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David Lindsey McAlister 1885 – 1917

Mar 8, 2023 | Member Association News, NSW, Sport History

by Gary Somerville, Mosman-Neutral Bay Rifle Club

David Lindsey McAlister was a very successful marksman, shooting for various Rifle Clubs in the NSW Riverina region. He won 2 Kings Prizes and was a member of the Australian contingent to Bisley of 1913 as an Emergency Reserve, and in the Australian Bisley Team of 1914. David enlisted for WW1 in September of 1915 and was killed in action in September of 1917.

David was born in 1885, the youngest of nine children to Thomas McAlister and Catherine Sinclair [1]. He was born in Mitta Mitta, a farming locality roughly halfway between Bethungra and Nangus in NSW. The McAlister family moved from Mitta Mitta to Gundagai in around 1890 his father taking up 95 acres in the Spring Flat [2] area just north of the main town and where later the Rifle Range of the Gundagai Rifle Club (formed in 1893 [3]) was established.

Above – David McAlister. Image from the collection of Marian Worldon.

Target Shooting

We won’t try to list all of David McAlister’s shooting appearances and a selection only are referenced below. Using Trove Newspapers we recommend search terms “D. McAlister + rifle shooting + Gundagai/Junee”

A newspaper article [4] regarding his 1913 NSW Kings win gives us that David’s shooting career began around 1907.

“Born in 1885, at Gundagai, he took to rifle shooting six years ago, and two years ago joined the Junee club”.

David is known to have been involved with a number of Riverina rifle clubs, including Gundagai, Junee, Bethungra Park, Goulburn Railway Ambulance and Harden [5]. In July 1910 David McAlister re-joined [6] Gundagai Rifle Club while in October 1912 David is shown as representing Junee [7] Rifle Club.

We note David’s older brother Colin appears in lists of shooters at the Gundagai Rifle Club [8][9] from around Oct 1899.

The first time that David McAlister appears to be mentioned shooting for Gundagai Rifle Club was in September 1902, being named in a team (D. McAlister) to compete against Abingdon and Eurongilly Clubs for the Robinson Trophy [10]. Abingdon is a large property on the Gundagai to Nangus Road while Eurongilly is a locality a few kilometres northwest of Nangus.

David does not appear in shooting competition attendances or prize lists again until 1906 when in October of that year David won a handicap sweep [11] for Gundagai Rifle Club. In November 1906 David is referred to as Reservist D. McAlister [12] winning 2 Pounds in the Southern Rifle Association “The Ramaciotti” at Goulburn.

In 1909 David is shown to be shooting for Bethungra Park Rifle Club [13] in the Westmacott Teams Match at Cootamundra. David also appears to have had his first Prize Meeting [14] win here. Bethungra Park is a large sheep property on the Olympic Highway between Illabo and Bethungra villages.

In March 1910 at the Riverina Rifle Association Annual Meeting Reservist David won “The Ryrie” [15] 300yds, 8 shots at a disappearing disc 18” in diameter. His score was 8 hits/2bulls.

Kings Prize Appearances

The first appearance of David McAlister’s name in newspaper reports of a King’s Prize [16] appears to be in 1908 where he won 2 pounds with a score of 288/330 and the Winner, Sgt S Edwards scoring 312/330. Edwards had won three Kings in succession [17], Queensland, then NSW followed by Victoria. David finished out of the top 15 [18].

In Nov 1912 David is noted as having come 6th in the NSW Kings and followed by a 320 in the VRA Kings behind winner P Thurlow on 324. David was selected [19] to represent the Commonwealth in the National Shoot.

May 1913 – David stopped working for the railways [20] and was funded on a trip to Bisley by Riverina Clubs. To help raise funds [21] a “Picture Entertainment” was held in Junee that resulted in £25 of the £55 said to be required. He did not shoot in the Australian team but competed independently.

David also competed in Glasgow at the Scottish Championship Meeting prior to Bisley [22] finishing 7 points behind the winner and came away with18 pounds in cash and minor prizes.

McALISTER’S SHOOTING. [23]

JUNEE, Friday.

Captain Jamieson has just received from the local rifle shot, Dave McAlister, who was sent to Bisley by local subscription, an account of his doings in Scotland at the meeting prior to the Bisley meeting.

McAlister finished thirteenth in the Scottish national championship, being 7 points behind the winner, taking the gold badge with £3. He won the match at 500 yards, with 13 consecutive bulls-eyes, taking a trophy and £3; tied with six shooters in the rapid firing match at 200 yards; came third in the shoot off, getting £1; secured second place in the

rapid firing match at 500 yards, being 1 point behind the winner, taking £2; tied for rapid firing in the aggregate, and won the shoot off, taking the silver challenge shield and gold medal, with £8; won £3 in other matches. At the Edinburgh meeting McAlister was defeated in the shoot-off for the Caledonia shield, but won £5 in another match.

