Walter William Dumbrell was born in July 1883, to David and Jane (neé Blake, from Port Macquarie) Dumbrell in Galston, NSW. The family had six children, George Alfred Stephen, Ethel Jane, Albert D, Myrtle Jessie Cornelia, Alma Irene Blake and Walter William. The Dumbrells belonged to the Church of England.
The Second Boer War (1899-1902)
In 1899, Dumbrell journeyed to Cape Town and volunteered to fight in the Second Boer War. He was 17 at the time of application.
1815s onwards, the southern point of South Africa was divided between the British colonies and Dutch Afrikaans settlers, the Boers. The latter eventually organised into republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. The first major conflict erupted between the British and the Boers in 1880. Shortly, gold and diamonds were discovered in the republics causing an influx British subjects in search of wealth. The rising tensions culminated in the Second South African War, 1899-1902. At the onset of the conflict, the Australian colonies supported the war with each colony sending four to six contingents to bolster the Imperial effort.
Dumbrell enlisted with the 5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen Regiment (535) taking an oath of Commonwealth Contingent for Service in South Africa, 10th May 1900. ‘Prior to Federation (1901) enlistment was to separate Australian colonial forces. Attestation proformas [were] contained in Conditions of service of South African and over-sea contingents employed in the South African War, 1899-1902’ (HMSO, 1904).
Oath taken on attestation:
I ___ do make oath that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty, His heirs and successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, his heirs and successors in person, Crown, and dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, his heirs and successors, and of the Generals and Officers set over me. So help me God. (https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/oath_enlist)
The first detachment the Fifth Queensland Imperial Bushmen Contingent arrived in Cape Town on 31 March 1901.These men were specially selected. No man was to be above 177 cm or below 167 cm. The soldiers were paid 5 shillings (50¢) per day from date of embarkation plus 1 shilling (10¢) per day extra being ‘Colonial Allowance’. Imperial bushmen regiments were paid for by the imperial government in London. (BP.L. Murray, Official records of the Australian military contingents to the war in South Africa, 1899-1902)
Dumbrell was a Doyle’s Scout, a member of ‘a corps of specially selected men, raised by Captain R D Doyle, DSO, of the New South Wales forces. Doyle had served in the 6th Imperial Bushmen and the 3rd Regiment of New South Wales Bushmen. The officers and men were not, however, restricted to those from New South Wales. (https://angloboerwar.com/unit-information/australian-units/167-victoria/328-doyles-scouts)
As the conflict continued and casualties mounted, the Australians (now federated) became disenchanted in the War. Moreover, atrocities against the Boer civilians began to emerge:
After September 1900, by which time the war had become mainly a guerrilla conflict, Australian troops were deployed in sweeping the countryside and enforcing the British policy of cutting the Boer guerrillas off from the support of their farms and families. This meant the destruction of Boer farms, the confiscation of horses, cattle and wagons, and the rounding up of the inhabitants, usually women and children. These civilian captives were taken to concentration camps where, weakened by malnutrition, thousands died of contagious diseases. (https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/atwar/boer)
On 27 March 1902, Dumbrell’s unit embarked per transport “St Andrew” arriving Brisbane on 30 April 1902 stopping en route in Albany and Melbourne. The unit was disbanded on 5 May 1902. (http://www.bwm.org.au/units/5QIB.php) Over 400,000 soldiers from all around the Empire fought on the British side.
Following his return from South Africa, between 1904 and 1909, Dumbrell was employed by Mr Ballerie of Woorooma in general bush and station work, as well as by Mr F Ingram, Book Book Station Wagga, and by NSW Government on the Barren Jack Water Scheme, the Burrinjuck Dam. ‘The Barren Jack Creek Water Supply Dam was built on Barren Jack Creek close to the temporary settlement of Barren Jack City to facilitate supply of water by gravity from the dam to the settlement. The dam comprises a thin-walled cylindrical arch reinforced concrete structure built across the creek, with a capacity of impounding 4.5 million gallons of water for use. The dam has been constructed to a radius of 24.384m (80 ft), 12.801m (42 ft) high’. (DLWC S170 Register, https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5012119)
Dumbrell’s last employer before transition into the police work was a shearing contractor Mr W Green of Longreach, QLD.
