William George Vincent (Billy) WILLIAMS

WILLIAMS, William George Vincent

Service Number: 294
Enlisted: 4 August 1914, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Able Seaman
Last Unit: Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force
Born: Richmond, Victoria, Australia, 24 November 1886
Home Town: Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Melbourne City Council employee
Died: Died of Wounds, Rabaul, German New Guinea, Rabaul, Gazelle Peninsula, New Pomerania, Bismarck Archipelago, German New Guinea, 11 September 1914, aged 27 years
Cemetery: Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea
Bita Paka War Cemetery, Bita Paka, Rabaul, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Crib Point RAN WW1 Roll of Honour (Panel 1), Northcote Cenotaph, Northcote First Casualties of World War One Memorial Plaque
Show Relationships

World War 1 Service

4 Aug 1914: Enlisted Able Seaman, 294, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, Melbourne, Victoria
19 Aug 1914: Embarked Able Seaman, 294, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, HMAT Berrima, Melbourne
11 Sep 1914: Involvement Able Seaman, 294, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, German New Guinea, HMAT Berrima

Help us honour William George Vincent Williams's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by John Edwards


First Australian serving in Australian Forces to lose his life in the Great War 

"...294 Able Seaman William George Vincent Williams, AN&MEF. The first recorded Australian casualty of the First World War, AB Williams died on 11 September 1914 on HMAT Berrima, after receiving wounds from German sniper fire during the seizure of a German wireless station at Rabaul, New Britain. Born in Richmond, Vic, on 24 November 1885, Williams was a Melbourne City Council employee prior to his enlistment in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF)." - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au) (www.awm.gov.au)

"William G. V. Williams, A.B. 

Killed in the action at Herbertshohe on Friday. Williams, who was 28 years of age, was a Victorian, and was the support of his mother, Mrs. B. Robinson, who lives at 26 Beaver-road, Northcote, Melbourne. He went to sea as a boy, and became an able seaman on the steamer Westralla. He served also on the Loongana and the Paloona. He was well known on the watersides of Sydney and Hobart as well as in Melbourne. He quitted the sea some time ago, and found employment in Melbourne City Corporation Electric Works. He was a member of the Royal Australian Navy Reserve, and had done more than the four of the five years' service, which was covered by his enlistment. He had one more drill to attend for the completion of his service. when he was ordered on for sign duty. He was one of the best rifle and revolver shots, in the brigade, and was generally known as a plucky, vigorous, and athletic man. 


When the employees of the Electric Supply Works reached the power-house this morning for work they lined up in the yards and stood bareheaded while the siren was blown as a mark of sorrow for the death of their comrade, W. G. V. Williams, R.A.N.R., killed in action in New Britain." - from the Sydney Sun 14 Sep 1914 (nla.gov.au) (nla.gov.au)


Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

William G. V. [George Vincent] Williams, A.U., was a member of the Royal Naval Reserve, and was just completing his fifth year of service. He was 28 years of age, and was a resident of Beaver's road, Northcote, and a member of the Richmond Rifle Club. Throughout the district he was well known and extremely popular, and was a prominent member of the Orange lodge, No. 92, and P.A.F.S., No. 1. Mrs. Robinson, when seen on Sunday, was completely prostrated by the telegram which had reached her containing the news of the death of her only son. He had only a week to go to complete his full term of service in the reserve when he received orders to hold himself in readiness to go on service. The following day he received orders. He was a lad enthusiastic in the cause of duty, and he probably met his death in his anxiety to get to the German wireless station to demolish the apparatus. According to information supplied to Mrs. Robinson, the men had been landed, and were proceeding inland to the wireless station, a distance of five miles. Bush fighting took place over four miles of country. On Sunday morning the following telegram was forwarded to her: "We regret to say that the rear-admiral commanding reports that your son has been killed in operations against the German islands. The Minister of Defence and Naval Board offer their deepest sympathy." Deceased was a brother of Mrs. Anthosen. The deepest sympathy is felt for Mrs. Robinson in her great loss.


Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From In Memory Of
In Memory Of Able Seaman William George Vincent “Billy” Williams. He was the first Australian casualty of WW1.

Able Seaman Williams, who was living in Jolimont when the war began, had spent nearly five years as a naval reservist, and had just one week left to serve when he was placed on standby.

He was called up for service the following day, going into barracks at the Naval Depot at Williamstown. Such was the speed of his call-up that he was unable to contact his mother and sister to let them know where he was.
In August, Able Seaman Williams and his fellow reservists travelled to Sydney, where they were sent straight to Cockatoo Island. Here they boarded the transport ship Berrima, and departed the next day.
When the ship stopped at Palm Island, Lieutenant Roland Bowen and 24 other men, including Able Seaman Williams, were selected as the initial landing force and transferred to HMAS Sydney. This force then sailed via Port Moresby to New Britain.

They landed unopposed at Kabakaul early on the 11th of September, 1914. Lieutenant Bowen’s orders were to move inland and destroy a wireless station believed to be at Bitapaka. As the party set out a brief fire-fight occurred with a German-held position; this was quickly captured and a number of prisoners were taken.

The group moved on, but Able Seaman Williams and two others remained behind to ferry messages and direct reinforcements. Noticing some Indigenous locals in a nearby coconut plantation, Able Seaman Williams and another sailor went to investigate. No threat was detected but, as the two men returned to the road, Able Seaman Williams was shot. He was the first Australian casualty of WW1.

Captain Brian Pockley, a doctor who had accompanied Lieutenant Bowen’s landing force, attended Able Seaman Williams and, realising the wound was mortal, ordered that he be taken to the beach. He gave his Red Cross arm band to one of the sailors carrying Able Seaman Williams.

Captain Pockley was shot soon after, and both men were taken to the Berrima. The medical staff on board did their best to make them comfortable, but Captain Pockley died shortly before 2 pm, Able Seaman Williams following soon after. The bodies of both men were taken ashore and buried that evening at Herbertshöhe.

Able Seaman Williams was 28 years old.

Lest We Forget.