Francis William (Bill) FLETCHER

Poppy

FLETCHER, Francis William

Service Number: SX8087
Enlisted: 6 July 1940
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Crafers, South Australia, 27 April 1917
Home Town: Aldgate, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Schooling: Aldgate School, South Australia
Occupation: Butcher in George Weatherald’s Aldgate shop.
Died: Died of wounds, Egypt, 22 July 1942, aged 25 years
Cemetery: El Alamein War Cemetery
Plot AIII Row G Grave 18, El Alamein War Cemetery, El Alamein, Marsa Matruh, Egypt
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

6 Jul 1940: Enlisted Private, SN SX8087, Adelaide, South Australia
6 Jul 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Corporal, SN SX8087, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
22 Jul 1942: Involvement Corporal, SN SX8087, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, El Alamein

‘He Died as he Lived, for Others’

Bill was one of twins born at Crafters in the Adelaide Hills on the 27th April, 1917 to William Francis and Blanche Victoria Fletcher (nee Heyer). Besides his twin sister, Jean Norma, Bill’s other siblings were Betty, John and Gwendoline.
Bill’s family lived in Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills, renown for the curving, narrow roads as well as the delightful English style setting. Unfortunately, in ’37 while riding pillion with Joseph Cocker, their motor bike collided with a post, smashing the headlight bur fortunately Joseph was unhurt and Bill sustained minor injuries. The two young friends were later to enlist, Joseph as SX8845 and both being allocated to the 2/48th Battalion.
Post school, Bill worked in Aldgate as a butcher in George Weatherald’s shop. With the outbreak of WWII, as did many other small communities, became rife with gossip, causing a very frustrated George to publish a notice in September ’39 in both the local paper and the Advertiser ‘I, GEORGE IVA WEATHERALD, of Aldgate, Butcher, desire it to be known that I am a loyal subject of British parentage and birth and that certain slanders and rumors recently current in the Aldgate district are entirely without foundation. I am taking legal action to stop same. GEORGE IVA WEATHERALD.’
By the following year, 23-year-old Bill had decided to enlist on the 6th July 1940 to become SX8087 the same day as Ronald Clemens SX8302 from the Barossa. Both were allocated to the newly formed 2/48th Battalion. Initial days were spent in the cold of the Pavilions, now part of the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds before the new enlistees headed to Woodside for their preliminary training.
An active young woman, Norma Phyllis Williams was the vice-president of the girls' Cheerio Club and active in coordinating farewell evenings for the young men who had enlisted, presenting parcels containing socks, mittens, scarf and Balaclava cap. She was also involved in fund-raising to buy wool to knit for the local boys, who joined the A.I.F. Bill was given a farewell social held in the Crafters Institute in July. It patriotically opened with the National Anthem and the Song of Australia. Bill was one of seven locals who were farewelled and given a presentation from both the local community and the Comforts Fund. The Mount Barker Courier added: ‘With the soldier-boys in the centre the hall everyone joined hands in "Auld Lang Syne," which concluded a very pleasant evening.’
Whilst on pre-embarkation leave, Bill and Norma Williams, whose family lived at ‘Lorne’ Aldgate decided married in a double wedding ceremony at the Aldgate Methodist Church on the 2nd November in an evening wedding. Norma’s sister, Barbara May married William Whitlock Laws who would also later enlist as SX32500 in December ’41. Two months later, a third William sister, Brenda Mary also married to Pte Rowan Mutton SX25203 from Berri with Norma being the Matron of Honor.
By this time, Bill’s large contingent had embarked on the Stratheden for the Middle East, on the 7th November 1940, arrived on the 19th December 1940. Close friendships were forged, most to last a lifetime. Their 2/48th Battalion completed a few months training in Cyrenaica before going to Tobruk at the start of April 1941 where the dust, flies, heat, minimal water supplies and constant bombardment were quite a challenge to these fresh new enlistees.
Whilst overseas, Bill’s 26-year-old sister, Gwendoline Booth died at the birth of her twins, a boy and girl on August 28th ‘41. The family placed a tribute o Bill’s behalf: ‘BOOTH. —On the 28th of August, at a private hospital, Gwendoline Mavis, beloved daughter of Mr. and Mrs. F. Fletcher, of Aldgate, and loved sister of Jean, Betty, John and Bill (A.I.F. abroad). Someday we'll understand.’
In May ’42 Bill’s wife, Norma had enlisted as SF64965, eventually rising to the rank of sergeant before finally being discharged in December ’45.
Tragedy again struck the family. Just over two years after enlisting, Bill died of wounds sustained in action on the 22nd July, 1942. He was 25 years old. His battalion was attempting to capture West Point in a dawn attack. In late June, 42 with Rommel crossing into Egypt, the 2/48th were in an offensive to capture Trig 33, which was achieved on the 10th July. In doing so, over 400 Italian prisoners were taken. The 2/48th battalion then advanced south, capturing the Tel el Eisa station and repelling numerous counter attacks. However, they were eventually forced to withdraw, having suffered over 100 casualties. It was during this attack that Private Stan Gurney was awarded the 2/48th Battalion’s first VC having captured two machine gun posts and bayonetting the gun crew firing on his company but was killed attempting to take a third. The 2/48th battalion suffered 215 casualties between the 7th July and 23rd October. Of that number, 64 men were killed and six, including Bill died of their wounds. 125 other men were wounded but survived.
In his book, ‘Tobruk to Tarakan’, John G. Glenn described the ferocious encounter;
‘When the troops were well forward of the start-line they came under terrific fire from shells and mortars from the front and left and suffered heavy casualties. With the slow deliberate movement of perfectly trained soldiers both companies continued the advance in perfect formation, over ground that trembled and erupted with vicious explosions. Through this, sometimes obscured by the smoke and dust, the men moved, and, as they advanced, the fire kept place with them, leaving behind the still shapes of fallen men among the camel bush and sand.’