McAllister is a young shot, being 25 years of age. He has a fine record. He finished ninth at Bisley in The King’s, being 11 behind the winner. He was second in the New South Wales Danger after the shoot-off with Cutler; fifth in the Sydney King’s; fourth in the Victorian King’s.

On the way home from Bisley 1913, McAlister shot in the South Australian Kings winning by 2 points. Coming into the last 1000yd range:

McAlister [24] needed to add a point to his calculations-he must. make 41 to win. At the time the wind was still tricky, changing from 3 deg. left to 3 right, which required close matching. The two following shots were bulls, and. the seventh effort produce 3 for a magpie. The following shot was a bull, and the next a three-pointer. Things were now at fever heat but McAlister ejected the empty cartridge with apparent indifference. A three-point score would win the match. McAlister realised this and he could be seen taking careful observation before setting his sight for the final shot. It was the shot that would decide the match, and those present -evinced some excitement as the young marksman settled down in deadly earnest, but with cool nerve. The shot was fired, and after a moment suspense the result was announced a bull-which was the signal for an outburst of cheering. McAlister had won the King’s by 2 points.

Next David headed to the 1913 Brisbane Kings winning the first stage 98/105 and second in both the 2nd and 3rd stages, finishing 2nd overall in the Kings. David was also selected for the NSW Team [25] in the Commonwealth Match in Brisbane at the same time.

Following Brisbane, David headed to the 1913 Sydney King’s and some controversy over exceeding the allowed time per shot at the 900 yard range.

NSW Kings David Shooting for Gundagai – The Appeal [26]

In the 1913 NSW Kings [27], David had a shot (an inner) disallowed at 900yds where it was observed that he had exceeded the time limit allowed. McAlister appealed to the Executive but lost his case. He then appealed to the Full Council. While waiting for the Council to review his case, Edwards who was the official winner agreed to a shoot-off which McAlister won by 11 points to 10.

The review by the Council [28] found in McAlister’s favour and he was declared the winner of the Kings. This was the last Kings until after WW1, with competition resuming in 1919.

An article of the time also suggested that David McAlister was being victimised.

‘ THE KINGS ‘

McAlister Badly Treated [29].

The Junee rifle shots have returned home, and besides McAlister’s fine effort, O’Mara and Jamieson took a fair ‘ pot ‘ from the meeting, the latter shooting into eighth place in the King’s, for which he takes one of the ten badges awarded. The general remarks of the shooters denounce the attitude of the body governing the- shooting at the Randwick meeting, who appeared most hostile to country shots in general, hampering and harassing them in every way, so much so, that it threatens disruption in the rifle ranks. Mr. Crowley (of Wyalong) intends to take the matter up. A marked hostile feeling was noticed against the Junee shot (Dave McAlister) by the metropolitan men, and was demonstrated openly against the Junee team when they met defeat in the teams events, several prominent officials joining in the demonstration. Mr. D. McAlister, who is a most unassuming man (the last to complain), received similar treatment in his final shooting at the long distance ranges at the Brisbane King’s. He was harassed by uncalled for remarks, with watches held all around, two officials lying beside him with watches in hand, and when about to shoot the rifle that had taken him through the Scottish and Bisley meetings without challenge was challenged. It appeared to McAlister to be an effort to put him off his shooting.

An article in the Sunday Times 9 Sydney dated 2 August 1914 gives a good description of David’s 1913 to 1914 shooting in major competition.

Mr. McAlister, of Junee

Mr. D. L. McAlister, of Junee, the railway junction town in Southern N.S. Wales, was the most successful member of the Australian riflemen at Bisley. The team won the Kolapore and McKinnon cups, the chief events, and Mr. McAlister was third, with 304, in the King’s. The highest score was 309, and- on the final day heavy rain fell, and there was a gale, the wind blowing into the faces of the marksmen. The targets were obscured at times, and misses were recorded all along the line. Mr. McAlister headed the 12 Australian scores for the McKinnon Cup, and was fourth in the team of eight in the Kolapore Cup match. The Junee man’s efforts at 1000yds, although he got only 54 out of a possible 75, was a splendid performance. Mr. McAlister won the Territorial Aggregate, the Alexandra (open to all-comers) divided second prize in the Secretary of State for War (a rapid-firing competition), was fifth for the Service Rifle Championship Aggregate, third in the Grand Aggregate, ninth for the St. George Challenge Vase, and he also did well in the Newspaper Cups. Mr. McAlister is 29 years of age, and in 1913 was selected as first emergency for N.S. Wales, but competed as an independent at Bisley. He tied for The Graphic, was fourth in the Elkington. fifth in the Service Championship, and was 13th in the final o£ the King’s. On returning to Australia he won the King’s at Adelaide, was second in the Grand Aggregate, second in the Brisbane King’s and won the Sydney King’s after a shoot-off.

