No.2410 Private William Joseph Maher
William James Maher was born in 1890 at Brunswick to Bernard Joseph Maher and Margaret (nee Fox). His parents had married at Tallarook in 1882, and their ten children were:
- Mary Maher - born 1881 at Melbourne, died 1882 at Hotham West
- Catherine Maher - born 1883 at Hotham
- Ina Marguretta Maher - born 1885 at Flemington, died 1907 at South Melbourne
- John Vincent Maher - born 1886 at Melbourne, died 1886 at Hotham West
- Ellen Maher - born 1887 at Melbourne
- William Joseph Maher - born 1890 at Brunswick (A.I.F. No.2410)
- Thomas Francis Maher - born 1892 at Brunswick
- Elsie Maher - born 1894 at Brunswick
- Bernard Maher - born 1897 at Brunswick (A.I.F. No.3348)
- Florence Maher - born 1901 at Brunswick
According to his mother’s obituary * published in Werribee Shire Banner, 29 September 1927, p.3. the early years of the Maher family began at North Melbourne, where her husband (Mr B. J. Maher) worked as a wood merchant. He then became a police constable, an insurance agent, and a commercial traveller, before moving to Laverton in 1912.
The Electoral Rolls record that in 1905 William's parents were operating a hotel at 369 City Road, South Melbourne. In 1909 they had moved to 691 High Street in Armadale, and his father was then working as a traveller. In 1912 the family moved to Laverton permanently, and B. J. Maher still worked as a traveller.
In August 1914, Mr B.J. Maher nominated for a seat on the Werribee Shire Council. He was then described as being both a shrewd businessman and a farmer.
Werribee Shire Banner, 6 August 1914, p.2.
He subsequently won his seat on the Shire. Two years later, in August 1916, he was unanimously elected as Shire President.
Werribee Shire Banner, 31 August 1916, p.3.
B.J. Maher continued serving as a Werribee Shire Councillor until 1928. His death in 1937 and his obituary was reported in the local newspaper.
Werribee Shire Banner, 15 April 1937, p.3.
The family property, "Laverton Park" at Laverton, had been sold by July 1921.
Werribee Shire Banner, 7 July 1921, p.2.
William Maher applied to enlist earlier in the Great War, but had been rejected because of the condition of his teeth. As the need for more men increased, this problem seems to have been overlooked, and he was accepted.
At the age of 25 years, William Maher (omitting his second Christian name) swore his oath, and was enlisted into the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) at Melbourne on 15 July 1915. He was sent to the Broadmeadows Camp for initial training, and this was completed on 30 August 1915. He was then appointed to the 5th Reinforcements for the 24th Infantry Battalion.
On 29 September 1915, Private William Maher embarked at Melbourne per R.M.S. Osterley, with the 5th Reinforcements for the 24th Infantry Battalion. They sailed for Egypt, and was taken on strength with the 24th Battalion at Tel-el Kebir on 10 January 1916. His Battalion had just returned from Gallipoli, and were being brought up to strength.
After training and refitting, the Battalion moved to Ismalia on 2 February 1916, where they took over a section of the Canal Zone Defences at Sphinx about 10 miles east of Ismailia. They remained there until they were relieved on 16 March 1916, when they moved to Moascar.
The Prince of Wales and General Birdwood reviewed a parade of the Brigade and Battalion at Moascar, after which the Battalion received orders to proceed to France, as part of the B.E.F.
On 20 March 1916, the Battalion embarked at Alexandria in three ships; H.M.T. Lake Michigan, H.M.T. Magdalena and H.M.T. City of Edinburgh. Six days later, they disembarked at Marseilles and moved to billets at Rebecq, in Belgium. Here they underwent further training.
The Battalion saw action at Fleurbaix (April 1916), L’Hallobeau (May 1916), Erquinghem and Rue Morle (June 1916). They then took part in the major offensive around Pozieres and Mouquet Farm in July and August 1917.
On 2 August 1916, the Battalion were resting in the Sausage Valley, and fatigue parties were carrying supplies to the front line. It was while performing these duties that William Maher was injured, when he received a gunshot wound to his left hand.
He was treated by the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station (C.C.S.), the Ambulance Train and then sent to the 4th General Hospital at Rouen for three weeks. After a week at the 6th Convalescent Depot at Rouen, he was able to return to the 24th Battalion on 29 August 1916. They had just come out of the line at Mouquet Farm, and were resting at Bonneville.
In October 1916, the Battalion was in the Ypres area, before moving to Longueval in November 1916. Here they worked on the roads and the railway lines, between their times in the front line trenches.
During an action in the Montauban area on 24 December 1916, Private Maher was wounded for a second time. He received a gunshot wound to the side of his face, and was treated by the 5th Australian Field Ambulance and the Casualty Clearing Station, before being admitted to the 10th General Hospital at Rouen. After receiving treatment, and convalescing, Private Maher was transferred to the No.2 Commonwealth Base Depot at Rouen, on 12 January 1917.
Before he could return to his Battalion, William was admitted to the 26th General Hospital at Etaples on 16 January 1917, suffering from scabies. He was passed to the 25th General Hospital for a month of treatment before he was evacuated to England per H.S. Cambria.
On 13 February 1917 he was admitted to the Canadian Ontario Military Hospital at Orpington in Kent, where he was diagnosed with having "Impetigo", after scabies. William remained there for two months, before being transferred to the 2nd Auxiliary Hospital at Southall in Middlesex on 12 April 1917.
Private Maher must have been suffering with other medical issues. He was transferred from the 2nd Auxiliary Hospital to the Middlesex War Hospital at Napsbury on 1 May 1917, and remained under their care for two months. The main role of that facility was providing care for mental patients. It was while he was in their care that William was diagnosed with "Melancholia" and it was decided that he would return to Australia "...for a change".
On 21 July 1917, Private Maher embarked for Australia per the Hospital Ship Euripides, and he arrived home on 18 September 1917. One month later, on 24 October 1917, he was discharged from the A.I.F., as Military Unfit.
Effective from his date of discharge (25 October 1917), William Joseph Maher was granted an Incapacity Pension of 30 shillings per fortnight.
The Laverton community held a grand welcome home event on 14 October 1919, when 14 local volunteers were presented with inscribed medals. Private W J Maher and his brother, Sapper B W Maher both were recipients.
Werribee Shire Banner, 23 October 1919, p.2.
The Victorian Electoral Rolls show that William Maher lived in the Laverton area between 1919 and 1931, and that he worked there as a labourer. He married Irene Marjorie Baines in 1923, and they moved to 35 Church Street in Abbotsford around 1931.
Between 1936 they lived at various addressed in the Abbotsford/Richmond area, and William had become a Foreman by 1942. Throughout the 1960s he worked for the local Council, until his name was taken off the Electoral Roll in 1972.
William Joseph Maher died on 20 January 1977, aged 87 years and was buried in the Melbourne Cemetery. His headstone reads:
“Army plaque. No.2410, Private W.J. Maher, 24th Battalion. Died 20 Jan 1977, aged 87. Beloved uncle of Max. R.I.P.”
The Victorian Death Index CD states:
“MAHER William Joseph, Father - Bernard, Mother – unknown, died at BUND, aged 86 years, No.1977/2241.”
Medals and Entitlements:
- 1914-15 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Name on the Werribee Shire Oak Board: "MAHER, W.J."
The name "Maher, W., Laverton" first appeared in the Werribee Shire Banner, 22 July 1915, p.3.
* When his mother died in September 1927, he was not listed as a surviving child in her obituary.
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