The Chronicle on the 20th August, ’42 listed those who had died in battle or of wounds. From Bill’s Battalion the men were: FOURTH LIST Killed In Action SX13121 Pte. Reginald W. Charles Brown. 2/48th Whyalla. SX12765. Pte. Charles A. Corfield. 2/48th Clare. SX7166 Pte. Arthur R. Davis. 2/48th Rosewater SX5823 Cpl. G. E. Gay, 2/43rd, Woodville SX13018 Pte. Colin J. Hanley. 2/48th Port Augusta. SX8236 Pte. Gerald J. Hayes. 2/48th Wirrabara SX6297 Pte. Donald S. Ridley. 2/48th Loxton SX11052. Pte. Walter M. Shane. 2/48th Spalding. SX8315 Pte. Robert O. Sunman. 2/48th Port Augusta. SX11021 Pte. Lindsay H. Thorpe 2/43rd Woodville Died Of Wounds SX8087 Cpl. F. W. Fletcher, 2/48th Aldgate SX8454 Cpl. Arthur A. A. Harding. 2/48th Peterborough.
The local Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser on 20th August carried the tragic news ‘Pte. Norma P. Fletcher has been notification that her husband, Cpl. F. W. Fletcher, died of wounds in Egypt on July 22nd. Deceased was engaged as a butcher locally when he enlisted, in July 1940. He sailed in the following November and was in the Tobruk garrison for several months.’
The News also reported the heartbreak on the 22nd August ‘Mr. and Mrs. F. Fletcher. of Aldgate, have been informed that their son, Cpl. Bill Fletcher (25), A.I.F., died of wounds in Egypt on July 22. He enlisted in July 1940 and left for overseas the following November. Before enlisting he was employed by G. Weatherald, of Aldgate. as a butcher. He served eight months in Tobruk.’
A third tragedy affected the family when, less than a year later, Bill’s 49-year-old father, Francis died on the 31st October ’43. He was buried in Stirling Cemetery where Bill is also remembered with an inscription reading ‘Died of wounds Egypt Aged 25 years.’
Bill was re-buried on the 22nd March, 1945. He now rests with 24-year-old SX13621 Private E Kilsby, 28 year old WX9834 Private T Burke from the 2/48th Battalion and others from the 2/13th, 2/24th and 2/28th Battalions. His family chose the inscription ‘He died as he lived, for others.’
Over the coming years, Bill’s family, friends, and fellow soldiers continued to remember him. These are a selection of the tributes.
1942, FLETCHER. —Died of wounds on July 22. Cpl Bill Fletcher, loving husband of Norma. Darling, we shall never forget FLETCHER—On. July 22. died of wounds, Cpl Bill Fletcher, dearly loved brother-in-law or Barbara and Bill Laws. One of the best. FLETCHER, Cpl. BilI Fletcher. —Died of wounds in Egypt on July 22. Loved brother-in-law of Brenda and Rowan, AIF- Darwin. Always remembered. FLETCHER. —Died of wounds in Egypt on July 22, Cpl Bill, dearly beloved son of F. and B. Fletcher. Aldgate and dearly loved brother of Jean, Betty. John, and Gwen, deceased, aged 25. His duty nobly done. Sadly missed. FLETCHER. —On July 22, died or wounds in Egypt. Bill, dearly beloved twin brother of Jean and brother-in-law of Herb and loving uncle of Barrie and Diann, aged 25. Too dearly loved to be forgotten. FLETCHER. —On July 22, died of wounds in Egypt. Bill, beloved! brother of Betty and brother-in-law of Bryan. Someday we'll understand. FLETCHER. —On July 22, died of wounds in Egypt. Bill, loved friend of Arnold and Faith Harm and family. Treasured memories linger ever of happy days we spent together. FLETCHER. —On July 22, in Egypt, Bill, dear pal of Sgt. Max Thomas (AIF, returned). —Remembered always by Max, Nita, and Maxine. FLETCHER, Cpl. Bill.