George Richard Williams

He was certainly one of the Sorrento Team

from NHS collection

On the 9th of May 1891, Mrs Spunner attended to the birth of George Richard Williams to parents Sarah Jane (nee Lowther) and Edward “Ted” Williams a labourer in Sorrento. George was Sarah and Ted’s fourth child. There would be a fifth, Helena, born in 1893. The Williams family lived in “Hawthorn Cottage” in Back Beach Rd Sorrento.

hawthorn cottage c1918

Hawthorn Cottage circa late 1918 – pic courtesy Joan Nolan

George attended Sorrento State School with several of his siblings from April 1896 until 1905. He played football for Sorrento and with older brother William ‘Bill’ was ‘mentioned in despatches’ playing against Balnarring in 1909. . . .

Standard Sat 12 Jun 1909

Mornington & Dromana Standard, Sat 12 Jun 1909 from Trove HERE (for the full report)

The 1914 electoral roll has George’s occupation as driver.

By this time George’s older sister Ruby was married to Henry Watson, Bill had married Ida Watts and his next older brother Leslie Raymond, had married Gwendoline Coker. In later years younger sister “Nellie” would marry Stan Myers. George was certainly part of the greater Sorrento Family.


George enlisted at Queenscliff on July 12th 1915 and was enlisted into the 23rd Infantry Battalion, 9th Reinforcements.

The 23rd Battalion, 9th Reinforcements embarked from Melbourne to Alexandria on H.M.A.T. A69 “Warilda” on the 8th Feb 1916.

HMAT 69 Warilda from AWM HERE

But where did George end up?

George went to Egypt and remained there with the 23rd Battalion with whom he embarked to France on HMT Oriana, arriving at Marseilles on 27 Mar 1916.

23rd Infantry Battalion A.I.F.

23rd bttn patch

23rd Battalion Patch from AWM HERE


The 23rd Battalion was raised in Victoria in March 1915 as the third battalion of the 6th Brigade. After initial training, it left Australia in March and arrived in Egypt, where it would complete its advanced training, in June.

As part of the 2nd Australian Division, the 6th Brigade landed at ANZAC Cove in early September. The 23rd Battalion was soon manning one of the most trying parts of the Anzac front line – Lone Pine. The fighting here was so dangerous and exhausting that battalions were relieved every day. The 23rd manned Lone Pine, alternating with the 24th Battalion, until they left Gallipoli in December 1915.

The battalion was next “in the line” on 10 April 1916, when it occupied forward trenches of the Armentieres sector in northern France. This relatively gentle introduction to the Western Front was followed in July by the horrific battles of Pozieres and Mouquet Farm, after which it was estimated that the Battalion lost almost 90 per cent of its original members.

After manning the front line throughout the bleak winter of 1916-17, the battalion’s next trial came at the second battle of Bullecourt in May. After the failure of the first attempt to capture this town, by troops of the 4th Australian Division, this new attack was heavily rehearsed. The 23rd Battalion succeeded in capturing all of its objectives, and holding them until relieved, but, subjected to heavy counter-attacks, the first day of this battle was the battalion’s single most costly of the war. Later in 1917 the battalion moved with the rest of the AIF to the Ypres sector in Belgium, and in October participated in the battle to secure Broodseinde Ridge.

In April 1918 the 23rd helped to turn back the German spring offensive, and then took part in the battles that would mark the beginning of Germany’s defeat.

Source: AWM Unit Histories. for more go HERE

One of these battles was Morlancourt.

With the Australian 13th and 15th Brigade successful at Villers-Bretonneux the 6th Brigade was north of The Somme river in the Ancre River Valley, west of the town of Morlancourt. After Villers-Bretonneux the German forces would continue to attack on a wide front while the Australians held on and engaged in what C.E.W. Bean would describe as “Peaceful Penetration”.

Peaceful Penetration

Australian forces would take every opportunity to mount smaller raids with the principal objective of taking prisoners and obtaining intelligence regarding the German’s next attacks.

“It so happened that in the vital positions held both by the 1st Australian Division in Flanders and the Australian Corps in front of Amiens, it was urgent to gain ground, if possible, in order to allow more room for defence. This furnished a reason for activity in addition to the one then being urged by the staff on the fighting troops in all sectors, that the prime need was for information as to the probable direction of Ludendorff’s next stroke. For such information the most important source was newly captured German prisoners.

– C.E.W. Bean – Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18 (Vol VI Chapter II)

In early June the Germans mounted an attack at Mourlancourt which was repulsed by 6th Brigade.


from C.E.W. Bean History Vol 6 Ch VII

The 23rd Battalion were to the north of Mourlancourt, around the town of Ville-Sur-Ancre, on the Brigade’s Northern flank. West of the town of Dernancourt.

Dernancourt was the site of heavy German attacks in early April that had caused severe casualties to the 12th and 13th Brigades who had faced two and a half German Divisions. Read more at AWM HERE


from 23rd Btn Diary June 1918 at AWM HERE

8th June 1918

On the 8th of June 23rd Battalion was to have conducted a number of raids into enemy lines but this was cancelled and the 23rd Battalion was relieved by the 24th Battalion. During the relief, the Battalion came under gas shell attack. This was unsuccessful but there were four casualties.

diary 23rd Btn Jun 1918

Unit Diary 23rd Btn, 8 Jun 1918 (click to enlarge)

. . . and George Williams

George was reported to have received shrapnel wounds to the legs on the 8th of June. He was evacuated to 20th Casualty clearing Station but died of his wounds on June 11th at 12:30am.

He is buried at Vignacourt British Cemetery

g williams grave

pic courtesy Peter Munro

. . . and at home. . .

notice argus 19 jun 1918

The Argus 19 Jun 1918 from Trove HERE

. . . from his friends . . .

williams notice from mrs j watson

The Age 22 Jun 1918 from Trove HERE

. . . ps in a tragically short period of the war Ida Watts had lost a brother (James, 25th Apr 1918) and a brother in law, George.