William John Thomas WEAVER


WEAVER, William John Thomas

Service Number: 3164
Enlisted: 19 June 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 6th Infantry Battalion
Born: Benalla, Victoria, Australia, April 1894
Home Town: Molesworth, Murrindindi, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Wounds, 15th Aust Field Ambulance, Somme, France, 1 November 1916
Cemetery: Dartmoor Cemetery
Dartmoor Cemetery (Plot II, Row E, Grave 33), France, Dartmoor Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Yarck War Memorial, Yea War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

19 Jun 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3164, 6th Infantry Battalion
29 Sep 1915: Involvement Private, SN 3164, 8th Infantry Battalion
29 Sep 1915: Embarked Private, SN 3164, 8th Infantry Battalion, RMS Osterley, Adelaide
31 Oct 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 3164, 6th Infantry Battalion, Flers/Gueudecourt, GSW to abdomen DoW 15th Aust Field Ambulance
1 Nov 1916: Involvement Private, SN 3164, 6th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Pte 3164 William John Thomas Weaver,
6th Australian Infantry Battalion,
2nd Brigade, 1st Australian Division
Over a hundred years ago, on the battlefields of the Somme, which was nothing but mud, fire and blood, a whole generation of men served and fought in the cold and narrow trenches of the great war and who, shoulder to shoulder, in the darkest hours of history stood bravely under the bullets and shells that crushed their youth in fury and darkness but in this endless nightmare they all did their duty with honor and all went over the top with determination and were caught under the machine gun fire which mowed down thousands of them who today rest in peace still being united in the comradeship in which they stand still young and proud through the fields of poppies and the rows of their white graves over whom I would always watch with respect to honor the memory of those heroes who did so much for us, so that their names and their stories are never forgotten, so that they live forever.

Today, it is with the deepest respect and eternal gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who paid the supreme sacrifice for our tomorrow.I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 3164 William John Thomas Weaver who fought in the 6th Australian Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 105 years ago, on November 1, 1916 at the age of 22 on the Somme front.

William John Thomas Weaver was born in 1894 in Benalla, Victoria, Australia, and was the son of John and Caroline Weaver, of Molesworth, Victoria.William was educated at Benalla State School and before the outbreak of the war, worked as a labourer.

William enlisted on July 22, 1915 in Melbourne, Victoria, in the 8th Australian Infantry Battalion, 10th Reinforcement, and after a two month training period at Broadmeadows Camp, he embarked with his unit from Adelaide, South Australia, on board HMAT RMS Osterley on September 29, 1915 and sailed for Egypt.
On October 26, 1915, William arrived in Egypt and was disembarked in Heliopolis where he was admitted the same day to the 1st Auxiliary Convalescent Depot suffering from poisoned finger, was discharged to duty on November 11 and three months later, on February 22, 1916, was transferred and taken on strength in the 6th Australian Infantry Battalion at Serapeum and less than two weeks later,on March 6 was admitted to the 1st then to the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance suffering from mumps.Ten days later, on March 16, he joined the 6th battalion and on March 25, embarked with his unit from Alexandria on board Ballarat and proceeded overseas for France.

On March 30, 1916, William arrived in France and was disembarked in Marseilles then with the men of the 6th Australian Infantry Battalion marched for Belgium and entered for the first time in the trenches at Messines on July 6, 1916 then on July 9, marched for Bailleul where they embarked by train for the Somme and arrived at Doullens on July 11 then marched through Berteaucourt, Flesselles, Cardonette, Lealvillers, Senlis and reached Albert on July 22 and the next day, joined the trenches of Pozieres which was the first major engagement for the Australian Imperial Force and for the 6th Australian Infantry Battalion which suffered catastrophic losses.

The village of Pozieres was an extremely sought after position from the earliest days of British planning for the great Somme Offensive of 1916. The village sat on a ridge which gave the Germans a view over Allied lines and sheltered their second line of defence from Allied observation.At this point the British strategy focused on the seizure of the ridge east of Pozières village from where an attack could be mounted on German strongholds further north at Thiepval which had not fallen to British attack on the opening day of the battle, 1 July 1916. By the time the Australians entered the Somme battle the operation had become a series of attacks aimed not so much at a break-through of the German lines as the capture of key positions and the wearing down of the enemy.

Between July 23 and August 5, 1916, the Australian 1st and 2nd Divisions captured Pozières village and Pozières heights, a ridge 500 metres east of the village. The initial attack began at 12.30 am on Sunday July 23 when the 1st Division seized the German front line and in the following hour reached the main road through Pozières. At dawn the Germans counter-attacked but the Australians held on. The rest of Pozières fell on the night of July 23-24 and further gains were made on the night of July 24-25. The Germans reacted to the seizure of Pozières by concentrating the bulk of their artillery on the Australians. Constant barrages were directed onto the village and the narrow approaches creating a nightmarish situation for troops forming up and attacking in the dark. By July 27, the 2nd Australian Division had taken over in Pozières.

The 2nd Division was ordered to take Pozières heights. The attack commenced at 12.15 am on July 29, but the Germans were ready and the attack failed at a cost of 3,500 Australian casualties. The Australian commander of the 2nd Division asked that his men might attack again rather than be withdrawn after failure. Following an intense bombardment on August 4, 1916, the Australian seized Pozières heights. The exhausted 2nd Division was now rested and the 4th Division took up positions on the Pozières Heights. Attacking north along the ridge, the Australians in ten days of continuous action reached Mouquet Farm. The 4th Division was now relieved. The farm resisted capture until September 26, 1916, the day after the commenced of a major British offensive.

In less than seven weeks in the fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm three Australian divisions suffered 23,000 casualties. Of these, 6,800 men were killed or died of wounds.

After a month and a half of terrible fighting at Pozieres, on September 1, 1916, William and the 6th Australian Infantry Battalion were sent to Ypres where they fought until September 30, when they marched to reach Devonshire Camp where they had a brief period of rest and on October 23, returned to the Somme at Dernancourt then joined the Pommier Camp the next day. On October 26, they marched for Albert which they left on October 29 then marched for the trenches of Gueudecourt in which they entered on October 30 alongside the Newfoundlanders but it was here that unfortunately, the next day, on October 31, 1916, William met his fate.

On October 31, 1916, while William was in the "Crease Trench" at Gueudecourt, the German artillery opened fire and the Australian trenches were shelled with extreme intensity. William was seriously wounded by a shrapnel in his abdomen,he was immediately evacuated to the 15th Australian Field Ambulance in Becordel-Becourt, Somme, where despite the greatest care, he died a few hours later, he was 22 years old.
Today, William John Thomas Weaver rests in peace with his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Dartmoor Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription: "Ready to help in time of need kind in thought and kind in deed."
William, you who were in the prime of your life, a life full of expectations, hopes and dreams, it was under the bells that rang the war that with determination and head held high you answered to the call duty to serve your country, to do your bit, your part in the trenches of the great war alongside your comrades, your friends who walked courageously through the roads and fields of northern France, with in their heart the pride to do what was right and behind the drums, bugles and bagpipes, they moved forward with determination towards the battlefields, towards uncertain days but they were guided forward by the ardor of their youth and by the desire to fight, to put their energy and their hearts in the battle and together, under the din of the artillery and the thunder tearing the sky under the bullets of the airplanes and the sinister rumble of the cannons illuminating the horizon,they entered the trenches with confidence and innocence but, their knees deep in the mud they discovered the horrors and inhumanity of the war which crushed their brothers and their fathers under the bites of the shells which buried alive thousands of poor boys who, in the blood and the fury of the darkness which surrounded them lost their youth whose eyes and the spirits were marked forever by what they saw and endured in this endless nightmare that the war afflicted on their shoulders but which,in this apocalypse stood bravely without ever giving up despite the death that awaited them beyond the parapet and which, in the barbed wire, had already shattered thousands of lives in bloodbaths that never stopped.Brave among the bravest, these young men who came from so far fought with perseverance, with conviction for their loved ones who awaited their return but who, through a few lines, learned that their sons, their fathers, their men had been killed in action while doing their duty, by leading their friends under the fire of enemy machine guns with heroism who broke millions of families whose homes were emptied and left behind grieving sons, wives, mothers who were hit hard by the brutality of war in devastating shockwaves.After a last embrace, a last farewell, these heroes left the love of their families, the warmth and tenderness of their homes and fought with exceptional bravery in the most beautiful spirit of mateship alongside their comrades without ever backing down and under the shells, under the bullets, under the lead and the flames they moved baionettes forward for peace and freedom and one after the other, after a last gesture of courage, they fell silently in the shroud of the fields of poppies on which today hold their graves on which are engraved and remembered more than names but the lives of men, the past of a whole generation who paid the supreme sacrifice but who here, in the cemeteries and the fields of the Somme, will always be remembered and honored with the greatest care, I will always be present for them and their families and will always put all my heart so that the memory of these young men, my boys of the Somme,our Diggers, live forever and it is with all my heart that I would like to thank you William, for all that you did for us, for Australia and for France, for each of us who will always stand with respect in front of you so that you are never forgotten.At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him,we will remember them.