Also in 1913 at the NSW Meeting we find [30] David shooting in the NSW Country Team vs City.

Left – David McAlister. Image from the collection of Marian Worldon

After the 1914 Bisley Competitions, David returned to Australia. On the 1st September 1915 he enlisted [31] at the Area Office in Cootamundra, NSW and assigned Regimental No. 4054. He was 29 years and 10 months of age, and a labourer.

On his enlistment papers he answers “Rifle Club” to the question of having served in the military or militia reserve.

David joined the 12th Reinforcements of the 4th Battalion. He departed Sydney on the HMAT A7 Medic bound for Alexandria before being assigned to the 15th Field Company of Engineers based in Tel-el-kebir.

In June 1916 David arrived into Marseilles having been promoted Lance Corporal and then promoted Corporal in November 1916. In February 1917, David re-joined his unit after a furlough in the UK. The next entry on his Casualty Form – Active Service card is that he was Killed in Action on the 26th September 1917.

While his grave location was not found at the time, a Memorial Cross is reported to have been erected in the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery. His name is now to be found inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing near Ypres.

Death of Another King’s Rifleman [32].

Among the casualty lists lately from the battle front have been many prominent riflemen. Last week we published the death of Sgt F. Christian. a Victorian King’s winner. This week we heard from Sydney that Dave McAlister (N.S.W.) had paid the supreme penalty. He won the South Australian Kings at our last big matches, and he has many other successes to his credit. He was at Bisley in 1913, and finished fifteenth in the King’s, winning a badge and £10. In 1914 he was third in the great event at Bisley. winning a badge and £25. His total was 304, against the winner’s (Sgt. J. L. Dewar) 309. In the Kolapore Cap (won by Australia) he was fourth with 98. He was top with 68, 69 – 137 (possible 150), at .900 and 1.000 yards in the Mackinon Cup. which was also won by Australia. In the eastern States he has won many bis prizes.

CORPORAL DAVE McALISTER.

AUSTRALIA’S CHAMPION RIFLE SHOT [33]. The good young blood still soaks the plains and dunes of France and Flanders. Last night Rev. H. F. Champion received news that Corporal Dave McAlister, of Gundagai, and champion rifle shot of Australia, had been killed in action on 26th September last. Dave joined up in 1915, and being one of the world’s best rifle shots, he was mostly engaged in sniping. His letters to Australia breathed the spirit of true Christianity “only God matters,” he wrote in one letter. The dead hero was Australia’s champion rifle shot, and also the champion shot of the British Dominions when he entered the ranks. For years he was a rifle range enthusiast, and in all Gundagai district matches swept the board. In 1913 he won the King’s Prize at the big N.R.C. meeting in Sydney, after a sensational finish with the Victorian champion. The same year he won the King’s at Adelaide, and in 1914 he went to England, and shot at Bisley the Mecca of riflemen. Against the picked shots of the world, he proved his mettle, winning the blue ribband of rifle shooting the King’s Prize at Bisley. Then he went north and won the Service Championship of Scotland. He came back to Australia laden with trophies (some 30 odd) which he had won. Altogether, he possessed 50 beautiful trophies and medals he won in rifle competitions. Coming back from England when the war was raging, Dave helped to build a home for his aged parents, and then donned khaki, and now he has won the greatest trophy an Australian can secure a Hero’s Diadem! Deceased was a Gundagai native the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Thos. McAlister, of Spring Flat He was educated at the Gundagai Public School, and grew up here. His married brother, Jack (“Jumbo”) left for the front early last year, and another brother Tom, is on his way to the front. Deceased was attached to the 15th Machine Gun Company at the front. A quiet, unassuming young follow, he was a great favourite with everyone, who will mourn his passing. Deceased’s aged father and mother survive. He also leaves four brothers, Jack and Tom (on active service), and Col and Duncan (Gundagai), as well as two sisters, Mrs J. Bevan and Mrs. A. Vaughan (Gundagai.). (Article Above from the Young Witness 30 Nov 1917)

The Anzac Rifle Range, Liverpool [34] with “McAlister Ave” running down the centre and Club houses lining either side of the road

In 1920 [35] a recommendation was adopted to name a “Memorial Avenue” dividing the two ranges at Anzac Liverpool “McAlister Avenue” and included an inscribed tablet. The dedication was made in 1922 to honour David McAlister and all Fallen Riflemen. The avenue was lined with Western Australian Gum trees and a plaque placed beneath each with the names of Club Members who had died.

