FOOTBALL CLUB’S GRAND HISTORY
Source: Australian War Memorial. ESTABLISHED in 1899, Perth Football Club had won a premiership and several runnerup ribbons when Australian Prime Minister Joseph Cook declared Australia was at war with Germany on August 5, 1914, a day after Britain’s declaration.
Playing members of the club, based at the WA Cricket Association ground until its move to Lathlain Park in 1959, were among thousands of fit young West Australian men who answered the call to arms.
It is believed more than 50 players and officials from the club enlisted in WWI; 14 of these died.
Club spokesman Peter Kennedy said one of those was Derwas ‘Dave’ Cumming, who died on the Western Front in 1918.
He made his senior debut for the club in the WAFL against East Perth on June 22, 1907, as a 15 year old, making him one of only four people confirmed to have played senior WAFL football before their 16th birthday. He played 51 games for the Demons between 1907 and 1914.
Australian War Memorial records show that he and elder brother Redmond enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in September, 1914. Redmond went into the 16th Battalion, while Derwas later accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the 48th Battalion at the Western Front.
Eventually attaining the rank of captain, Cumming fought with distinction on the Somme and at Passchendaele and was awarded the Military Cross at Messines in 1917.
In April, 1918, his company was instrumental in repelling a German attack near Albert.
Cumming’s conspicuous gallantry and ability in command resulted in him being awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
In May, 1918, as the 48th Battalion conducted an operation in Monument Wood near the village of Villers-Bretonneux, Cumming was killed by German machine guns while leading his company. He was buried by his comrades, but his grave was subsequently lost and he has no known resting place.
He was posthumously awarded a Military Cross and Bar for his action, accepted by his mother from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at a ceremony in Perth in 1920.
Far left is Lieutenant (Lt) Derwas Goring Charles Cumming and on the far right is his brother, Lt Redmond Harry Owen Cumming, with two unidentified soldiers.