The AIF Project

William CULLEN

Regimental number623
Place of birthCarlton, Victoria
ReligionRoman Catholic
Address32 Sutherland Street, West Brunswick, Melbourne, Victoria
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation18
Height5' 4"
Weight143 lbs
Next of kinFather, William Cullen, 32 Sutherland Street, West Brunswick, Melbourne, Victoria
Previous military serviceServed for 4 years in the Senior Cadets (Area 59B, Brunswick).
Enlistment date14 July 1915
Date of enlistment from Nominal Roll9 July 1915
Place of enlistmentMelbourne, Victoria
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name31st Battalion, C Company
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/48/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A62 Wandilla on 9 November 1915
31st Battalion Headquarters and Companies A, B, C and D sailed on two ships, HMAT A62 Wandilla, 9th November 1915 from Melbourne, and HMAT A41 Bakara, 5 November 1915, from Melbourne. It is not possible to tell from the Embarkation Roll on which ship an individual embarked.
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll31st Battalion
FateKilled in Action 19 July 1916
Miscellaneous details (Nominal Roll)Date of death incorrectly recorded on Nominal Roll as 21 July 1916.
Place of death or woundingFleurbaix, France (Battle of Fromelles)
Age at death19
Place of burialFromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery (Plot IV, Row E, Grave No 4), France
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
Other details

War service: Egypt, Western Front

Disembarked Suez, ex-HMT 'Wandilla', 7 December 1915.

Found guilty, Ferry Post, 23 May 1916, of conduct prejudice of good order and miliary discipline: awarded 5 days' confined to barracks by Captain McPherson.

Embarked to join the British Expeditionary Force, 17 June 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 25 June 1916.

Wounded in action, 21 July 1916.

Previous report of wounded, now, 5 August 1916, wounded and missing, 21 July 1916.

Court of Enquiry, held in field, 1 August 1917, pronounced fate as 'Killed in action, 21 July 1916'.

Statement, Red Cross File No 850701, 577 Pte O.J. ALSBURY, 31st Bn, 7 May 1919: 'Cullen was blown to pieces on July 19/16 at Fleuurbaix and burial was impossible.'

Second statement, A.J. HAYES, 31st Bn, undated: '[He] [w]as in same Coy as myself, B. We were in supports near Flers, during the afternoon of 21-7-16, when I saw him instantly by shell. I was only about ten yards distant from him. He was buried the next day by our Battalion pioneers, where he fell. A cross suitably inscribed was erected.' This description and Company does not accord with the details of William CULLEN.

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

Originally listed as 'No Known Grave' and commemorated on the Australian National Memorial, villers-Bretonneux; subsequently (2010) identified, and interred in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, France.
SourcesNAA: B2455, CULLEN William
Red Cross file 850701

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