No.1243 Trooper William John Gardner
William John Gardner, known as Jack to his family and friends, was the eldest son of Peter and Emily Gardner. He was born in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales on 23 February 1894. By the time war had been declared in August 1914, the Gardner family was living at Synott Street, Werribee. William had two brothers:
He had been working as a labourer prior to enlisting on 6 July 1915. Like his younger brother Peter, he had served in the 29th (Port Phillip) Light Horse Regiment for three years, as well as spending 18 months as a cadet. Aged just 21, he was assigned to the 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment.
Following basic training, he left Australia on 27 September 1915 for Egypt. In January 1916, he was taken on strength by the 4th Light Horse Regiment at Heliopolis. By the end of March he had landed at Marseilles in France.
During 1916, the decision had been taken to send two squadrons of the 4th Light Horse Regiment to the Western Front. In July, they were joined by a squadron from the New Zealand Otago Mounted Rifles and became known as II ANZAC Mounted Regiment. Despite the changing face of war, it was deemed that mounted units still had a role to play. In France and Belgium, the Mounted Regiment became responsible for traffic control, rear area security, prisoner escort tasks and, when the conditions allowed it, mounted reconnaissance.
Although Trooper William Gardner’s military record isn’t especially clear, it would seem that he became part of this establishment. He was also seconded on a number of occasions to a unit of Royal Engineers that served with the 2nd Australian Division and the office of the Assistant Provost Marshal, the Division’s military police.
In January 1917, he was sent on leave for two weeks. Unlike British troops who could return to their families, Australia was just too far away so leave was generally taken in quieter areas of France or, in many cases, to England. The record shows that Trooper Gardner spent his last leave in France. By the end of April, Trooper Gardner was seconded to the Assistant Provost Marshal’s office once more. He was still on secondment when he was severely wounded in both thighs and evacuated to the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital at Doullens in France. He died following a massive haemorrhage on 9 May 1917 aged just 23.
Sadly, his younger brother, Driver Peter Gardner, 7th Australian Field Artillery Brigade – was also killed in France in the same year on 9 November aged just 21. A letter in Trooper William Gardner’s military file written well after the war ended suggests that he was wounded near Bullecourt in France. In the 2nd Australia Division war diary for May 1917, it notes that on 8 May "…the enemy put heavy barrage on Bullecourt and then extended it right across our front line and supports." Perhaps it was this barrage that was to take William Gardner’s life?
Trooper William John Gardner is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (Plot 12. Row A. Grave 42A) almost three kilometres west of Poperinghe in Belgium.
Medals & Entitlements:
[received by his father and mother]
- 1914/15 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
- Memorial Scroll and plaque
Service record citation: NAA: B2455, GARDNER WILLIAM JOHN
Light Horse Regiment history and war diary entries - Australian War Memorial