William Charles Wagenknecht BANNISTER

BANNISTER, William Charles Wagenknecht

Service Number: 131
Enlisted: 20 August 1914, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Staff Sergeant
Last Unit: 3rd Field Ambulance
Born: White Cliffs, New South Wales, 13 April 1894
Home Town: Broken Hill, Broken Hill Municipality, New South Wales
Schooling: Commercial Training College, Adelaide
Occupation: Stenographer
Died: Died of wounds (GSW buttocks and thigh), France, 11 November 1916, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Heilly Station Cemetery
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Broken Hill Barrier District Roll of Honour, Broken Hill War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

20 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 131, Adelaide, South Australia
1 Sep 1914: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant, 3rd Field Ambulance
20 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, 131, 3rd Field Ambulance, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '22' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Medic embarkation_ship_number: A7 public_note: ''
20 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Sergeant, 131, 3rd Field Ambulance, HMAT Medic, Adelaide
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, 131, 3rd Field Ambulance, ANZAC / Gallipoli
15 Jan 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Staff Sergeant, 3rd Field Ambulance
18 Oct 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Staff Sergeant, 131, 3rd Field Ambulance, 'The Winter Offensive' - Flers/Gueudecourt winter of 1916/17, --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 131 awm_unit: 3 Field Ambulance awm_rank: S/Sergeant awm_died_date: 1916-11-11
11 Nov 1916: Wounded Staff Sergeant, 131, 3rd Field Ambulance, 'The Winter Offensive' - Flers/Gueudecourt winter of 1916/17, GSW (thigh and buttocks)

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Biography contributed by Sue Smith

William Charles Wagenknecht Bannister was born William Charles Wagenknecht, at White Cliffs, N.S.W. on 13 Apr 1894, the first-born son of Otto and Mary Wagenknecht. 

His parents had married in 1892 at Wilcannia, N.S.W. His younger brother, Otto, was born 2 years after him in 1896 but sadly, Otto Jnr. died as an infant. Sadder still his mother Mary died the following year when William was only 3 years of age. 

His father Otto married again in 1900 but he too died just 4 years later aged 38, leaving William an orphan at the age of 10. 

William went to live with his Aunt (mother’s sister), Helen, who was married to Pringill Bannister. They had no children of their own, and Pringill had died the year before William’s father had, so it appears that William took his aunt’s surname of Bannister. 

This poor boy had already had to deal with losing several adult family members and on New Year’s Day 1907 it would happen again.  A newspaper article reported that on the morning of New Year’s Day 1907, William heard his aunt fall in her bedroom.  When he investigated he found her dead on the floor.  William was aged 13 at the time.  Over a period of 10 years he had lost 5 family members.  After this last tragedy it appears that William went to live with his mother’s other sister, Susanna Frew.  She was married, had 3 daughters, lived in Broken Hill and was listed as his next of kin on his service records.

After completing his schooling William worked as a correspondence clerk for the Central Mine in Broken Hill for approximately 5 years.  He also played lacrosse.  He served with the 19th Australian Medical Corps “C” Section before being one of the first from Broken Hill to enlist for WW1 on the 20th August 1914 at Adelaide, aged 20 years and 4 months.

In his service records he was described as being 5ft 7inches tall with a fair complexion, brown eyes and fair hair and his religion as Roman Catholic.  His service number was 131 and his initial rank was a Private with the 3rd Field Ambulance, “B” Section, however, because of his previous service with the AMC prior to enlisting, he was promoted to Sergeant on the 1st September 1914.  He embarked for Egypt from Adelaide, South Australia, on the 20th October 1914 on the ship “HMAT Medic”.

In early March 1915 he proceeded to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli.  He served at Gallipoli for the whole of the campaign and it was there that he would have first met my grandfather, Cyril Morsley SN 1707 who was also serving with the 3rd Field Ambulance.  Their serving together at that time was short lived.  Cyril had arrived at Anzac Cove on the 7th December and on the 17th December William was admitted to the hospital ship “Caledonian” with bronchitis, immediately prior to the evacuation.  Three days later he was admitted to the hospital ship “LaFranc” with influenza and transported to Alexandria 3 days later.  He was admitted to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Heliopolis, Cairo where he spent Christmas and New Year’s Day.  On the 4th January 1916 he proceeded to the overseas base at Giza then 10 days later rejoined his unit, the 3rd Field Ambulance, at the Tel-el-kebir camp.  The following day, the 15th January 1916, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

On the 27th March 1916 the 3rd Field Ambulance embarked from Alexandria on the ship “Kingstonian” bound for France.  An entry in my grandfather’s 1916 war diary records that during the journey they lost overboard one of the men from their Unit, Private Percy Fennell SN 2252.  He was seen to be sleep walking then fall overboard.  The alarm was raised, the ship was stopped and a search was made for him but no trace was found.  The ship continued on and Cyril’s diary records their Unit disembarked at Marseilles on the 3rd April.

