William Russell de la Poer (Bill) BERESFORD MC

Badge Number: Unknown, Sub Branch: Victor Harbor
Unknown

BERESFORD, William Russell de la Poer

Service Numbers: 142, Officer
Enlisted: 19 August 1914, Morphettville, South Australia
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 50th Infantry Battalion
Born: Darwin, Northern Territory , 31 October 1893
Home Town: North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Queen's College, North Adelaide
Occupation: Surveyor
Died: Inman Valley, South Australia, 13 September 1938, aged 44 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: North Road Cemetery, Nailsworth, S.A.
Memorials: Hackney St Peter's College Honour Board, North Adelaide Queens School Honour Board
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World War 1 Service

19 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Morphettville, South Australia
20 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 142, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Adelaide
20 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 142, 10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 142, 10th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
6 Dec 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 142, 10th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
26 Feb 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 142, 50th Infantry Battalion
17 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion
10 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion
12 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion, Pozières
24 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion, Villers-Bretonneux
10 May 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion
11 Nov 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 50th Infantry Battalion
23 Feb 1919: Discharged AIF WW1
Date unknown: Involvement 10th Infantry Battalion, Pozières

Military Cross Recommendation - Villers-Bretonneux

At VILLERS-BRETONNEUX E. of AMIENS on the 24th April 1918 when his Company Commander was wounded this Officer efficiently took charge of the Company. He led it gallantly into the counter-attack under heavy fire. On reaching the objective, the other three Company Commanders had become casualties, and Lieut. BERESFORD reorganised and consolidated all Companys on the position won.

On the night 25/26th April 1918 under his directions a wide gap on the left flank was cleared by two fighting patrols. He then placed troops across the gap and connected up with the Brigade on his left, thus completely linking up the line in front of VILLERS-BRETONNEUX.

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Military Cross Recommendation - Pozieres

During an attack on the 12th August near MOUQUET FARM by personal example and bravery he was responsible to a great extent for the successful advance to, and retention of, the position attacked.

*Note: Lieutenant Beresford wasn't award the Military Cross for this action, but rather for a later operation at Villers-Bretonneux in 1918.*

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Biography

William Russel de la Poer Beresford was born at Port Darwin (Darwin) in the Northern Territory on the 31st of October 1893. He was the son of Mr and Mrs Arthur George de la Poer Beresford and Ellen Stuart de la Poer Beresford (nee Mayo.) He was the couple’s seventh and final child and was the sixth son as part of the seven children.

Enlisting at Morphettville in Adelaide on the 19th of August 1914, he was one of the first to answer the empires call. Indeed his regimental number of 142 indicates his position in the enlistment line. He declared that he was single and living at home (217 Jeffcott Street, North Adelaide) with his next of kin who was his father, Arthur George de la Poer Beresford. He stated that he was a surveyor had been an apprentice with his father for 3 years.

Prior to enlisting he was a member of the Senior Cadets for 5 years and had served for 1 of these years with the rank of Lieutenant. William Beresford was also a member of the East Torrens Rifle Club. Upon successfully enlisting he was allocated to E Company of the 10th Battalion. On the 20th of October 1914 he embarked at Outer Harbour on HMAT Ascanius (A11). He sailed to Egypt first for a period of brief desert training before embarking again at Alexandria on the 2nd of March 1915 bound for Lemnos Island as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

At dawn on the 25th of April 1915 he landed at ANZAC Cover with the rest of the 10th Battalion and the 3rd Brigade (9th, 11th and 12th Battalions) acting as a covering force for the rest of the Gallipoli landing. This meant William Beresford was one of the first ashore at Gallipoli. He served throughout the Gallipoli campaign until just before the August Offensive began with Corporal Beresford admitted to Number 1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station on the 3rd of August 1915. He was evacuated off of the peninsula on the 4th of August 1915 with Otitis Media (Ear Inflammation) and later that day was admitted to hospital in Cairo. He was taken to Mena Convalescent Depot on the 10th of August and then to Helounan Convalescent Depot on the 9th of September before finally been discharged on the 19th of September 1915. He re-joined the 10th Battalion on the 25th of November 1915. On the 6th of September he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the field. In mid to late December he was evacuated back to Egypt with the Gallipoli Campaign over.

Once back in Egypt the AIF underwent a consolidation process and as part of this Sergeant Beresford was transferred from the 10th Battalion to the newly created 50th Battalion on the 26th of February 1916. He joined the new battalion the next day and within several weeks was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the field on the 27th of March and allocated as a Platoon Commander in C Company. The 50th Battalion relocated to the Western Front after embarking at Alexandria on the 5th of June 1916 and disembarking at Marseilles, France on the 12th of June. On the 10th of July Second Lieutenant Beresford was promoted to Lieutenant.