—Died of wounds received on July 22 in Egypt. At the going down of the sun and in the morning I will remember thee.—Ever remembered by Norma Fullgrabe. FLETCHER. —Died of wounds on July 22. Cpl. Hill. God took him home, it was His will, Forget you, Bill, we never will. —Always remembered by Rolie, Mrs. Coventry and family. FLETCHER. —Died of wounds on July 22, Cpl. Bill. Deep in our hearts a memory is kept Of a dear, smiling face we will never forget. —Always remembered, Hilda, Alf, Mrs. Williams and Syd. FLETCHER. —Died of wounds in Egypt on July 22, Cpl. Bill Fletcher, loved brother-in-law of Madge and Wattle, also loving uncle of Ian. Sadly missed. FLETCHER. —On July 22 Cpl. Bill Fletcher, died of wounds. My very dear friend, sadly I shall miss you. —Pte. Bob Atkinson, A.I.F., returned. FLETCHER, Bill (Cpl.). —In loving memory of our pal Bill, who was killed in action in Egypt, on July 22,—Eddie King and Don Gordon (returned 2nd A.l.F.) FLETCHER.—In memory of my dear nephew, Bill, who died of wounds in Egypt on July 22, Someday we'll understand.—Remembered by Auntie Pearl, Kimba.
Advertiser Monday 12 July 1943, SPAVIN—FLETCHER. —A tribute of remembrance to Dvr. J. Spavin. M-M., and Cpl W. Fletcher, killed In action in Egypt July. 1942. In silence I remember them. —inserted by Ron Daniels (AIF ret). A tribute of remembrance to Dvrs. J. Spavin. K. Stone. K. O'Leary. Sgt. L. Johnston. Cpls. W. Fletcher and A. Harding, killed in action in Egypt. July 10-22, 1942. In silence I remember. —Inserted by Hedley Pratt (A.I.F., ret.) FLETCHER. Cpl.—ln loving memory of Bill, died of wounds July 22. 1942 — Ever remembered by Madge. Wattle, and Ian
Advertiser Saturday 22 July 1944, FLETCHER. —Loving memories ot my beloved husband. Cpl. Bill Fletcher, who died of wounds. July 22 1942. at El Alamein. Dear and happy days now passed; days that seemed far too sweet to last. —Ever remembered by your loving wife Norma. FLETCHER. —In loving memory of dear Bill, died of wounds. Egypt, July 22. 1942. Gone from us. his dear smile. So dearly loved, so sadly missed by mother. FLETCHER. —Loving memory our dear brother and uncle Bill, died of wounds, Egypt. July 22. 1942. He never complained, he wasn’t that kind: one of those brothers hard to find. - Ever remembered. Jean and Herb A.I.F Barrie Diann. FLETCHER. —ln loving memory of our dear grandson Bill, died wounds. Egypt. July 22. J942. We have you In our memory, dear Bill, but God has you in His care.—Ever remembered by gran and grandpa Hever. FLETCHER. —Loving memory our dear brother and uncle Bill, died wounds. ; Egypt, July 22. 1942. He gave his life for those he loved and left us to remember. —Ever remembered by Betty and Bryan AIF little Sandra. FLETCHER, cpl. F. W.—ln memory of my pal Bill, who made the supreme sacrifice. Tel-el-Eisa. July 22, 1942.—Al ways remembered by his pal Hedley Pratt. FLETCHER. —In loving memory of my dear brother Bill, died wounds" Egypt July 22. 