Lois Williams’ father-in-law, Gunner William Essex Williams, leaving Melbourne on the Shropshire in May 1917.
Image courtesy, Lois Williams of Pascoe Vale.
Coburg Historical Society member, Lois Williams writes: ‘Note all the streamers, but it is a pity there is not more of the ship in this photo.’
Despite the streamers, the men and their families would be aware of the grave dangers ahead, especially after the huge Australian casualties on the Western Front, in particular at Bullecourt on 11 April 1917. The Australian War Memorial notes that ‘the two brigades of the 4th Division that carried out the attack, the 4th and 12th, suffered over 3,300 casualties; 1,170 Australians were taken prisoner - the largest number captured in a single engagement during the war.’ One of those prisoners was a Coburg man, Jacob Freudenthal, who remained a POW until the end of the war.
Although her father-in-law 33496 Gunner William Essex Williams was from Richmond, I thought some of the details regarding his enlistment were worth recording here. In later life Gunner Williams told stories about some of his training at the Windsor Drill Hall. Lois writes: ‘As his father was a mounted trooper, Pa knew about horses and they did some training IN the Drill Hall by walking a horse around (probably the milkman’s draft horse) and seeing who could ride!! He used to hitch up the horses and take the guns up to the front, then unhitch the horses and take them back out of the way.’
I’d like to see that!