WW1 William Henry Williams

William Henry Williams [1]

William Henry Williams (Service number 42441) was born 31 December 1890. His parents, James and Amelia Williams lived at 107 (was 77) Orakei Road, Remuera, where his father was a stonemason and member of the Remuera Roads Board and Auckland City Council.

William Henry Williams attended Auckland Grammar School and was a carpenter with the Auckland City Council. He married Grace Williams (Hislop) on 29 July 1913 by the Reverend Morgan Richards. They had one daughter Alice Ethel born on 29 November 1914 and lived in Russell Road, (now Benson Road), Remuera, Auckland. [1]

He was 25 years 11 months old when he enlisted as a Rifleman on 8 November 1916, described as 5ft 5inches tall, with blue eyes and fair hair. On 26 April 1917, he embarked on the vessel ‘Pakeha’ and arrived on 28 July 1917 in Plymouth, Devon, England, with Reinforcements J Company, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. He was sent to Etaples camp on the Western Front on 21 September 1917. William was reported as wounded and presumed missing on the 12th October 1917.

The New Zealanders had begun their advances on the 12th October 1917. The preliminary artillery barrage had been largely ineffective because thick mud made it almost impossible to bring heavy guns forward, or to stabilise those that were in position. Exposed to raking German machine-gun fire from both the front and the flank, and unable to get through uncut barbed wire, the New Zealanders were pinned down in shell craters. In terms of lives lost in a single day, the failed attack on Bellevue Spur on 12 October 1917 was probably the greatest disaster in New Zealand’s history. A toll of 842 New Zealand soldiers were either dead or mortally wounded between the lines. For badly wounded soldiers, such as William Henry Williams, lying in the mud with a broken leg, the aftermath of the battle was a private hell; many died before rescuers could reach them.

He was declared missing and killed in action on 12 October 1917 in Ypres, Belgium after a hearing at a Court of Enquiry 18 April 1918. [2]

William Henry Williams is remembered on the:

  • St Aidan’s Church war memorial
  • Auckland Grammar School war memorial
  • Auckland War Memorial Museum, World War 1 Hall of Memories
  • Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, New Zealand Apse, Panel.

Catherine Amelia Williams [2]

His sister Catherine Amelia Williams was a trained nurse and enlisted in the NZ Army Nursing Service (Service number 22/513), as a result of his being killed in action, and was posted as a Staff Nurse/Masseuse on the Marama, HM Hospital Ship. [3]

Read more on Catherine here.


Auckland Star, Volume XLIX, Issue 244, 12 October 1918
HEROES OF PASSCHENDAELE. To-day is the first anniversary of the Battle of Bellevue Spur, behind Passchendaele, in which many of our brave lads lost their lives from a concentration of machine gun, while held up by impassable quagmires. Two New Zealand battalions were engaged, and they sustained heavy casualties, and many were taken prisoner. Tributes to the memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice are published below:

WILLIAMS.—In loving memory of Rifleman W. H. Williams, Twenty-fourth Reinforcements, the dearly beloved husband of Grace Williams, and second son of James and Amelia Williams, of Orakei Road, Remuera, who was killed in action in France, October 12, 1017; aged 26 years. Inserted by his loving wife, parents, brothers and sisters.

WILLIAMS.—In loving memory of my dear brother, 424-tl. Private W. H. Williams  Twenty-fourth Reinforcements killed in action, October 12, 1917. Sadly missed. Inserted by his sister and brother in law, M. and E. Warman.

IN MEMORIAM., Auckland Star, Volume XLIX, Issue 244, 12 October 1918  http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS19181012.2.44