No.19739 Private William Arthur Anderson
William Arthur Anderson was born in Geelong on 17 February 1886. Prior to the war, he had worked as a clerk and was living at Werribee, Victoria. His father, described as next-of-kin on his enlistment form, was living at Geelong Road, West Footscray.
He first enlisted in Melbourne on 21 August 1914 and was assigned to the 6th Battalion as a Private (service number 163). This battalion was one of the first raised after war was declared and comprised predominantly Victorians.
As his record shows, William wasn’t going to let the ‘small matter’ of bullet wounds to his face and shoulder keep him out of the war.
The 6th Battalion left Australia in October 1914 and sailed for Egypt arriving on 2 December 1914. In the months that followed, William and his mates were put through a rigorous training program
On 25 April 1915, the 6th Battalion was part of the second wave to land at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles. By early May, the Allies were attempting to strengthen their toehold on the peninsula and William’s battalion was part of the assault on Krithia.
It was to be a costly move. Little ground was made and the battalion lost a third of its strength – the extent of the losses noted in the one-page entry for the whole of June which read: “During this period the Battalion being some 500 below establishment, was in reserve at ANZAC. Nothing worthy of note took place.” – Lieutenant-Colonel Bennett, Comdg 6th Battalion, AIF.
William’s military record says that he received bullet wounds to the face and shoulder on 16 May 1915. The wounds were sufficiently severe to see him repatriated back to Australia and, following treatment and recuperation, was discharged as medically unfit in February 1916.
Fast forward to May 1918 when William re-enlisted - this time as 19739 Private William Arthur Anderson, Sea Transport Section, Army Medical Corps. By June he was leaving Australia once again in the service of his country – this time aboard the Australian Hospital Ship Kanowna bound for Egypt and the Suez. By now he was 32 years old.
[The Kanowna had started life in Dumbarton, Scotland. She was built in 1903 and during peacetime plied passengers and cargo between coastal ports around Australia. When war broke out, she was requisitioned first as a troop carrier before being converted into a hospital ship in 1915]..
It would appear that William endured three voyages on the AHS Kanowna. The first to Egypt, departing Sydney on 5 June 1918, was renowned for atrocious sea conditions which brought seemingly endless bouts of seasickness and searing heat. The Kanowna ended its final voyage as a hospital ship in Sydney in early March 1919. After so many years of gallant service, it was to have an ignominious end some 10 years later, running aground near Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria and sinking.
It was also to be the end of Private William Anderson’s military career. He was declared medically unfit and discharged in May 1919.
Medals & Entitlements:
- 1914/15 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Lest we forget
NAA: B2455, ANDERSON W A
https://www.awm.gov.au/ - 6th Battalion history and war diary
http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/groupstories/3400 - AHS Kanowna