William Edward Butcher MM RMG MID

From Our Contribution

William Edward Butcher MM RMG MID
Butcher WE.jpg
photos courtesy N Browning
Butcher Lt WE & platoon.jpg
Butcher centre with his 1918 platoon Courtesy N Browning
Personal Information
Date of Birth 28 Oct 1895
Place of Birth Armadale, Western Australia
Death 31 Dec 1971, aged 76
Place of Death Dalkeith, Western Australia
Age at Enlistment 19 years, 8 months
Description 5' 5¾" (1.67m) tall ; 143 lbs
64.864 kg
; dark complexion ; grey eyes ; dark brown hair
Occupation Orchardist
Religion Congregational
Address Armadale, Western Australia
Next of Kin Mother , Mrs Hannah Sophia Butcher
Military Information
Reg Number 2579 & W76990
Rank Lieutenant
Unit/Formation 11th Battalion, 8th Reinforcement transferred to 51st Battalion / 13th Brigade, 4th Division
Date of Embarkation 2 Nov 1915 ‒ 26 Nov 1915
Ship Embarked On HMAT A38 Ulysses
Date of Return 1 May 1919 ‒ 1 Jun 1919
Ship Returned On SS China
Fate Wounded in Action 3 Sep 1916 Mouquet Farm
Wounded in Acton 12 Oct 1917 Passchendaele
Returned to Australia
Remained in Australia during WW2
Monument Armadale War Memorial (Bedfordale panel)
Bedfordale Roll of Honour
Armadale Congregational Church Honour Board
Armadale and Districts Roll of Honour
Medals Military Medal
St George Medal (Russian)
Mentioned in Despatches
1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Pre War

aka Willie

War Service

Entered Blackboy Hill camp on 25 Jun 1915 and was allocated to the 8th reinforcement draft for the 11th Battalion. On arrival in Egypt William was sent to the 1st Training Battalion at Zietoun. William joined the 11th Battalion's A Company at Sarpi Camp on Lemnos Island on 12 Dec 1915, where the battalion had arrived on 17 Nov 1915 for a rest. They did not return to Gallipoli, as by then the decision had been taken to evacuate it. With the rest of the Battalion he returned to Alexandria in Egypt aboard the HMT Lake Michigan, departing Lemnos on 4 Jan 1916 and arriving in Alexandria on 6 Jan 1916.

Travelling first to Tel-el-Kebir, and on 23 Jan 1916 to Serapeum, they were marched into the desert to dig trenches and patrol the canal's defences. On 29 Feb 1916 at Gebel Habieta he was one of the 11th Battalion men allocated to the 51st Battalion on its formation. Later the 4th and 5th Divisions (including the 51st Battalion) marched the 36 miles through hot desert over 3 days to their new base at Serapeum. A period of training and defending the canal followed before on 30 May 1916 when they were withdrawn from the canal defence and prepared for transport to France. On the afternoon of 4 Jun 1916 they battalion boarded two trains of open top trucks for the journey to Alexandria. Early the following morning they boarded HMT Ivernia, which sailed at 9:00am on 6 Jun 1916 for Marseilles where they arrived on 11 Jun 1916. The battalion entrained the following day for Abbeville in northern France.

On 17 Aug 1916 William was appointed as a Lance Corporal. During the 51st Battalion's first attack on Fabeck Graben in front of Mouquet Farm during 14 Aug 1916 (where they sustained 302 casualties) William's actions won him a Military Medal and the St George Medal (Russian). The battalion was again asked to attack Mouquet Farm on 3 Sep 1916. During the attack William was wounded in the form of a GSW to his left shoulder and left thigh. He was admitted to the 12th General Hospital on 4 Sep 1916 at Rouen and on 8 Sep 1916 he was embarked on HMHS Asturias for England where he was admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth.