On the 9th September 1916, William was commended for his work, the official document reading:

“The work of this N.C.O. has always been of the highest standard of efficiency whether in charge of Nursing Duties or of the Orderly Room of this Unit.  He has shown himself thoroughly reliable in the discharge of his duties thereby rendering the greatest assistance to his Officers.”

Two months later in early November, during the battle of Gueudecourt, the 3rd Field Ambulance were in the thick of the bombardment.  Entries made in my grandfather’s diary over several days records they had been inundated with wounded, some very severe and some whose suffering was only brought to an end through death.  On the 9th November Cyril records in his diary that the previous night their Unit had had the heaviest night that he’d ever known with over 650 casualties having been brought in.  Then on the 11th November their camp was bombed.  Sergeant Roy Elliott SN 165 was killed instantly and Lance Corporal Loudon McNeil SN 4027 and several others of their Unit were critically wounded, including William.  They were brought into the 38th Casualty Clearing Station but sadly, McNeil and William both succumbed to their injuries which were horrific as recorded by my grandfather in his diary.  Cyril was on duty and present when William died, aged 22.  The 3rd Field Ambulance suffered a great loss with the deaths of these 3 men on the 11th November, the day on which 2 years later was the day the guns fell silent on the Western Front after 4 years of continuous warfare.  This date, from then on, became a day of remembrance for all those who gave their lives in the war.

William was buried the following day at the Heilly Station Cemetery, France.  My grandfather described William’s funeral in his diary:

“3 o/c military funeral for Staff Sergeant Bannister - 20 men - 10 Sergeants.  Honour guards carried the body covered with the Union Jack, 2 Colonels and 2 Majors present – the Last Post impressively sounded.”

William’s aunt, being his next of kin, received 1 parcel of his personal effects in July 1917, a Memorial Scroll in 1921, a Memorial Plaque in 1923 and his war medals.

Memorials: William’s name appears on the Adelaide 1 National War Memorial and in his home town of Broken Hill, on the Memorial Reserve WW1 Cenotaph which has the following inscription:

To The Memory Of The Men Of Broken Hill And District

Who Gave Their Lives In The Great War 1914 – 1919

Their Name Liveth For Evermore

They Were A Wall Unto Us Both By Night And Day


Medals: William Charles Wagenknecht Bannister was awarded:

1914-1915 Star     13532

British War Medal   2702

Victory Medal         2702

The Anzac Commemorative Medallion was instituted in 1967 by Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt.  It was awarded to surviving members of the Australian forces who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula, or in direct support of the operations from close off shore, at any time during the period from the first Anzac Day in April 1915 to the date of final evacuation in January 1916.  Next of kin, or other entitled persons, are entitled to receive the medallion on behalf of their relatives if the medallion has not been issued.

The medallion is cast in bronze and is approximately 75 millimetres high and 50 millimetres wide.  The obverse of the medallion depicts Simpson and his donkey carrying a wounded soldier to safety.  It is bordered on the lower half by a laurel wreath above the word ANZAC.  The reverse shows a map in relief of Australia and New Zealand superimposed by the Southern Cross.  The lower half is bordered by New Zealand fern leaves.  The name and initials of the recipient is engraved on the reverse.  The medallion is issued in a presentation box.

(Australian Government - Department of Defence)

Submitted by Sue Smith November 2016






Staff-Sergeant W. C. W. Bannister, who died from wounds in France on November 11, enlisted from here in August, 1914, and served all through the Gallipoli campaign. Later he was for a time in Egypt, and left for France with the 1st Australian Division. Before enlisting he was employed at the Central mine as correspondence clerk, and was popular among his colleagues. Staff-Sergeant Bannister was a nephew of Mrs. L. A. Frew, of Leyton, Zebina-street, Broken Hill. He was 22 years of age last April." - from the Adelaide Chronicle 09 Dec 1916 (nla.gov.au)