1942. To be with us in the same old way would be our dearest wish today. Ever remembered by John. A.I.F. FLETCHER, Cpl. W.F. SX8087, late 2/48th Batt.—ln loving remembrance of dear Bill, who paid the supreme sacrifice at El Alamein. July 22 1942 Ever remembered by Gwen. Colleen, and Jim. RIP FLETCHER. —in memory or mv dear son-in-law Bill, died or wounds July 22 1942. To see his dear sweet smiling face would be mv greatest wish today Remembered by Mrs Williams. FLETCHER. —in loving memory or our dear pal. Cpl. Bill, died of wounds July 22 1942. To be with us in the same old way would be our dearest wish today Inserted by Ron (AIF) and Emmie. —FLETCHER. —A tribute of honor and remembrance to our pal Bill Fletcher. Beneath the cross of sacrifice he lies amongst the honored brave Ever remembered by Beth and Ron Daniels FLETCHER, Cpl. HARDING, Cpl.—A tribute to my pals, Bill and Alex, died of wwounds,Egypt, July 22. 1942.—Ever Remembered by Bill Batty.
Advertiser Tuesday 10 July 1945, SPAVIN. —A token of remembrance to my pal Jack .Spavin, who paid the supreme sacrifice, July 10. 1942, also Bill Fletcher, Alex Harding, and all the boys from the carriers who fell between July 10-22.—Ever remembered by Ron Daniels. 2 48th Bat; A tribute to the memory of my pals, Jack Spavin. M.M. Lester Johnson. Keith Stone. Bill Fletcher and Alex Harding, who made the supreme sacrifice in Egypt. July. 1942. —Ever remembered by Len Batty.
Advertiser Monday 22 July 1946, FLETCHER. —A tribute to the memory of Bill, died of wounds July 22. 1942. Greater lave hath no man—Always remembered by Norma (wife). FLETCHER. —In loving memory of my dear son Bill, died of wounds. El Alamein. July 22. 1942. Though your smile has gone forever And your voice I cannot hear. There will always be those memories Of the son I loved so dear. —Always remembered by mum. FLETCHER. —In memory of my dear brother died or wounds. El Alamein. July 22, 1942. A little white cross a long way from here, marks the last resting place of a brother so dear. —Always remembered by John. FLETCHER. —In memory of our dear brother and uncle, died of wounds. El Alamein, July 22. 1942. Dearer to us than words can tell Was the brother we lost and loved so well We miss you. Bill, we always will: in our hearts you are with us still. —Always remembered by Bet, Bryan and Sandra. FLETCHER. —In memory of our dear brother and uncle, died of wounds. El Alamein in July 32. 1942. You were not spared to see the peace In a country you helped to save. But our thoughts go out to you, dear Bill, Where you lie in a hero's grave. —Always remembered by Jean. Herb. Barrie and Diann. FLETCHER. —In loving memory of dear Bill died of wounds. El Alamein. July 22, 1942. The waves of the ocean divide us And you sleep in a soldier's grave: We remember you as a hero. And treasure the life you gave. —Always remembered by grandma and Grandpa Hever FLETCHER. —In loving memory of my son-ln-law Bill, who died July 22. 1942. at E. Alamein. I know what it is to be lonely; I know what it is to feel sad. But when I think of our dear Bill. in a hero's grave sleeping. I know what ii is to feel proud. —Always remembered by mum FLETCHER, Cpl.—A tribute to the memory of my pal Bill and boys of the 2/48th Btn. who fell July, 1942. —Ever remembered by Hedley Pratt. FLETCHER.— A tribute to my pals. Jack Spavin, M.M., Keith Stone. Lester Johnson. Bill Fletcher, Alex Harding, 2nd 48th Batt., A.I.F. who gave their lives In Egypt July. 1942.—Ever remembered. Len Batty.
