ANZAC Day 2017: Lest we forget

24 April 2017

ANZAC Day is a day on which we remember and reflect on the lives of the brave soldiers who served and died in war. We remember their triumphs, their struggles and the influence of their journey on future generations.

One such soldier is Clifford (Bob) Dawson Holliday. His legacy was kept alive by the determination of his parents to solve the mystery of his disappearance in the First World War.

Clifford Holliday (known as Bob) was a second-year Arts student at Sydney when he enlisted to serve in the First World War in 1915. He arrived in France in June 1916, but only one month later was tragically killed, aged 21.

His parents spent seven long years writing to the official channels to ascertain details of their only child’s fate.

They were initially told by telegram in August 1916 that Holliday was injured, with no further details. For months his parents continued to receive the same information from officials, leaving them with the cruel assumption that their son was making satisfactory progress.

In a desperate state of unknown, his father continued to write to the official channels questioning their vague responses. On 19 October 1916 he wrote: "...can there be any mistake? Was our boy wrongly reported simply wounded? Is he likely to be a prisoner? Is he alive? Or is he dead?”

His parents were persistent in their efforts to receive further information regarding their son’s condition.

Finally, four months after they were initially informed of their son’s injury, the following cable was received in December 1916:

“Regret report 4801 Holliday prev. reported wounded now killed in action 30 July.” The date was amended to 20 July by another cable the next day.

In their quest to find answers surrounding their son’s death and the location of his body, Holliday's parents continued to write to official channels until 1923.

Holliday’s War Service Record runs to 170 pages - most of which includes letters from his parents and the responding telegrams from officials. It also includes an official date of death, subsequent burial location as well as the whereabouts of his belongings.

In 2008 a mass grave was uncovered in Pheasant Wood with the bodies of hundreds of Australian and British soldiers. Holliday's body was one of those identified through DNA testing.

On 19 July 2010, Holliday was finally laid to rest in a separate marked grave; 94 years after his death and 50 years after the death of both his parents.

However, his parents ensured Holliday would not be forgotten by establishing scholarships in his name at the University of Sydney, including the Clifford Dawson Holliday Prize for Engineering Junior Year and the Clifford Dawson Holliday Prize in Agriculture.

Find our more about Clifford Dawson Holliday at Beyond 1914.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service

The University of Sydney Regiment’s 2017 ANZAC Day Dawn Service and Breakfast will take place on Tuesday 25 April.

When: 4.45am Arrival and Gunfire Breakfast; 5.15am Service
Where: The University of Sydney Quadrangle

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