Monday, April 25, 2011

Anzac Day Ancestors

'Oh! we don't want to lose you but we think you ought to go

For your King and your Country both need you so.'

Paul Alfred Rubens 1875-1970 ( 'Your King and Country Want You'. Song)

William Leonard White ( my husband's grandfather),was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1889. He and his sister Edith lost their mother at a young age and when their father remarried they were both sent into foster care. William left New Zealand as a young man to make a new life for himself in Sydney, Australia.

It was only whilst reading William's enlistment papers, for the Australian Imperial Force that I discovered that this was not his first experience in a defence force. The document, below right, shows that he had spent five years in the New Zealand Infantry. This was news to the family and something we will be following up in the near future.

William White enlisted in the 45th Battalion on the 21st of February, 1916, in Sydney. His service number was 2248. His profession was given as a french polisher and his next of kin, was his father, William White Snr in Canterbury, New Zealand.

Left is the colour patch on the uniform of members of the 45th Battalion.

'The 45th Battalion was formed in Egypt on March 2, 1916, as part of the doubling of the AIF.' [1] About half of this new Battalion were made up of members of the 13th Battalion who had seen action at Gallipoli and the other half, which included William White, were new recruits sent from Australia.

William White arrived in France with the 45th battalion (as part of the 12th Brigade of the 4th Division) on June 8th, 1916. William White was quickly to find himself in action in the trenches on the Western Front.

The small town of Pozieres in the Somme Valley, in German hands, was first attacked on July 23rd by the 1st Division in the battle of Pozieres Ridge on the Albert-Bauhaume road.William White arrived in Pozieres on August 8th, 1916 to join the fierce battle for Pozieres. The 45th battalion suffered many casualties and fatalities.

After the battle of Pozieres, the 45th battalion was sent to Ypres in Belgium where they were engaged in active duty in the trenches alternating with rest and training until March in 1917. William and his battalion spent time in the Somme Valley before becoming a reserve for the 4th Division at Bullencourt and the battle of Messines in Junes 1917. During this battle the 45th suffered many casualties.

The 45th Battalion was then moved to Ypres, once again, where they were involved in a major battle near Passchendale on October,12 1917. During 1917 and 1918, the duties of the 45th battalion alternated between the front line and rest. On August 8, 1918, the Allies attacked the Germans in what is known as the Battle of Amiens. On the very first day of this battle, the 45th Battalion captured 400 German prisoners, as well as German artillery and machine guns. The 45th battalion played a crucial part in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. The 45th Battalion was involved in its last major action in September 1918 at Le Verguier.

During his active service with the 45th Battalion, William White was injured and lost two fingers on his right hand. This injury meant the end of his career as a french polisher when the war ended. William White married Mary Jane McDonald a little over a month after the end of the war, on December 21, 1918.

Amongst William's possessions were found a number of photographs which are believed to have been taken by him. These images are a confronting and sombre record of the William White and the 45th Battalion's contribution to World War 1.



1.Australian War Memorial

2.'The Chronicle of the 45th Battalion'

(Joseph E Lee)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Sharn for your post.

    Pozieres is particularly significant to me as my grandmother's uncle lost his life there in July 1916. For your William to have fought there, survived, and gone on to fight elsewhere is almost unimaginable. The wonderful, and yet incredibly sad, photos tell us some of how it must have been.