William Thomas (Billy) LITTLE


LITTLE, William Thomas

Service Number: 7006
Enlisted: 10 October 1916
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 49th Infantry Battalion
Born: Kilcoy, Queensland, Australia, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Kilcoy, Somerset, Queensland
Schooling: Kilcoy State School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Grazier
Died: Killed in Action, France, 6 April 1918, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension
Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Dernancourt, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Kilcoy Honour Roll, Yarraman War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

10 Oct 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 7006, 49th Infantry Battalion
17 Nov 1916: Involvement Private, SN 7006, 9th Infantry Battalion
17 Nov 1916: Embarked Private, SN 7006, 9th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Kyarra, Brisbane
6 Apr 1918: Involvement Private, SN 7006, 49th Infantry Battalion


William Thomas LITTLE. #7006 49th Battalion

William (Billy) Little was born in Kilcoy and attended school there. He was one of six brothers, all of whom were engaged in rural pursuits throughout Queensland. When Billy enlisted in Rockhampton on 10th October 1916, he was working a selection in the Dawson Valley at Rannes with his younger brother Charles.

He reported his age as 28 years and named his wife, Elizabeth Pattieson Little as his next of kin. The living conditions at Rannes may have been a bit too primitive for Elizabeth and their son, William John, as she and William jnr were living with her parents at Yarraman while Billy and Charles worked the selection.

Less than five weeks after enlisting, Billy embarked for overseas in Brisbane on the “Kyarra.” The embarkation roll shows him as part of the 23rd reinforcements for the 9th Battalion. He had allocated 4/- of his daily pay of 5/- to his wife and son. While at sea, Billy’s designation was changed to “D” Company in the 49th Battalion. The reinforcements arrived in Portsmouth on 30th January 1917 and marched out to the 3rd Training Battalion at Larkhill. After a brief stay in hospital with mumps, Billy crossed the English Channel to join his battalion at Messines in Belgium in June 1917. In August, Billy may have learnt of the death of his brother Charles at Messines who although being in a different brigade was in the same division as Billy

In September1917, the 49th was involved in the battle of Menin Road and then Polygon Wood. In October the 49th was rotating in and out of the line at Broodseinde. When the Ypres sector was closed down for the winter, the Australian divisions moved to the rear rest areas around Poperinghe for hot baths, sports and training. In January the 49th was back in the line around Messines.

With the coming of spring in 1918, the German commander Ludendorff took advantage of a temporary numerical superiority of troops to launch a surprise offensive against the British on the Somme. So successful was this offensive that in a few days the Germans had retaken all of the ground surrendered earlier in the war during 1916 and 1917; and were even threatening the vital communication hub of Amiens.

In response, Haig ordered the 3rd and 4th Australian Divisions to be rushed south. The first units to be mobilized were battalions of the 12th and 13th Brigades; which included the 49th Battalion. The battalion boarded buses and trucks for the journey south on 25th March but only got about half way to their destination before orders were changed and they spent 24 hours awaiting new orders.

The 12th and 13th brigades were ordered to make their way to Dernacourt, a small village on the railway line between Amiens and Albert. This deployment required a forced march of almost 30 kilometres through the night with the entire German army somewhere out on the left. There were reports that German armoured cars were on the roads but the cars proved to be French farm machinery.

Upon arrival at the assigned position, the two brigades were ordered to take up positions on a ridge facing the gathering Germans on the other side of the railway line. There were no trenches and the men had to dig shallow pits while under enemy artillery fire. Over the next four days, the men of the 12th and 13th Brigades established a forward defensive line on the railway embankment. The enemy were only a few hundred metres away, massing in large numbers for an attack. Almost opposite the village of Dernacourt was a railway underpass which had been chosen as the boundary between the two brigades with the 12th on the left of the underpass and the 13th on the right.

A massive attack by up to three German divisions began at dawn on 5th April. The situation appeared desperate as German storm troopers poured through the railway underpass and cut off several companies of Australians. Witnesses reported Billy Little was hit by a burst of machine gun fire in the abdomen as the men of the 49th bravely counterattacked later in the day. He was taken to a dressing station where he succumbed to his wounds the following morning. There was some confusion surrounding Billy’s death and he was originally listed as killed in action on 6th May, not 6th April. In spite of witness reports that he was taken to an aid post where he died from his wounds, the official record lists Billy as Killed in Action, not Died of Wounds.

Billy’s wife and son were granted a pension of 2 pounds and one pound per fortnight respectively. Elizabeth continued to live with her parents at Yarraman while her husband’s affairs were settled. A parcel of Billy’s personal effects was shipped from the AIF Kit Store in London and included in the cargo of the S.S. Barunga. Sadly the Barunga was torpedoed by a U-Boat just near the Scilly Isles and all of the cargo was lost.

Billy had been buried somewhere near the aid post where he died until the Imperial War Graves Commission began to consolidate scattered war burials. Billy Little was reinterred in the Dernacourt Commonwealth Cemetery Extension along with over 2000 other British and Imperial soldiers who perished in France.

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