His first action as part of the 50th Battalion was at Pozieres/ Mouquet Farm where after 5 weeks fighting Australian had suffered 23,000 casualties - it’s worst ever total in 5 weeks. The 50th Battalion had was heavily involved in fighting at Mouquet Farm from the 12th of August to the 15th of August where it was replaced by another Australian Battalion on 16th of August 1916. During these several days the Battalion endured some of the heaviest shelling they would ever encounter on the Western Front.

After charging a German trench on the night of the 12th of August the C Company found only about 42 German men alive and functioning (after they too endured a heavy bombardment before the attack) as the rest were knocked out. Here Beresford bombed the survivors in the trench and forced them to surrender. Over the next two days the Battalion constructed a trench (as the old one had been virtually destroyed) and as they did so they were mostly under constant artillery fire. On the night of the 14th/15th of August the Battalion was required to advance once again, but after such a continuous bombardment Beresford was sent to the rear with ‘shell-shock.’ He was admitted to the Officers' Rest Hospital and was discharged before re-joining the 50th Battalion on the 17th of August 1916 after they had retired from the front line.

On the 28th of October 1916 he was transferred to the 13th Training Battalion located at Codford in England. After sailing across the English Channel he was taken on strength by the Battalion on the 6th of November 1916. It is believed he was one of the officers in charge of the Training Battalion responsible for training up fresh troops before they were posted to the Western Front. This posting probably came about as a result of his shell shock and since he was still an officer he was of use to the AIF (in training up new troops) - whilst not actively having to fight on the Western Front where he could suffer from further shell shock. From January the 28th 1917 Lieutenant Beresford attended a Course of Instruction at a Bombing School located at Clapham Common in London. It is unknown how long he was at the course, however, it is believed he returned to the 13th Training Battalion after a short period and kept on teaching there. On the 15th of August 1917 he was admitted to No. 1 Australian Dermatological Hospital at Bulford in England suffering from VD - venereal disease. He was discharged on the 3rd of December 1917 after being treated for VD for 111 days.

Lieutenant William Beresford then sailed back overseas to France where he was marched into the Australian Intermediate Base Depot on the 15th of December 1917. He was then finally transferred from the 13th Training Battalion on the 20th of December back to the 50th Battalion was he was taken on strength the same day.

He was admitted to briefly to the 13th Field Ambulance on the 18th of January 1918 suffering from pyrexia (fever) but was discharged again on the 30th and joined his unit the same day.

In the Spring of 1918 the German Army unleashed its last major offensive of war. At the time the 50th Battalion had not been on the front line but was rushed to fill in a gap in the after the German’s captured Villers-Bretonneux – the last town before Amiens, a very strategic town to both side. On the night of the 24th/25th April 1918 the 50th Battalion attacked and ultimately recaptured the town of Villers-Bretonneux. Although they paid a heavy price this attack would go down in history. Through the operation Lieutenant Beresford lead with bravery and distinction - thus suggesting that he did not suffer from further shell shock. (See story.)

For his actions at Villers-Bretonneux he was promoted to the rank of Captain on the 10th of May 1918.

On June the 18th 1918 Captain William Beresford was admitted to the 4th Australian Field Ambulance before been transferred to the 5th Casualty Clearing Station the same day suffering from pyrexia, again. He was later moved to the 2nd British Red Cross Hospital located at Rouen now suffering from Influenza and was admitted on the 21st of June 1918. He was discharged 10 days later and was marched into the Australian Intermediate Base Depot at Le Havre on the French coast arriving on the 4th of July 1918. He re-joined the 50th Battalion as a Company Commander on the 13th of July 1918.

Having served in the AIF from 1914 and having survived so far until 1918, which was a serious feat many people would never achieve he was award 1914 Special Leave to Italy. Out of the men who would enlist in 1914 only around 25% of those would return to Australia, as a reward for their long and hard service the Australian Army set up the 1914 Special Leave. He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery at Villers-Bretonneux on the 16th of September 1918. Captain Beresford began his return to Australia from Taranto in Italy, where he had his 1914 Special Leave, on the 8th of October 1918. He was transported first to Suez where he embarked on board HT Port Darwin on the 15th of November 1918 and then finally disembarked at Melbourne in Australia on the 24th of December 1918. He travelled back to South Australia via train and was then discharged from the AIF in Adelaide on the 23rd of February 1919.

After the war he later married Marie Isobel de la Poer Beresford (nee Ward.) They had two children; Diana Mary (1924) and Marie Suzanne (1925) and they moved to Inman Valley where he joined the Victor Harbour branch of the RSL. He died on the 13th of September 1938 at Inman Valley, South Australia. He was tragically young - 44 years old  - and he was buried at North Road Cemetery in Adelaide.

Awarded:

Military Cross

1914/15 Star: 651

British War Medal: 708

Victory Medal: 709

 

Nathan Rohrlach, October 2014. 

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