No. 68906 Private William John Carter
William John Carter was born at Lara Lakes, Victoria on 8 September 1898.
His father, John, was 38 and his mother, Elizabeth Ann Curlett, was 33.
His father died on 20 June 1913 in Lara, Victoria, at the age of 53. His mother passed away South Melbourne, Victoria in 1942.
He enlisted in Geelong on 5 September 1918 a few days before his 20th birthday.
He was sent to Broadmeadows Training Camp for basic training from 9 August until 5 September 1918. He was then sent to the Isolation Camp Ascot Vale on 15 September 1918.
The Isolation Camp was established on the Ascot Racecourse co-incidental with an outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis in the training camps. If a man was found to be ill, his "contacts" in the camp (tent mates particularly) were sent off to an isolation camp for three weeks and checked daily for developing symptoms of a contagious disease such as mumps, measles, diphtheria, meningitis and the like.
Men would spend three weeks in the camp having daily throat swabs to look for any signs of disease. Being isolated here might mean the men would miss the embarkation of their battalion and the men with whom they had trained for months.
William left Melbourne for Adelaide, South Australia early October, where he then embarked on HMAT A36 Boonah on 22 October 1918.
HMAT A36 Boonah was the last troopship to leave Australia for the conflict in Europe, it departed from Fremantle on Sunday 30 October 1918.
Before the ship arrived at Durban on 16 November 1918, the first port of call on her passage to Europe, the Armistice had been signed and WWI had come to an end.
The HMAT Boonah was anchored in the Bay of Natal in the hope of avoiding the infection but fresh fruit and vegetables had to be brought aboard and also coal for the return voyage. Many of the native labourers loading the coal evidently were ill with the flu and it is almost certain that they brought the infection to the ship.
The troopship was recalled and departed from Durban, South Africa for the return trip to Fremantle on Sunday 24 November 1918.
The 1918–19 pneumonic influenza outbreak or “Spanish flu” was one of the worst medical disasters in global history. As crowded ships carrying soldiers returned from the European front, the virus had the perfect environment to spread and mutate among the ships inhabitants, many of whom already had compromised immune systems from malnourishment, injury and stress.
William contracted pneumonic influenza and was placed in quarantine on Torrens Island, South Australia on 30 December 1918, which is around 15 kilometres North West of Adelaide. Torrens Island had served as a quarantine station since 1879, to prevent passengers with infectious diseases entering Adelaide.
He was discharged from hospital on 22 January 1919 and then discharged from the Army on February 6, 1919.
He married Myrtle Eyre (1904-1985) in 1924 in Victoria. They had four children during their marriage.
William John Carter died at Croydon, Victoria on 8 March 1974 at the age of 75. He was cremated at Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Casia Wall ZF Niche 403.
Medals and Entitlements:
- British War Medal
Lest we forget
Service record: NAA: B2455, CARTER W J Date of death: Registration number 5717
The book, The Boonah Incident by Ian Darroch, 2004 provides a detailed account of the Spanish Flu aboard the ship and a great deal of information is available on the internet.
Woodman Point memorial remembers the nightmare of Spanish flu after World War I