No.92 Charles Edward Daniels
Charles Edward Daniels was born in Fitzroy, Victoria on 1 December 1884.
At the time of his enlistment at Maribyrnong on 18 August 1914, he had served as a professional soldier for more than three and a half years. Despite this service, he was still required to go through the attestation process to be accepted as a volunteer in the fledgling AIF.
It’s not known what his rank was or with which unit he served prior to enlisting, but he was made a Gunner and assigned to the 1st Australian Field Artillery Brigade. There is a note on one set of attestation papers that the 'soldier’s address' was the Royal Military College at Duntroon, perhaps suggesting that he was being trained as an officer before the outbreak of the war.
His next of kin was his mother, Mrs C Daniels who was living at South Yarra.
He left Australia on 18 October 1914 in the first of many convoys to leave our shores that were to deliver soldiers to war zones in the Middle East and Europe. He was aboard the HMAT Argyllshire – one of 38 Australian and 10 New Zealand troopships that gathered in Albany in Western Australia to begin their dangerous voyage to Egypt. They carried 30,000 troops and thousands more horses.
The war was never very far away. Within days of leaving Albany, the soldiers heard of the famous victory by HMAS Sydney against the German light cruiser Emden, that was forced aground in the Cocos Keeling Islands. Its danger can be assessed by its tally of victims. Since the war began in early August 1914, the Emden had captured or sunk 21 allied vessels.
The convoy reached Egypt in early December 1914. Their time between their arrival in Egypt and their departure for Lemnos - an island group in the North Aegean Sea that was to serve as a staging post for the landings at Gallipoli - was spent largely in training.
The story about the role of artillery in the early days of the landings is confusing. Individual guns were unloaded on the second day of the assault, but were then reloaded back onto ships. The 18 pounders (which relates to the size of the shell they fired) were deployed singly because of the lack of suitable firing positions. At a later stage, a battery of howitzers was brought ashore to support the infantry.
By the time that Charles Daniels was on the beach, he had already been promoted to Bombardier – a non-commissioned rank equivalent to a Lance-Corporal in other army units. Unfortunately, there is no record of what Bombardier Daniels experienced in the Dardanelles. He and his unit would have been in support of many of the largely inconclusive and costly assaults that took place between 25 April and when most of the allied forces were evacuated just prior to Christmas 1915.
By the time his unit arrived back in Egypt on December 22 1915, Charles had been promoted to Sergeant.
The 'labelling' of artillery units at this juncture of the war was confusing. It would appear that Charles was transferred to '54 Battery', which was part of the 14th Field Artillery Brigade.
He was promoted to Battery Sergeant Major in May 1916. Just over a month later, he and his men found themselves on the move once again – this time, to Marseilles on the southern coast of France and then onto the Western Front where they formed part of the Australian 5th Division.
Tracking the events of artillery units during World War I presents a greater challenge than that of their infantry counterparts. Battery Sergeant Major Daniels personal record isn’t particularly illuminating either.
We have made the presumption that the battery maintained its links with the 5th Division and as a consequence, Charles and his men would have been involved in some of the bloodiest battles of the war. In 1916, at Fromelles in the Somme…in 1917, the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the battle of Bullecourt in France, and in Belgium between September and November, the battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood and two assaults on Passchendaele.
In 1918, the 5th Division was active largely in France, participating in numerous large-scale actions including Villers-Bretonneux and battles of the Hindenburg Line that virtually spelt the end of German resistance following the failure of their Spring Offensive earlier in the year.
What we do know is that Battery Sergeant Major Charles Edward Daniels' leadership qualities had not gone unnoticed. On 8 March 1918, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. The citation reads: "Throughout the period 22nd September 1917 to 25th February 1918, this Warrant Officer has been conspicuous by the thoroughly efficient manner in which he has performed his duties. During the operations east of Ypres, September-October 1917, owing to casualties on several occasions, he has been called upon to replace an Officer and this he has done with credit. His devotion to duty and meritorious service is worthy of recognition."
Charles left the frontline before the Armistice in November 1918. Given that he had served since the first Australians left our shores in October 1914, he was granted an early return to Melbourne arriving back on 23 November. He stayed in the Army until May 1919. For his service, he received the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
He applied for the Anzac Commemorative Medallion designed to recognise the service of all surviving Gallipoli veterans. The medallion features on one side Simpson and his donkey – one of the most enduring symbols of World War I – and on its reverse, a map of Australia and New Zealand superimposed on the Southern Cross.
Sadly, he passed away in Sydney in June 1967 aged 82 just prior to the medals being issued.
Medals & Entitlements:
- 1914/15 Star Medal
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
NAA: B2455 DANIELS C E
History of Australian artillery units
War diary https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RCDIG1014850/