William was released to the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital on 29 Sep 1916, and then to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield on 10 Oct 1917. Granted furlough from 19 Dec 1916 till 3 Jan 1917, he then reported to the No 1 Command Depot at Perham Downs. Following rehabilitation from his wounds, William was posted to the 70th Battalion where he was promoted to Lance Sergeant, before returning to France via Southampton as a reinforcement for the 51st Battalion. While in England, he also had spent some time at the Imperial School of Instruction.

William rejoined his unit on 24 Sep 1917. Soon after his promotion to Sergeant in the 51st Battalion, he was wounded again with a shell wound to the head while the battalion was in the line opposite Passchendaele (239 casualties sustained). Treated by the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station on 13 Oct 1917, he was sent to the 2nd Australian General Hospital at Boulogne until 17 Oct 1917 when he was released to a convalescent camp. He returned to his unit within a month, and soon after was sent to the No 6 Officer Cadet Battalion in Oxford, where on 22 Jun 1918 he qualified for a commission in the Infantry.

On 1 Aug 1918 the AIF List 362 reports that he has been awarded the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in infantry, and he then returned to the 51st Battalion in France via Southampton. On 1 Dec 1918 he was promoted Lieutenant. Remarks following his officer training course dated May 18th 1918 were: "A very smart cadet - keen and alert with a fair amount of intelligence - has made very satisfactory progress and shows powers of initiative and determination." William was granted leave in the UK on 10 Jan 1919, before returning to his unit on 1 Feb 1919. On 13 Mar 1919 William returned to England to prepare for his return to Australia.

"After 3 weeks in Egypt went to Gallipoli and wrote home to say that after 6 weeks there, had yet to see a Turk. At Gallipoli took part in the evacuation, then went to France and ..."so distinguished himself at the taking of Mouquet Farm, on the 14 & 15 Aug 1916, that he has been promoted to Corporal and become the recipient of two medals, the Military Medal and the Russian Medal of St George. He is the first of the Australian soldiers to obtain the later distinction."[1]

Another edition has a photo of himself and friend JHR Smith - their homes adjoined each other on the Upper Wungong River. Son of Mrs HS Butcher "Sherwood House".[2]

In a letter to his mother...

"It's rotten about poor old Stan and Jess Dowell isn't it? Walter Kerridge got a bit of a wound in the hand, but nothing serious, while out helping to get in a wounded man. He's a game young kid. He knew the Germans wouldn't recognise the white flag, but he went out on chance and they peppered into him. He was lucky in getting hit only once, and then in the hand. I wouldn't mind his wound at all.

Have a bit of good news for you. I have been recommended for some sort of award, but I expect that is as far as it will go, as these things have to go so high. You can address my letters now "Corporal", for they have been foolish enough to promote me a bit. Please don't make too much of me being recommended. It just happened to be my luck."

On August 28th General Birdwood presented William with his medal ribbon (the medals were not yet finished) on the battle field near Albert. The troops are required to wear the ribbons.

On September 3rd he was wounded, and reported home.

"Our battalion has made another charge, and I got slightly wounded. I got hit in the left leg, just above the knee, and in the outside of the left shoulder, just small hits both of them; in fact I didn't know I was hit for about a quarter of an hour, for I couldn't find the holes, and thought that I was just wacked with a bit of dirt. Was sitting guarding two Germans when I was hit, and was waiting for some more of them. I don't know who brought them in; I didn't."

ILL...W.E. Butcher (Armadale), seriously...[3]

Progress Report ... W.E. Butcher (Armadale) progressing favourably, previously reported seriously ill.[4]

The 197th Casualty List containing the names of Western Australian soldiers included "Progress Report ..W. E. Butcher (Armadale), convalescent, previously reported seriously ill."[5]

231st Casualty List..WOUNDED ...Lance Corporal W.E. Butcher, Armadale, previously reported seriously ill...[6]

OUR RETURNING HEROES....CHINA LIST.... Lieut Butcher (M.M.) W.E. 51st Btn.[7]

