William Henry Etchells
Serial No. 718
William Henry Etchells - Information
William, known as Bill, was one of two children of Harry and Ellen Etchells. Harry was born in Appin, and in 1890, he and his wife settled on 91 acres in Eckersley, from which he walked to Campbelltown everyday to find work doing odd jobs. Soon, Harry and Ellen welcomed their two children William Henry (1893) and Ruby into the world. Unfortunately, Ellen then died in 1894. Bill and Ruby were taken to live with their grandmother and later an aunt and uncle at 19 Queen St in Campbelltown. Bill and Ruby were raised by relatives, until their father remarried Emily White in 1898. When the war began, Bill was still living in Campbelltown and was working as a miner. A few weeks after Australia declared war he quickly enlisted in the AIF at Kensington on the 22nd of August 1914, aged 21. Bill was assigned to the 3rd Battalion as a Private, leaving Sydney aboard the HMAT Euripides on the 20th of October 1914. Bill's unit had a brief stop at Albury in Western Australia before landing in Egypt in December.
After months of training in the desert heat, the infantry was mustered for an attack. The 3rd Battalion landed ashore at Gallipoli on the 25th of April 1915, and by nightfall began digging in. The next few weeks were tough with heavy fighting in miserable conditions. While at Gallipoli, Bill was wounded from a shell explosion on the 24th of July, suffering a concussion. He was taken to hospital at Mudros on Lemnos Island. He was also suffering from myalgia, before returning to duty at the end of July. He returned in time for the August Offensive fighting at Lone Pine. After the Gallipoli Campaign, Bill was transported back to Egypt, where he received further training. He then proceeded overseas to France in March 1916. Following a quiet introduction, the 3rd Battalion participated in the Somme Offensive, where he was wounded in action a second time. On the 25th of July at Pozières, Bill was shot in his right arm near the elbow. He was admitted to the 11th Stationary Hospital in Rouen, and was invalided to England for treatment on the 29th. By November 1916, Bill was back in the trenches in Belgium, during a most cold and wet winter. Consequently, he was admitted to hospital with trench foot on the 9th of November. He was transported from Havre to England for a lengthy recuperation.
After recovering, Bill was granted leave in May 1917. This is possibly when he got married to British local, Florence Lucy who lived at 20 Newhale Rd, Attercliffe in Sheffield. When Bill returned to the lines in August, he joined his unit during the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium. On the 27th of September 1917, Bill was appointed Lance Corporal. During the campaign, Bill was working as a runner with C Company attached to Company Headquarters. On the 7th of October, Bill and his mates were in the trenches below ANZAC Ridge situated behind Broodseinde Ridge, waiting for rations to be brought up. They were taking shelter in a dug out, when suddenly a shell hit. In an instant, many were killed and wounded, including Bill who caught fragments in his chest and legs. He was taken by stretcher to the Dressing Station where he died from his wounds. Bill was buried in Pill Box Cemetery, now the Hooge Crater Cemetery, Passchendaele, West Vlaanderen in Belgium.
Back in Campbelltown, Bill's family received the terrible news. After the war, Bill's sister, Ruby, decided to travel to Europe to visit his grave. While paying her respects, Ruby met the love of her life onboard the ship, John Evan Matthews. They later married. Bill's name is recorded on a plaque at Dredge's Cottage on Queen St in Campbelltown.