Dumbrell was recruited into the Queensland Police Force on 2 December 1909 and sworn in on 4 March 1910. The Register described him as 6 feet and ¼ inches tall, of fresh complexion with brown eyes and hair.
The oath taken on admission bound him to fulfil:
I, ___, do swear that I will well and truly serve Our Sovereign Lord the King in the office of (Constable) without favour of affection, malice or ill-will; that I will see ad cause His Majesty’s peace to be kept and preserved, and that I will prevent, to the best of my power, all offences against the same; and that while I shall continue to hold the said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law. (The Policeman’s Manual, William Geoffrey Cahill, 1906, p. 3)
Dumbrell was a quiet steady man. He had a fair education, could ride a bicycle but was a very poor horseman. Following his 3-months-long depot training, Constable Dumbrell was stationed in Rockhampton in March 1910. Late at night on 22 July 1910, he received his first reprimand for gossiping with a female while on duty in Queen street. He pleaded not guilty to the charge stating he was answering woman’s queries. The witness testimonies by Inspector Toohey and Sergeant Carmony showed Dumbrell was talking to the woman for 5 minutes. He was subsequently found guilty by the Commissioner Cahill. (Record of conduct and service, Dumbrell, QSA AF3085).
Two years after the incident, in 1912, Dumbrell was transferred to Banana, QLD and following a fairly short term there he was back in Rockhampton in June 1913, a married man. Having served the minimum required time in the police, Constable Dumbrell married Grace Lilly Evans on 12 May 1913 (Reg N 002888, p. 7136). A year later their son, Walter David Dumbrell, was born on 30 July 1914 (- 10 Dec 1999, buried at Mount Morgan Cemetery, Rockhampton/ QSA AF3085).
In March 1915, the family was relocated to Many Peaks station. A half a year later, on 15 September 1915, Constable Dumbrell requested to be granted unlimited leave of absence to volunteer for active service with the Australian Expeditionary Forces.
On 18 September 1915, Dumbrell was enlisted in the AIF (348).
He took an oath to:
I, ___, swear that will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lord the King in the Australian Imperial Force from ___ until the end of the War, and a further period of four months thereafter unless sooner lawfully discharged, dismissed, or removed therefrom: and that I will resist His Majesty’s enemies and cause His Majesty’s peace to be kept and maintained: and that I will in all matters appertaining to my service, faithfully discharge my duty according to law. So Help Me, God.
In the months between enlistment and embarkation for England, Dumbrell’s mother passed away. Jane died on 29 October 1915 of heart disease (State Archives NSW; Series: 2765; Item: X2090; Roll: 343).
On 18 June 1916, Dumbrell embarked on HMAT A64 “Demosthenes” from Sydney for Plymouth, arriving two months later, on 20 July. (NAA_ItemNumber 3525470)
In November 1916, he proceeded to France with the 41st Battalion, 11th Brigade. At the end of December, he was hospitalised with Frontal Simisitis [sic] (sinusitis) for a week. Mid-January 1917, Dumbrell re-joined his unit in Rouelles. For majority of 1917, he remained in the field, receiving promotion initially to Lance Sergeant in June and final to Sergeant in July 1917.
In September 1917, Dumbrell attended Lewis Gun School of Musketry, Tidworth, qualifying as 1st class instructor. In November, he was moved to the 9th battalion and proceeded to France from Southhampton. In March 1918, he was mobilised with the 41st battalion back to Rouelles joining the action on the front. Sgt Dumbrell was killed in shellfire the following month on 19 April 1918:
Killed by shellfire whilst in the trenches North of the Bray, Corbie Road. Death was instantaneous. He was buried by Chaplin Rev ZZ Mills, MC of this battalion, about 1000 yards north of Sailley-le-Sec, about 3 miles south-west of Morlacourt, France. A suitable cross has been erected. (NAA_ItemNumber 3525470)
Initially, there was some confusion regarding the service numbers provided in the correspondence which prompted Grace Dumbrell to send a heartbreaking query to the Military Records Office:
Grace’s brother, Alfred James Evans (dob 1 July 1896, Wycarbah, QLD), who also enlisted in the AIF, contracted meningitis in Egypt and died from the disease on 26 December 1915.
Later in 1918, Dumbrell’s widow and son were granted military pension of 2l 13s 9d and 1l per fortnight respectively.
Dumbrell was re-interned in 1923 at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Villers-Bretonneux, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal