William HEYER

HEYER, William

Service Number: 4399
Enlisted: 1 September 1916, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Upper Sturt, South Australia, 19 July 1893
Home Town: Upper Sturt, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Schooling: Upper Sturt Public School
Occupation: Gardener
Died: Assault on the Hindenburg Line, Nauroy, France, 29 September 1918, aged 25 years
Cemetery: Bellicourt British Cemetery
Bellicourt British Cemetery, Bellicourt, Picardie, France
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Aldgate War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, District of Upper Sturt Methodist Church Honour Board, Upper Sturt and District Roll of Honour WW1 WW2
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World War 1 Service

1 Sep 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Adelaide, South Australia
7 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 4399, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
7 Nov 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 4399, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Afric A19, Adelaide
8 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 4399, 32nd Infantry Battalion, The Battle of Amiens
29 Sep 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 4399, 32nd Infantry Battalion, "The Last Hundred Days"
Date unknown: Involvement 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

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William Heyer was the second and youngest son of William Heyer and Mary Ann Heyer (nee Zachariah). He was born at Upper Sturt on 19 July 1893. The family lived at Waverley Ridge near Crafers before the war, and William junior worked as a gardener. He and his brother Harry had five sisters, Blanche, Pearl, Maggie, Marion and Thelma.

His older brother Harry, who worked for SA Railways, had enlisted in September 1915, and was already training in England when William enlisted on 2 October 1916. After a few weeks training William was allocated to the 11th reinforcements to the 32nd Battalion, a mixed SA/WA unit and embarked at Adelaide aboard the 'Afric' on 7 November 1916.

He disembarked at Plymouth with the rest of his unit reinforcements on 9 January 1917, after which they trained at the 8th Training Battalion at Hurdcott in Wiltshire before leaving England for the front via Folkestone.

After passing through the 5th Australian Division's Base Depot, William and his fellow reinforcements were taken on strength of the 32nd Battalion at on 14 April 1917, just before the unit went back into the trenches near Haplincourt in the Pas de Calais, France. William was allocated to A or 'Ack' Company. After rotations into the front line near Vaulx and Lagnicourt, the battalion was relieved and sent to the 5th Army Rest Camp at Bapaume for a couple of months rest. While in rest camp, William heard of the death of his brother Harry, who died of wounds following the Battle of Messines, and William tried to locate his Harry's grave.

The 32nd Battalion did not return to the front line again until late September, when it attacked at Polygon Wood near Ypres, Belgium during the Battle of Menin Road on 27 September 1917. After a short rest they were back in the line at nearby Zonnebeke on 13 October when they were very heavily shelled. William was hit in the back of his shoulder but survived to be evacuated to hospital in Bristol four days later. After a move to Dartmouth he was given furlough for a couple of weeks in late January 1918, but reported late and was charged. He was merely admonished. As his shoulder was still sore, he worked at several depots around Salisbury Plain before suffering from a severe attack of tonsilitis in late February. He needed further time to recuperate from his wound, so didn't return to France until late July 1918.

The 32nd Battalion was involved in the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918, and the subsequent operations pushing the Germans back to the Hindenburg Line in August and September. The battalion participated in the attack across the St Quentin Canal sector of the Hindenburg Line on 29 September 1918, the unit's last major action of the war. The 32nd Battalion was the right assault battalion of hte 8th Brigade.  The attack was made in coordination with the US 30th Division.  Unfortunately, 250 casualties were suffered by the battalion during the battle, and William was killed in action during the heavy fighting.  A comprehensive record of the orders for the attack is contained in the Battalion War Diary - see link.

He was buried at the Bellicourt British Cemetery, France. His name is inscribed on the Upper Sturt Methodist Church Honour Board, the Aldgate Cross of Sacrifice, and the South Australian National War Memorial.

Research by Ian Smith and Steve Larkins