William Bromell Drake BARBER

BARBER, William Bromell Drake

Service Number: 346
Enlisted: 30 July 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Goolwa, South Australia, 29 August 1872
Home Town: Magill, Campbelltown, South Australia
Schooling: Public School
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed In Action, Fromelles Nord-Pas-de-Calais France, 20 July 1916, aged 43 years
Cemetery: Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Tumby Bay RSL Portrait Memorials
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World War 1 Service

30 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1
18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 346, 32nd Infantry Battalion,

embarkation_roll: roll_number: 17 embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Geelong embarkation_ship_number: A2 public_note:

18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 346, 32nd Infantry Battalion
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 346, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

Help us honour William Bromell Drake Barber's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Geoffrey Stewart

Bill was born on 29 Aug 1872 at Goolwa (SA) to William Barber and Elizabeth Barber (nee Hennessy).  He was the fourth eldest of  7 children in the family, 6 boys and a girl.  His family lived at Goolwa (SA) and

Bill  went to school there.  Shortly after completion of schooling he moved to the Lipson area and worked as a labourer on Warratta Vale Station until his enlistment in the Army at Keswick at the age of 43.  At that time he recorded his occupation as labourer.

On enlistment Bill was sent to 2nd Depot Battalion (Bn) at Mitcham for training before being allocated to 32nd Bn.

The 32nd Bn  was raised on 9 Aug 1915 in Mitcham as part of the AIF and was initially made up of personnel from SA and WA; most of the recruits were miners and farmers. The Bn concentrated in SA and undertook basic training; Bill was taken on strength at this time. The unit embarked aboard HMAT "Geelong" at Adelaide on 28 Nov 1915 bound for Suez, arriving on 10 Dec 1915. It arrived amidst the aftermath of the failed Gallipoli campaign,

After a further training period  the unit was on the  move again, this time to Alexandria, before embarking aboard HMAT "Transylvania" on 17 Jun 1916, bound for Marseilles (France), arriving and disembarking on 23 Jun 1916.

The Bn immediately moved to the Western Front and was deployed into the Armentieres sector.  The following month his Bn was committed to the front line for the first time on 16 July 1916. Three days after taking up position in the trenches, the 32nd took part in the fighting around Fromelles as part of the 8th Brigade's initial assault on the extreme left of the Australian front line, focussed around a position known as the "Sugarloaf". The Bn suffered 718 casualties—a third of the Bn total casualties for the entire war—which equalled almost 90 percent of its effective strength. Bill was one of the casualties during this action, being posted as missing in action on 19 Jul 1916, three days after the arrival of his unit at the front.

On 24 Nov 1916 he was listed as a prisoner of war on advice from Germany. On 13 Mar 1917 his identity discs were returned from Germany with no particulars offered, other than the "soldier is deceased".

As a result of this information the War Office declared that: "the soldier was to be reported as Killed in Action at Fromelles Nord-Pas-de-Calais France on 20 Jul 1916", the day after he had been reported missing in action.

This must have been an extremely stressful time for his family as the series of letters between them and the Army would attest. His father died during this period and there was then difficulty determining who was the next of kin. Eventually in late 1922 it was determined that his medals and personal effects would be sent to his eldest brother and this was effected in late 1922, six years after the death of the soldier. However, it was also only effected after a terse letter from Army, stating in part: " I am holding this matter open for 21 days from this date, when if no reply is at hand, these mementos will be placed on the untraceable list." Not a very caring approach after 6 years of uncertainty!  

Bill is buried in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery and his name is recorded on the Tumby Bay Memorial.


Compiled by Geoff Stewart - 15 July 19



Son of William BARBER and Elizabeth nee HENNESSY


Embarked Adelaide, 18 November 1915; disembarked Suez, 18 December 1915.

Embarked Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 17 June 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 23 June 1916.

Posted missing, 20 July 1916.

'German list received by Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau, Australian Branch, British Red Cross Society', 4 November 1916, show that 'identification marks found on the Prisoner of War are inspected by the General War Bureau and shown in the lists as under:- DEAD'

'Identification disc received from Germany', 13 March 1917. 'No particulars afforded except that soldier is deceased. To be reported KILLED IN ACTION, 20/7/16' on the authority of Assistant Adjutant General, ANZAC Section, War Office.

A translated extract from the 'Final German Death List A' and supplied by the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau, 18 October 1920, states, 'Barber, W. 346 A.Co. 32. Fell 19.7.16 near Fromelles'.

He was one of morethan 200 soldiers whose remains were discovered in a mass grave at Pheasant Wood in 2008, some of which have subsequently been idnentified by DNA analysis.


War service: Egypt, Western Front

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.  Commemorative plaque ("dead man's penny")  issued to family


lBrother: 2123A Pte John Ross BARBER, 48th Bn, killed in action, Bullecourt, France, 11 April 1917.