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William ELSDALE #4484

By Marg Powel & Des Crump | 18 September 2017

William Elsdale

William Elsdale, 47th Infantry Battalion. The Queenslander Pictorial, 24 June 1916

Indigenous Australian, William ELSDALE, 9th & 47th Infantry Battalion

William (Billy) Elsdale was born in Normanby, Qld in 1883 and was employed as a police tracker at Charleville, when he volunteered to serve with the first AIF. He named his friend Jack Cockrane as his next of kin, when he enlisted in September 1915. Age 28 and six feet tall, he would have made an impressive addition to any serving unit. Initially assigned to reinforce the 9th Infantry Battalion, when he arrived in Egypt in March 1916 he was transferred to the merged 47th Infantry Battalion, which after the sorry campaign in Gallipoli was a combination of battle hardy 15th Battalion men and soldiers new to the rigours of war.

Elsdale sailed for France on board the troopship HMT Caledonia with almost 1000 men, arriving at Marseilles on 9 June 1916. They boarded a train early next morning that took them to Bailleul West, from there they marched 5 km to their billets at Outtersteen, near the Belgian border. Within days the unit was in the front line, relieving the 1st Battalion at Fleubaix and it was here that Elsdale was killed in action on 7 July 1916. Initially reported buried at the Boutillerie Cemetery, his body was reinterred at Rue David Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix.

The Office of Base Records had difficulties locating his nominated next-of-kin but enquiries through the newspapers located Jack Cockrane, as well as his aunt Lucy Brennan in Dalby and finally his father David Hugh Elsdale in Bell, near Dalby. Billy's effects were delivered to Jack Cochrane, but in the 1920's Elsdale's service medals, memorial scroll and memorial plaque were issued to his father.

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The information in this blog post has been researched by State Library staff and volunteers, it is based on available information at this time. If you have more information that you would like to share or further research uncovers new findings, this post will be updated.


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