Notable People of Collingwood

Collingwood Notables Database

William Thomas Dartnell


Soldier, Victoria Cross recipient

Personal Photo 1

Dartnell was one of two Collingwood boys who were awarded the Victoria Cross, but unlike William Ruthven, Dartnell spent only his early years in Collingwood, as his parents later moved to Fitzroy.  Also unlike Ruthven, he did not survive his act of bravery. 

At the time of William’s birth his father ran a confectionery shop on the corner of Langridge Street and Little Oxford Street. The small wooden building, which would have housed five children and his parents as well as the shop premises, can be seen in a contemporary photograph.

In 1900 Dartnell joined the 5th contingent of the Victorian Mounted Rifles and saw service in the Boer War. Back in Melbourne he became an actor, married, had a child in 1908 and then moved to North Fitzroy. His wife worked as a milliner. He returned to South Africa in 1911; on the outbreak of World War 1 he set sail for England where he enlisted in the 25th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers. He enlisted under the name of Wilbur Taylor Dartnell. In April 1915 the Fusiliers departed for British East Africa where their main task was to guard the Uganda railway from German attacks. There Dartnell was confirmed in the rank of Lieutenant, a position he had previously held on a temporary basis.

On 3 September 1915, while leading a patrol near Maktau in Kenya, a large German formation surprised Dartnell, killing and wounding several of his men. Badly wounded in the leg and with his horse shot from under him, Dartnell ordered the rest of his men to retreat while he stayed behind to provide covering fire for wounded soldiers. After the Germans withdrew, he was found dead, still in possession of his rifle, and surrounded by the corpses of seven enemy soldiers. He was awarded a posthumous V.C. for his ‘gallant attempt to save others’ and was buried in Kenya.

Life Summary

Birth DateBirth Place
6 April 1885Collingwood
Spouse NameDate of MarriageChildren
Elizabeth Edith Smyth15 April 1907One daughter
Home Addresses
Home StreetHome CityStatus of Building
12 Langridge StreetCollingwoodDemolished
Death DateDeath PlaceCemetery
3 September 1915Kenya

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