Personal info

  • Name: William Thomas DARTNELL
  • D.O.B: 6th April, 1885
  • D.O.A: 3rd September, 1915
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Temporary Lieutenant, 25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers (The City of London Regiment)

Maktau, British East Africa 3 September 1915

3 September 1915

More details about:
The First World War 1915 

On 15 August 1914, only eleven days after the outbreak of war in Europe, Paul von Lettow- Vorbeck, the Commander of forces in German East Africa, had crossed the border into British East Africa, south-east of Mount Kilimanjaro, and captured Taveta, a possible base for a British invasion of German territory. From here he was also able to attack the strategic railway from Mombasa to Nairobi and Uganda. Among the troops guarding the line was the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. In the summer of 1915 they were sent to Maktau, at the head of a branch line from Voi which was being extended towards Taveta. The Germans had by now established a forward position at Mbuyuni, less than a day’s ride from Maktau, and there was constant skirmishing as the British tried to push the line forward. About seven miles west of Maktau, the British built a look-out post on a hill with a view towards Taveta. On 3 September during a German attack on British positions here Temporary Lieutenant W T Dartnell was shot in the leg and several Baluchi soldiers were wounded. Fearing that the German native troops (Askaris) would kill the wounded, he insisted on being left behind to try to save their lives. Ordering the rest of his men to retreat, he began firing on the approaching Germans. The hill was eventually overrun by Askaris and he was killed.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery near Maktau (East Africa) on 3rd September, 1915. During a mounted infantry engagement the enemy got within a few yards of our men, and it was found impossible to get the more severely wounded away. Lieutenant Dartnell, who was himself being carried away wounded in the leg, seeing the situation, and knowing that the enemy’s black troops murdered the wounded, insisted on being left behind in the hopes of being able to save the lives of the other wounded men. He gave his own life in the gallant attempt to save others. 

Fifth Supplement to The London Gazette of 21 December 1915. 23 December 1915, Numb. 29414, p. 12797

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