William Edmund HANSEN MM


HANSEN, William Edmund

Service Number: 2381
Enlisted: 6 April 1915
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Drouin, Gippsland, Victoria, Australia , 1893
Home Town: Balaklava, Wakefield, South Australia
Schooling: Warragul, Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed in Action, France, 10 August 1918
Cemetery: Heath Cemetery
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Riverton Memorial Community Swimming Pool Memorial and Flagpole, Riverton Pictorial Honour Board, Riverton RSL Hall Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

6 Apr 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 10th Infantry Battalion
11 Nov 1916: Wounded Wounded in action by shrapnel and obtained a G.S.W whilst fighting on the battlefield in France.
8 Jan 1918: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal
4 Jun 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 2381, 10th Infantry Battalion
3 Sep 1918: Honoured Military Medal

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Biography contributed by Saint Ignatius' College

William Edmund Hansen was born in Drouin, Victoria in Australia sometime between June or July 1893. He had a fair complexion, fair hair and blue eyes. He was born to Henry Hansen and Elizabeth Kempe and he was raised as a Lutheran. Hansen already had an older brother, Ernest Oswald Hansen who was 4 years older than him. His father Henry Hansen became deceased shortly after his birth. After receiving an education in the town of Warragul, Hansen worked as a labourer. The family later moved to the South Australian town of Balaklava, where his mother would spend the rest of her life. Following the formal declaration of war of WW1 in late 1914, Hansen enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at the Keswick recruitment agency on the 6th of April 1915. He was assigned to the 10th Battalion with the rank of Private. His mother who was living in the town of Balaklava would be stated as his next of kin. He was 62kg and 5ft 3 and ¾in tall at the time. By enlisting he was following in the footsteps of his brother Ernest Oswald Hansen who enlisted a year before the war broke out.


He later completed his training at the Morphettville Camp, before embarking to Egypt on the HMAT A61 Kanowna on Wednesday the 23rd of June 1915. Hansen arrived in Gallipoli on 17th of September, 1915, where he would fight on the front lines against the Turks. On Monday the 27th of March 1916, Hansen travelled from Alexandria to Marseilles, France via the HT Saxonia. On the 11th of November 1916, Hansen would be wounded in action by shrapnel whilst fighting on the battlefield. He was admitted to Le Tréport General Hospital. During his stay he also developed Mumps and was admitted to Etaples General hospital on the 8th of December 1916. He was later discharged from Tidworth Military Hospital on the 5th of May 1917. On the 20th of June 1917, Hansen left South Hampton in England and was sent to France although he stopped in Perham Downs before leaving England. On the 21st of June 1917, he was sent to an Australian General Depot in Havre, France, where he would spend time completing further training.


 Hansen re-joined the 10th Battalion on the 14th of July, where he would fight against the Germans on the Western Front in France and Belgium. He was later promoted to the title of ‘Temporary Corporal’ on the 8th of October. This would later be changed and his title would simply be ‘Corporal’ by the 8th of January, 1918. On the 23rd of February 1918, Hansen re-joined his unit from school and proceeded to France where he would do more fighting on the front lines and fight in the Battle of Amiens. The Battle of Amiens had just over 1,000 Australian soldiers and although Hansen was not an officer he still had a vital leadership role and over 3 years’ experience.

Hansen won a Military Medal by his actions on the night of 2nd/3rd June, 1918, as part of a night raid. According to the recommendation, ""Corporal Hansen displayed exceptional coolness, bravery and judgment" in leading a bombing party on an enemy trench. Unfortunately, his MM would not be officially awarded until after his death.

Hansen found himself in a bitter and savage engagement at Mont de Merris. The Germans in this action put up a stubborn defence, and numerous casualties were sustained by both sides in the heavy fighting. Hansen’s cool and calm reaction to the ever-present danger of the Germans was a great inspiration to the soldiers in his unit. His constant reassuring, and his endless encouragement was of great benefit to his unit. Sadly on August 10, 1918, at roughly 3:00-3:30 PM, Corporal William Edmund Hansen was shot in the chest by a M.G. bullet, (a standard German machine gun), at what was known as ‘Crepy Wood’ or ‘Creping Wood’, which has now ceased to exist. Hansen succumbed shortly after. He was 26 at the time of his death. He was seen lying dead in the trench just near a German trench and was temporarily buried with 5 other men who were killed at roughly the same time. A plain, white cross was placed over this grave with the names of the people inside the grave inscribed in pencil. Padre Hayden (Father Hayden) conducted a service on the 11th of August in memory of the men who had died the previous day. Hansen’s loss was massively felt by all he served with, officers included. On October 7, 1918, he was awarded the Military Medal (M.M) for his outstanding courage and unswerving devotion to duty. On the 3rd of September 1918, a letter was sent from Hansen’s mother Elizabeth Kempe requesting she be sent his belongings and be told where his grave was.  Hansen’s brother Ernest Oswald Hansen would go on to survive the war and returned to Australia on the 23rd of July 1919. Hansen’s grave can now be found in Heath Cemetery (Plot VII, Row G, Grave No. 14), Harbonniers, France. His name is located at panel 59 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial.



How William Edmund Hansen showed the Anzac Spirit


William Edmund Hansen’s service reflects the ANZAC Spirit through his extreme commitment to the Australian Imperial Force. Hansen spent 3 years consistently serving and moving from battle to battle. When he was injured he went from hospital to hospital yet continued to serve. He was recognised for his great leadership skills and promoted to the title of Corporal. He showed great courage by remaining calm during the Battle of Amiens and helping to lead his unit into battle. His endurance and ability to never leave his post is admirable and shows his mentality and physical strength. Hansen was so well respected and loved that he was even mentioned in a book written about noteworthy Australian soldiers. It stated that he was calm even in tricky situations and that his death was not taken lightly by the soldiers in his unit.




·      HANSEN, William Edmund 2019, Virtual War Memorial, accessed 24 March 2019, <https://vwma.org.au/explore/people/796536>.

·       Corporal William Edmund Hansen 2019, Australian War Memorial, accessed 24 March 2019, <https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10239824>.

·      William Edmund HANSEN 2019, AIF project, accessed 24 March 2019, <https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=126131>.

·      Kenney, PF 2011, We Who Proudly Served, Xlibris Corporaion, N/a, accessed 24 March 2019, <https://books.google.com.au/books?id=bQS9CQAAQBAJ&pg=PT756&lpg=PT756&dq=william+edmund+hansen&source=bl&ots=qoP_paJ7bI&sig=ACfU3U2FKGWghgTB68YdI9N_4GK6dg-vZg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiQvLPe5drgAhXLbisKHa6_AxsQ6AEwCnoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=william%20edmund%20hansen&f=false>.

·      HANSEN, William Edmund 2014, National Archives of Australia, accessed 24 March 2019, <https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/SessionTimeout.aspx>.

·      William Edmund Hansen n.d., Discovering Anzacs, accessed 24 March 2019, <https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/180677>.

·      Ernest Oswald HANSEN n.d., AIF project, accessed 24 March 2019, <https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=125993>.

·      William Edmund HANSEN n.d., South Australian Red Cross Burea, accessed 24 March 2019, <https://sarcib.ww1.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/soldier/william-edmund-hansen>.