Advertiser Tuesday 22 July 1947, FLETCHER In memory of my dear son in law, Cpl Bill. You were the boy we were proud of Always smiling, happy and gay, You gave your life That others may live that way. Ever remembered by mum. FLETCHER. — In memory of my pal Bill (KIA) Tel El Elsa. July 22. 1942. Always remembered by Hedley. FLETCHER. —In loving memory of my dear son Bill died of wounds at El Alamein. July 22. 1942 Gone from us that loving smile. Those bright cheerful ways: The heart that won so many friends In bygone happy days. Ever remembered by mum. FLETCHER. —In loving memory of our dear grandson Bill. died of wounds at El Alamein. July 22. 1942. Your memory we will always cherish: We love to speak your name. In life we loved you dearly. In death we do the same. Ever remembered by gran and grandpa Heyer.
Advertiser Thursday 22 July 1948, FLETCHER. —In loving memory of my dear son Bill, died of wounds El Alamein. July 22. 1942. Sweetest - memories never fade, of the one I loved so dear.—Always remembered by mum. FLETCHER. —In loving memory of my dear brother Bill died of wounds t July 22. 1942. - Lest we forget.—Ever remembered by John. FLETCHER. —in loving memory of our dear brother and uncle Bill, died of wounds July 22. 1942. His dear old smile and cheery voice are wondrous to recall. —Ever remembered By Jean. Herb. Barrie, Diann.
Advertiser Friday 22 July 1949, FLETCHER.—In loving memory of my dear son Bill, died of wounds, El Alamein, July 22, 1942. Fleetest memories fond and true, From one who thought the world of you. —Ever remembered by mum. FLETCHER. —Loving memories brother Bill passed away July 22, 1942. In a soldier's grave in a foreign land, Lies our darling one so dear; A smiling face that did not come home When they sounded the last all clear. —Sadly missed by Jean, Herb, Barrie, Diann. FLETCHER. —Loving memories of our dear brother Bill, died of wounds, July 22, 1942. We loved him in life and love him yet, He's ours to remember when others forget. —Ever remembered by Bet, Bryan, Sandra. FLETCHER. —In loving memory of our dear brother Bill, died of wounds, July 22, 1942. His name is in golden letters In the hearts of those at home. —Ever remembered by John, Kath. FLETCHER. —In loving memory of our dear grandson Bill, died of wounds, July 22, 1942. We remember you as a hero And treasure the life you gave. —Ever remembered by grandma, grandpa Heyer. FLETCHER.—In loving memory of my dear nephew Bill, died of wounds, July 22, 1942. Time will never take away The love my heart holds dear. —Ever remembered by Auntie Pearl (Cowell).

In a strange twist of coincidence, Bill’s twin sister, Jean Norma, married Herbert Scott, a son of Edith Honey (nee Holmes) and second cousin to Bryan Holmes. Bill and Bryan both enlisted and served in the 2/48th Battalion.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion

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