"When the NCOs of his platoon were killed or wounded, Private W.E. Butcher organised the remnants of his platoon and deployed them in shell holes in front of 'Fabeck Graben'. Under Butcher's direction, the riflemen returned the enemy's fire whilst a number of wounded men were evacuated."[8]

Award Commentary

First mentioned in Gen Haig's despatch dated 7th Nov 1917.[9][10] Again mentioned in Haig's 7 Apr 1918 despatch [11] [12]

The St. George Medal. 4th Class. A Russian bravery award for merit in combat. Associated with the Order of St. George, but ranking below the St George Cross. The St. George Medal came in four classes, Gold medallions for 1st and 2nd class. Silver medallions for 3rd and 4th. A bow on the ribbon denoted 1st class and 3rd. The medal was awarded for merit to other Allied soldiers as well as Russians.[13]

Military Medal. 'During an attack on a German Trench near MOUQUET FARM on the night of 14th/15th August, 1916, this man showed splendid initiative. When all the N.C.O.s of his platoon were either killed or wounded, he took command, rallied the remainder of the men, ordered them to dig in and held on until day light, after which he withdrew them skilfully to our own trench. Also, during day light on the morning of 25th August, 1916, under fire, he assisted in bringing in 5 wounded men from No Man's Land to shelter within our lines.'[14][15]

Between the wars

Electoral Roll entries: 1922 a Pastoralist along with his brother Harry Douglas at Payne's Find. 1925 - 1931 they are on Spring Hills station via Carnarvon with Henry's wife Amy. In 1936 and 1937 May (nee McWhirter) who he married in 1932 had joined them at Hill Springs.

WW 2 Service

On 30 Aug 1942 when he enlisted in the 11th (North West) VDC Battalion he was living on Milgan Station near Meekatharra with his wife May. He served until 31 Jul 1944 as a Private, Regimental number W76990.

Post WW 2

They were still at Milgan Station in 1949, but the 1954 roll shows William's address as Nangetty station, Mingenew. In 1958 he and May were at 42 Jutland Parade, seeming with a manager living on the station, and this remained the same until his death.


  1. "The Drill of the Foot-Hills" (PDF) (1917). Western Australia. Mar 1917. p. 8. Retrieved 16 May 2017 – via State Library of Western Australia. 
  2. "The Drill of the Foot-Hills" (PDF) (1916). Western Australia. Nov 1916. p. 11. Retrieved 30 May 2017 – via State Library of Western Australia. 
  3. "ILL.". The Daily News. XXXV, (12,920). Western Australia. 8 July 1916. p. 7. Retrieved 30 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  4. "PROGRESS REPORT.". The Daily News. XXXV, (12,936). Western Australia. 27 July 1916. p. 7 (THIRD EDITION). Retrieved 30 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  5. "WESTERN AUSTRALIA.". The West Australian. XXXII, (4,490). Western Australia. 22 August 1916. p. 5. Retrieved 30 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  6. "WOUNDED.". The Daily News. XXXV, (13,000). Western Australia. 10 October 1916. p. 7 (THIRD EDITION). Retrieved 30 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  7. "COMMONWEALTH LIST.". The Daily News. XXXVIII, (13,802). Western Australia. 29 May 1919. p. 9 (THIRD EDITION). Retrieved 30 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  8. For King & Cobbers pp.50,51 (photo);p. 265 (photo) & p. 329.
  9. published as 2nd Supplement (28 Dec 1917) to the London Gazette No 30448 dated Tuesday 25th Dec 1917.
  10. Republished in Commonwealth Gazette No 57 dated 18 Apr 1918; pp 841-845.
  11. published in the London Gazette No. 30706 dated 28 May 1918
  12. Republished as Commonwealth Gazette No. 165 of 24 Oct 1918 pp 2055 - 2057.
  13. Recommendation date: 21 August 1916, awarded 3 Sep 1916. Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 62, page 1542, position 22 Dated: 25 July 1917.
  14. 'Commonwealth Gazette' page 924, position 29 dated 19 April 1917
  15. London Gazette 16 November 1916, page 11144, position 29.

External Links