This is our story of the life of William Arthur FRASER.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Enlistment in 41st battalion, AIF

One thing is certain he became a Sergeant on  22nd February 1916 whist still at Bell’s Paddock Training Camp in Brisbane, as a member of the 3rd Division 11th Brigade, 41st Battalion, “A” Company, a wholly Queensland Contingent.

Following his marriage on the 4th May 1916 at the Mission House Brisbane, with my Grandmother being pregnant, he sailed on HMS “Demosthenes” for Plymouth England on 18th May 1916 with the 41st Battalion.

NCOs of A Company, 41st Battalion on board HMAT Demosthenes
The 3rd Division was under the command of General Monash who insisted the men be trained for many months at Salisbury Plains. This training was ridiculed by troops already in action but Monash’s attention to the finest detail was soon put to the test, and proven, when they went into battle. William had proceeded to France in November 1916. By March 1917 he is admitted to 51st General Hospital with Gonorrhoea for 82 days.

NCOs of A Company, 41st Battalion at Salisbury Plains before travelling to France.
He obviously uses this time well as on 26th June he is promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, in the field. The 41st Battalion takes part in the fighting at Messines in July and William attends Infantry School around this time.
The Third Battle of Ypres takes place in September and October 1917 with the objective of Passchendaele. The Australians placed along the railway cutting from Zonnabeke,(close to where Tyne Cot Cemetery now is) waited  in the continual rain for the battle to begin. The 41st Battalion were timed for 6am on 4th October for the assault on Broodseinde Ridge.  They encountered heavy German shelling followed by trench-mortar bombardments. The Australians sustained heavy losses with some platoons reduced to 10 men from 35. The German machine gunners resisted the Allied onslaught secure in their pillboxes. “Another pillbox was fired on with rifle grenades and then rushed by Lieutenant Fraser (41st) who thus set free the checked troops.”So records CEW Bean in Volume 4 of the Official History of Australia .

 The citation for this action and the award of the Distinguished Service Order to Lieutenant William Arthur Fraser reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when his platoon was checked by machine gun, he located it and accompanied only by his runner, attacked the dug-out from the rear, killed ten men and captured 20 others, together with the machine gun.”

It is tantalizing to think that when on leave in London from 5th to 22nd December1917, to receive from the King, the DSO, on 19th December at Buckingham Palace, that members of his family may have been present, but again correspondence shows no records were kept of visitors.

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