William Herbert BIRRELL DCM

BIRRELL, William Herbert

Service Number: 695
Enlisted: 26 August 1914
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 7th Infantry Battalion
Born: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 28 February 1879
Home Town: Beechworth, Indigo, Victoria
Schooling: Wagga Wagga Public School, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Shearer
Died: Killed in Action, Belgium, 4 October 1917, aged 38 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 7), Belgium,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Beechworth Christ Church Honour Roll, Beechworth Shire WW1 Honour Roll, Beechworth War Memorial, Menin Gate Memorial (Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient), Wagga Wagga Cenotaph
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World War 1 Service

26 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 695, 7th Infantry Battalion
19 Oct 1914: Involvement Private, 695, 7th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
19 Oct 1914: Embarked Private, 695, 7th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Melbourne
5 Apr 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 695, 7th Infantry Battalion, Embarked Alexandria to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Gallipoli
26 Apr 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 7th Infantry Battalion
29 Apr 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 7th Infantry Battalion
8 May 1915: Honoured Distinguished Conduct Medal, 'On 8th May 1915 during operations near Krithia, for distinguished conduct in collecting and organizing men who had become detached, and leading them to a weak flank of the firing line.' Source: 'London Gazette' No. 6542 Date: 3 July 1915
8 May 1915: Wounded AIF WW1, Corporal, 695, 7th Infantry Battalion, Bullet wound, right hip. Transferred by HS 'Guildford Castle' to Egyptian Government Hospital, Port Said on 18 May 1915, then to British Clearing Hospital in Ismailia on 20 May 1915. Rejoined 7th Battalion in Gallipoli on 10 July 1915.
10 Jul 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant, 7th Infantry Battalion
13 Jul 1915: Wounded AIF WW1, Sergeant, 695, 7th Infantry Battalion, Gun shot wound to back and spine. Admitted to 1st Australian Stationary Hospital in Mudros on 15 July 1915.
18 Aug 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Company Sergeant Major, 7th Infantry Battalion
23 Apr 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Sergeant, 695, 7th Infantry Battalion, Gun shot wound to left hand. Admitted to 47th Casualty Clearing Station on 24 April 1917 and transferred to 10th General Hospital in Rouen on 25 April 1917; to England, 28 April 1917. Admitted to 1st London General Hospital on 29 April 1917, then transferred to 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford on 16 May 1917. Discharged on furlough on 21 May 1917, to report to No 1 Command Depot, Perham Downs on 5 June 1917.
4 Oct 1917: Involvement Sergeant, 695, 7th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres

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Biography contributed by Chris Buckley

William Herbert Birrell (born in 1879 in Sydney, New South Wales) was a Shearer working at Spring Creek in Beechworth, Victoria when he enlisted in the AIF in 1914. He had enlisted as 'emergency for 3rd New South Wales Contingent in the Boer War, but did not embark.

William was married to Mary Alice Young, and their son William Ronald Birrell was born in 1911.

Serving initially as a Private (Service No: 695) with 7th Infantry Battalion, William saw service in Gallipoli, Egypt, France and Belgium. He was promoted to Acting Company Sergeant Major on 18 August 1915 and Attached provisionally to Trench Mortar Battery on 24 August 1915.

On 8 May 1915, William was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal 

On 12 September 1915, William was tried by District Court Martial at Sarpi Camp in Lemnos for wilful disobediaence of a lawful command by a Commanding Officer. He was reverted to the Rank of Sergeant.

William was Killed in Action on 4 October 1917 at Anzac Ridge at Zonnebeke in Belgium. According to statements taken by the Red Cross, William was a machine gunner, and was 'killed on that day while out over the top running out tapes to be used as guides in the hop over'. According to Corporal J L Walker (Service No: 2046) of the 7th Battalion C Company, William was 'killed by a shell just as we were assembling in our own lines in the early morning to go over to the attack at Anzac Ridge, Zonnebeke. Three days later I was in charge of a burial party and helped to bury him in the open near where he fall and a water bottle and a water bottle with his name and mumber on was put up to mark the grave'.

William's son, William Ronald Birrell served in the Australian Army in WWII