Sergeant Arthur Carter Williams +
Pakenham & District War Memorial
Born:1888, Stawell, Victoria
Enlisted: 1 October 1914 aged 26
Unit: 14th Battalion, A Company / 7th Reinforcement (SERN: 147 / 2485)
Served: Egypt, Gallipoli and Western Front
Died: 8 July 1918, near Hamel, France
Arthur was the son of Joshua Whitby and Jessie Charlotte Carter. Arthur’s father died when he was young, and his mother subsequently married William Williams, a state school teacher who brought Arthur up from a young age (1). By 1914, Arthur was a farmer with properties at Pakenham and Koo Wee Rup, which he apparently worked together with his brother Osmond and his brother-in-law Samuel Henry (“Harry”) Mills (2). Arthur was 26 years old when he enlisted for the AIF on 1 October 1914. He was assigned as a private to the 14th Battalion, “A Company”. The 14th formed part of the 4th Brigade, commanded by Colonel (later General Sir) John Monash. Amongst the other men in the 14th Battalion was Albert Jacka, who later won the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli (2a). After arriving in Egypt, Arthur was returned to Australia on medical grounds, but soon returned to duty. He was allocated a new regimental number in the process. Arthur returned to Egypt with the 14th Battalion, 7th Reinforcement (2a), then served at Gallipoli, where he was apparently an army sniper. In civilian life, he had been an expert shot, winning many awards and being able to “pick a running rabbit off at 300 yards with a Winchester rifle” (3).
In March 1916, Arthur was transferred to D Company, 46th Battalion and appointed a corporal the following month. In June 1916 he embarked for the Western Front. On 6 August 1916, Arthur was wounded in action at Pozieres, suffering a gun shot wound to the back. He was sent to hospital in England. He was later was promoted to temporary Sergeant, but was wounded for the second time on 20 October 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres. This time he suffered wounds to the head and chest (4). Arthur’s luck finally ran out on 8 July 1918 when he was killed at Sailly-le-Sec near Le Hamel. According to one eye-witness account: “I saw Williams get killed at Sailly-le-Sec on July 7 about 10:30am. We were all lying at the tape waiting the command to go over. Capt. Riley of 46th AIF (now wounded) was standing with Williams giving him instructions ... A machine gun opened fire and got Williams on the jaw. ... The blood spurted out and he quickly bled to death. He only lasted a few seconds. We tried to stop the bleeding but it was impossible. He was conscious but he did not speak” (5). Different accounts suggested he was killed by an exploding shell (6), or killed while going out to retrieve a wounded French officer near Villers-Bretonneux.
According to the latter account, a French General who knew the wounded French Officer later placed the prestigious Croix Le Guerre medal on Arthur’s body after it had been recovered (7). Whatever the precise circumstances of his death, due honour was paid to Arthur by his comrades. He was buried at the Australian cemetery near Vaux, with the chaplain of the 48th Battalion presiding (7a). A cross with Arthur’s full details on it was erected above his grave. One of his comrades stated that his death was “greatly felt” by them, as he was “very popular among the boys” and an “exceedingly popular fellow and much esteemed for his straight dealings” (8). In 1921, Arthur’s body was re-buried at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery (9). News of Arthur’s death had been a great shock to his family, as they had only heard a week before that he was returning to Australia, presumably on the special “1914 leave” granted to the original Anzacs (10). A memorial service was held for Arthur at the Koo Wee Rup Presbyterian Church, attended by family, friends and members of the local community. At this, he was described as a “sterling fellow in every way”. The Minister gave what was called a “powerful and earnest discourse”, which went so far as to compare Arthur’s death with that of Jesus Christ himself! Arthur’s parents sent a laurel wreath, with his name and regiment printed on the Battalion’s colours of blue and gold (11). Later, in December, the Pakenham community presented Arthur’s relatives with a gold medallion in his memory (12). His name was included on the Pakenham & District War Memorial in 1921. That same year, his family placed in-memoriam notices in the Argus newspaper on the anniversary of his death. One ended with the simple tribute “Our Anzac Hero” (13). A few items, such as a diary and letters were later returned to his family, but his mother wrote to the Defence Department in 1919 asking about his watch and ring which were not returned. Unfortunately, the Army said that they had not received any of Arthur’s personal effects other than those already sent home (14).
Arthur’s estate was administered by Minnie Thewlis, who in late 1918 married Arthur’s brother Osmond. According to Arthur’s probate records, at the time of his death he held 72 acres of land at Koo Wee Rup (Lots 3 & 4 Subdivision B Koo Wee Rup) and 114 acres in the parish of Pakenham (allotment 46). The latter had on it a four roomed corrugated iron house, with sheds and stables. He also owned one horse (over 10 years old), 2 ploughs, a dray and harness, chains and tools (15). Osmond Williams later ran a garage and blacksmith’s shop in Beaconsfield (16). Interestingly, another brother, H. Carter Williams, served with the Royal Australian Navy in WWI and was something of an inventor: amongst his inventions were a “spark arrester’ for railway engines, and an aeroplane and “an invention for control of submarines, which is a secret of the navy, but which is said to be highly successful” (17).
(1) AWM Roll of Honour File - 147 Sergeant WILLIAMS Arthur Carter
(2) (15) PROV VPRS 7591, 161/173 & NAA B2455 WILLIAMS AC
(2a) (4) (7a) (9) & (14) NAA B2455 WILLIAMS AC
(3) (10) (11) & (17) Koo Wee Rup Sun 17/8/1918
(5) (6) (7) & (8) AWM ARCWMEBF - 147 Sergeant Arthur Carter Williams
(12) PG 6/12/1918.
(13) Argus 8 July 1921 p.1
(16) DJ 14/1/1932, p. 4