The AIF Project

William James BEST

Regimental number958
Place of birthTambar Springs New South Wales
SchoolGrass Tree Vale Public School, Tambar Springs, New South Wales
ReligionRoman Catholic
AddressTambar Springs, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation21
Next of kinFather, W J Best, Franklin, Gunnedah, New South Wales
Previous military serviceServed 2 years in the Gunnedah Cadets, New South Wales.
Enlistment date2 February 1916
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name33rd Battalion, C Company
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/50/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A74 Marathon on 4 May 1916
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll33rd Battalion
Recommendations (Medals and Awards)

Military Medal

Work near Hamel on 8 August 1918.
Recommendation date: 13 August 1918

FateKilled in Action 10 August 1918
Place of death or woundingProyart, near Peronne, France
Date of death10 August 1918
Age at death24
Age at death from cemetery records22
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Commemortaed in St Joseph's Catholic Churxch (Stations of the Cross 9: presented by Mrs BEST in memory), Gunnedah, New South Wales. Parents: William John and Mary Agnes BEST, 'Frank Lynne', Gunneldah, New South Wales. Born at Tambar Springs

Military Medal

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations against enemy positions south of the SOMME east of HAMMEL on 8th August, 1918. Sergeant BEST led his party which was temporarily cut off from the rest of the Company owing to the dense fog, through ACCROCHE WOOD with great skill and dash. Twice he rushed enemy strong points, killing two men and capturing 12. With only one man he rushed a post in RAT WOOD and captured the garrison of 6 men. Throughout the operation this non commissioned officer displayed initiative and determination and led his men with splendid courage and dash. He also did very good work in the reorganisation and consolidation.'
Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 61
Date: 23 May 1919

Family/military connectionsBrother: 1259 Pte Thomas Patrick BEST, 1st Anzac Bn, Imperial Camel Corps, returned to Australia, 11 July 1917.
Other details

War service: Western Front

Medals: Military Medal, British War Medal, Victory Medal

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