Honouring a story

Posted in Culture

The April edition of New Times included an article titled “Shaping and re-shaping lives,” which detailed the research efforts of two Pilgrim Uniting Church members, Pat Button and Marilyn Hyde. The energetic pair are exploring the stories behind the names listed on the Stow Congregational and Pirie Street Methodist honour rolls, which currently hang in Pilgrim’s eastern porch. Here is just one of the stories they uncovered.

Prior to enlistment, Ernest Albert Francis (Bert) Dunnicliff was a verger (a role that involves assisting with orders of service and church upkeep) at Stow Congregational Church for four and a half years and also worked as a painter. He was married and had four children. Bert enlisted for war service on 25 November 1914 and joined the 12th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Reinforcements. After training he embarked on 2 February 1915 for Egypt and was then sent to Gallipoli.

Meanwhile, at home, his wife and children were missing him. Their eldest son, Albert Francis James Dunnicliff, was aged 13 and expressed a wish to go and see his father. To achieve this he enlisted for service on 26 August 1915. 

On the day that Albert entered the training camp he received news that his father had been shot in the head at Lone Pine and had died of his wounds on 6 August 1915. But Albert was now in the army and he continued with his training. He embarked for Egypt on 2 December 1915. Despite continuing to serve, Albert found life in the army very difficult. On 15 December 1916, he wrote a letter to the Commanding Officer of his Battalion requesting a discharge:

“I enlisted on 26 Aug 1915 giving my age as 18 years when in reality I am now only 15 years of age – my Birth Certificate – which I have with me – showing I was born at Adelaide on 24 Sept 1901. I have served nearly 16 months, six of which have been at the front in France, and I feel I cannot stand the strain much longer, [hence] my application for discharge.”

The army replied granting him a discharge:

“I am to say that the Lieutenant-General commanding whilst disapproving of enlistments of men under age appreciates the spirit of Private Dunnicliff in joining the Australian Imperial Force under the conditions which he mentioned in his letter of application for discharge which enable him to ‘stick’ through 16 months service, including 6 months active service in France.”

Albert Francis James Dunnicliff was one of the youngest Australians to serve in World War I.

Pat and Marilyn’s research will form the basis of an exhibition to be opened at Pilgrim Uniting Church (12 Flinders Street, Adelaide) on Anzac Day. The event will begin at 4.30pm on Saturday 25 April. An evensong event will also be held at the church from 6pm. For more information, please contact the Pilgrim Uniting Church Office on Turn on Javascript! or 8212 3295.

Read more about Pat and Marilyn’s research on page 9 of the April edition of New Times here.

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Comments (3)

  1. Andrew Dunncliff 03 december 2019, 16:42(Comment was edited) Link
    Ernest Dunnicliff was my grandfather.
    Good to read your article.
    He enlisted when he was 13 years and 11 months.
    That made him the youngest to enlist.
    Jack Martin enlisted when he was 14 but was killed in action.
    Jack is usually credited as the youngest to serve but it was actually my grandfather.
    Australian War Memorial records confirms this.