force Service File (Canadian Archives) [04 October 2018]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [07 April 2014]; Gravatt Cemetery, Queensland, Australia headstone image (Find A Grave per ancestry.com.au) [15 October 2018]; Death Registration (Queensland historical records - https://www.familyhistory.bdm.qld.gov.au/) [15 October 2018]; Waimate Daily Advertiser, 17 December 1898, 13 May 1902, 15 January 1909, 21 Sep 1910, 14 August 1914, 29 September 1914, 23 December 1914, 10 & 22 March 1915, 04, 23 & 25 June 1915, 01 & 30 July 1915, 30 August 1915, 11 October 1915, 24 November 1915, 14 January 1916, 14 July 1916, 16 April 1917, 25 May 1917, 22 December 1917, 25 June 1918, 2 August 1918, 6 September 1918, 7 June 1919, 23 December 1919, Timaru Herald, 14 October 1899, 7 February 1903, 29 January 1904, 10 February 1904, 28 June 1915, North Otago Times, 24 February 1915, 25 June 1915, Press, 23 February 1915, 14, 24 & 28 June 1915, 25 June 1917, Auckland Star, 16 June 1915, 4 April 1916, Evening Star, 15 & 24 June 1915, New Zealand Herald, 20 August 1915, Temuka Leader, 5 February 1925 (Papers Past) [24 March 2014; 27 April 2015; 19, 20 & 21 November 2015; 19 June 2016; 19 July 2016; 31 August 2016; 20 September 2016, 15 & 18 October 2018]; Timaru Herald, 04 February 1925 (Timaru District Library) [October 2018]; NZ & Australian Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [20 October 2018]; Waimate Daily Advertiser description (Papers Past) [20 October 2018]; Canadian Passenger Lists (ancestry.com.au) [15 October 2018]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC brnach NZSG

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TS

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