Another memorial to David’s memory was the McAlister Challenge Shield given at the VRA Kings from 1920 [36].
“Another trophy presented by Colonel C. K. Merrett for competition in the Commonwealth match claimed interest. It has been named the McAlister Challenge Shield, in memory of the late Sergeant D. L. McAlister (Junee, N.S.W.), who was a member of the Australian team that visited Bisley under Colonel Merrett. McAlister won a Sydney King’s and was killed in action at Polygon Wood on September 20, 1917”.




In 2006 [37] the McAlister family were able to recover a Prize Rifle won by David at the 2014 Bisley meeting as place-getter in the Dewar Challenge Shield [38]. BSA had donated a number of rifles for the Dewar Competition. The McAlister rifle had been handed in during a gun ban on farmers owning high calibre rifles such as .303’s. The family had tried to recover the rifle without success then Rachel Murray, David’s great, great niece was advised to contact the Australian War Memorial . Rachel recalled “upon calling the information section and telling the story, I was put through to the research department. I retold the story to a researcher named Bob, and he confidently informed me that the rifle was not in the War Memorial Collection. He owned that very rifle. I enlisted the help of Abb McAlister and together we have returned the rifle and it is now in back in the possession of the McAlister Family”.
The rifle is a BSA .303 with a silver plaque inscribing the details on the stock. David willed the rifle to his Gundagai family asking that it would always remain in the family should he not return from the war.
Image from the Cootamundra Herald 23 May 2019 – Mayor Abb McAlister holding David McAlister’s Prize Rifle

Image courtesy of Graham Crowe – Wagga Wagga

In another memorial commemoration, in September 2018, a “Baggy Blue” bearing the number 173 being David McAlister’s NSW Team selection number was presented to David’s family of Abb McAlister and his sisters Clare and Marie [39].

David Lindsey McAlister, a well respected and remembered NSW Rifleman.

References:

Other than the specific references shown in the Endnotes, I recognise and thank the following sources:

  1. “Gundagai Goes to War” by Rachel Murray
  2. Images of David McAlister provided by Marian Worldon
  3. An image of the Anzac Rifle Range at Liverpool (circa 1950) from NLA Trove (previously known as Picture Australia)
  4. NLA Trove – Newspapers and Gazettes shown in Endnotes.
  5. Image from the Cootamundra Herald 23 May 2019 of David McAlister’s Prize Rifle.
  6. National Archives of Australia – WW1 Enlistment Attestations.
  7. Marja-Lena Elphick – Gundagai
  8. Graham Crowe – Wagga Wagga

[1] NSW Birth, Deaths and Marriages https://familyhistory.bdm.nsw.gov.au/lifelink/familyhistory/search?4

[2] https://www.nswlrs.com.au/Parish-and-Historical-Maps

[3] Australian Light Horse Study Centre. https://alh-research.tripod.com/

[4] The Sydney Morning Herald 20 Oct 1913

[5] Harden Rifle Club, Goulburn Railway Rifle Club from Gundagai Goes to War – Rachel Murray

[6] The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Advocate 16 July 1910

[7] Sydney Morning Herald 21 Oct 1912

[8] Gundagai Rifle Club – Formed 28 March 1893 and affiliated with F Company, 1st Infantry Regiment, Yass https://alh-research.tripod.com/Light_Horse/index.blog/1846017/nsw-rifle-clubs-1910/

[9] The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 3 Oct 1899

[10] The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Advocate 20 Sept 1902

[11] The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 12 Oct 1906

[12] The Australian Star 13 Nov 1906

[13] Cootamundra Herald 12 March 1909

[14] The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 16 March 1909

[15] Cootamundra Herald 11 March 1910

[16] The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 20 Oct 1908

[17] National Advocate (Bathurst) 31 Oct 1908

[18] The Register Adelaide 16 October 1908

[19] The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 5 Nov 1912

[20] The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Advocate 3 May 1913

[21] The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 17 June 1913

[22] The Riverina Grazier (Hay) 5 Aug 1913

[23] Sydney Morning Herald 4 August 1913

[24] Daily Herald, (Adelaide) 20 Sept 1913

[25] The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 22 Aug 1913

[26] The Sun 18 Oct 1913

[27] Referee 22nd Oct 1913

[28] Examiner (Launceston) 23 Oct 1913

[29] Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 28 Oct 1913

[30] Referee 22 Oct 1913

[31] https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=1936589

[32] The Journal (Adelaide) 26 Oct 1917

[33] The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Advocate 18 Oct 1917

[34] Image courtesy of https://trove.nla.gov.au/?q=

[35] 96 Years of Progress – C. Howard Cromack

[36] The Argus (Melbourne) 11 Nov 1920

[37] Gundagai Goes to War – Rachel Murray and the Gundagai Independent 9 Oct 2006

[38] Information provided by Graham Crowe

[39] Details courtesy of Graham Crowe, Wagga Wagga.

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