William Charles Brownell was born in 1882 at Petersham.
His parents were William (d 1905) & Emma (nee Tansley).
William Charles was the 3rd of 6 children. He had 2 sisters and 3 brothers. He was educated at Ashfield Public School.
He married Amy Ethel Clara Lane in 1903 at Canterbury. There were two children, Amy (b 1903, d 1903) and Harold William (b 1904).
William enlisted on 7 May 1916 and sworn in on 15 May.
He stated occupation as plumber and address as Burwood Road, Enfield.
He was of slim build being 5ft 8¾in (175cm) tall; weighed 132lb (60kg); chest 34-36in (86-91cm). He had no distinguishing marks; a medium complexion, hazel eyes, brown hair; and was Church of England.
He was assigned Service Number 2477 and attached to Reinforcements for the 1st Battalion Pioneers which was part of the of the 1st Division.
War Service: Western Front:
William departed Sydney on HMAT Wiltshire on 22 Aug 1916 and disembarked in Plymouth on 13 Oct.
When medically examined he was immediately admitted to the Camp Isolation Hospital with mumps. He was discharged on 3 Nov and on 5 Nov he marched out to join the Pioneer Training Battalion at Perham Downs near Andover in Hampshire
After 2 months training he proceeded to France on 16 Jan 1917 and joined the 1st Pioneer Battalion on 20 Jan at Franvillers 10km west of Albert on the Somme where they were alternately training, resting or building a railway.
On 1 Feb they moved east of Albert and engaged in regular Pioneer work of dugout construction and laying of duckboard tracks in the support lines.
On 5 Feb William was evacuated sick with influenza. Presumably his condition worsened as after passing through a number of medical & rest facilities he was finally admitted to the 7th Canadian General Hospital at Le Treport on 23 Feb.
He was a week in hospital and then spent a further week in base areas before eventually rejoining his unit on 15 Mar at Mametz 5km east of Albert.
During March his Company was engaged in road construction and infantry training. (Pioneers were mainly engaged in construction and labouring works but could be involved in fighting.) In April they moved further east for construction work near Bapaume which had been captured as the Germans strategically withdrew from Pozieres area to the Hindenburg Line.
In early May some of the Battalion were engaged in trench digging during the 2nd Battle of Bullecourt and took casualties but William’s Company was further back on light railway construction.
After 10 May and during June and July the Battalion was either resting, training or engaged in light construction work.
On 29 July the Battalion moved north to Lumbres 60km west of Ypres. During August most of the Battalion were engaged in work in rear areas however one Company was more forward and took some casualties.
On 8 Sep they moved forward to provide closer labour support for the planned series of major attacks in the Passchendaele area. Their Division was engaged in the Battle of Menin Road from 20 Sep and William’s unit was engaged in prepatory work and then whatever labouring required to closely support the major attack. They had 26 killed and 12 wounded by shellfire during this phase.
William was appointed Lance Corporal on 2 Oct.
On 4 Oct the Division was engaged in the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge and the 1st Pioneers were again engaged in construction work very close to the front line for the next few days. From 10 Oct they were working further back from the front before the Division moved back into the front lines on 26 Oct.
William’s Company’s role was now the upkeep of two main duckboarded tracks.
On 2 Nov William’s unit was going out to work laying duckboards on the Kit-Kat track to the Westwoek Ridge support trenches. At about 5.30am he was hit in the throat by a shellfire fragment and died instantly.
He was buried the next day by his comrades in Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery on the south west outskirts of Ypres.
On 17 Nov SMH Roll of Honour notice stated:
“BROWNELL-Killed in action, in France, November 2 1917 Sapper William C Brownell, dearly loved husband of Amy Brownell Burwood road, Enfield, and son of Mrs E Brownell Ashfield.
BROWNELL. -Killed In actlon, 2/11/17 Sapper W C Brownell, dearly loved son-in-law of Mr and Mrs C Stone, Buwood, brother-in-law Mr and Mrs A Latham, Private and Mrs G Kelly, Five Dock”
On 21 Nov SMH Roll of Honour notice stated:
“BROWNELL.- Killed in action, November 2, 1917, Sapper W. C. Brownell, dearly-loved brother-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. A. Lane, Strathfield. Inserted by Lance-corporal Stanley Lane (on active service).”
There were also mentions in Northern Rivers newspapers as his brother Richard was Town Clerk of Byron Bay and Edward was sanitary inspector of the Lismore municipality.
His wife Amy received a pension of £2 per fortnight and son Harold £1. There was also a death benefit paid by Manchester Unity.
In Oct 1918 his family received his personal effects comprising a diary.
His mother died in 1931.
His wife Amy died in 1965.
His son Harold married Isabella Watson in 1940 and died in 1982.
William is also commemorated on the Enfield War Memorial and also on the WW1 Roll of Honour in St Thomas Anglican Church, Enfield.