20th Battalion, AIF
Date/Place of Birth: 1891 St Marys, NSW
Date/Place of Death: 11 August 1918, France
Biographical details: William Garner was born at St Marys in 1887, the son of William and Mary (nee Healey) Garner. After attending St Marys Public School, Garner served a six apprenticeship with James Bennett, the coachmaker at St Marys. Two brothers, Athol and Harold also enlisted. Athol was killed on 28 March 1918 on the Western Front.
Service details: Garner enlisted on 26 June 1916 and was allocated to the 16th reinforcements, 20th Battalion. He left Sydney aboard A40 HMAT Ceramic on 7 October 1916 and disembarked at Plymouth, England on 21 November 1916. On 7 December 1916, Garner marched into the 5th Training Battalion before embarking on the SS Arundel for the war front in France. On 7 February 1917, Garner joined his unit from the 2nd Australian Divisional Base Depot at Etaples. During 1917, the 20th Battalion was involved in the follow-up of German forces after their retreat to the Hindenburg Line, and was one of four battalions to defeat a counter-stroke by a German force, at Lagincourt. The Battalion took part in the second battle of Bullecourt (3-4 May) in France, and Menin Road (20-22 September) in Belgium. On 20 September 1917, Garner suffered shell wounds to his right thigh and was admitted to the 6th Australian Field Ambulance before being transferred later that day to the 17th Casualty Clearing Station. The following day, Garner was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Field Hospital for treatment. On 30 September 1917, Garner was transferred to the 3rd Convalescent Depot. He remained here until 3 November when he marched into the 2nd Australian Divisional Base Depot before joining his unit on 22 November 1917. On 21 January 1918, Garner went on a fortnight’s leave to England before rejoining his unit in early February. He was killed in action on 7 August 1918.
Memorial Details: Garner is commemorated on Memorial Panel 91, 26 Villers-Bretonneux, France and on the Victoria Park War Memorial at St Marys.
Australian War Memorial First World War Nominal Roll
Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
NAA: B2455: GARNER W 5944
Nepean Times 3 February 1917, p4, c1
St Marys – For Australia and the Empire: That St Marys has gloriously responded to the call of Empire in its hour of need has been already abundantly attested by the scores of valiant young soldiers – not a few of them almost veterans – it has contributed to the ranks of the defenders of Liberty, Right and Civilization; and members of no family have more patriotically proven their devotion to our ideals and manifested their determination to defend our liberties, to the death if needs be, more ardently than the gallant sons of the Garner family of old St Marys. The first of the Garners to enlist (Private Athol Garner) sailed for the Front on 22nd August 1916, and in October last was followed by his brother Will, who, with his brother (Athol) is going through rigorous military training at Salisbury Camp, England, and ere this may have been despatched to the fighting sectors on the Western Front. Private Harold Garner (married), the third member of the family to enlist, sailed for the seat of war on January 24th last, so it will be seen that it proportion to their numerical strength the Garners form one of the, relatively, biggest family battalions of the war. Writing to his parents (Mr and Mrs W Garner, St Marys), under date 29th Nov, 1916, from England, Private Athol Garner says: “I dare say you will be surprised to learn that brother Will is here (England). He only landed last Tuesday. I am going to see him this week, and I believe he had some send off at St Marys. I am applying for a transfer into his company. Only fancy the two of us (Will and I) going into the trenches together; and I sincerely hope we’ll give the Huns something to remember us by, and have sufficient luck to get back to the dear homeland again, of which I am always living in hope of doing…But we have a very big hurdle in front of us, and my opinion is we’ll want all the men we can get from the homeland (Australia) to keep our end up and help to settle the pretentions of the enemy…The weather is beastly cold over here, and it takes a fellow awhile to get acclimatised after the sunny atmosphere of Australia. We’ll be leaving shortly for the trenches, and I hope the cold and slush is not as bad as we’re told it is over there. But we must stick it out, however bad it is, and get the better of Fritz at all hazards…The soldier’s life is a very strenuous one, I can tell you Dad, but I’m real proud to be here as an Australian soldier doing his duty by his country. Think what tales I’ll be able to tell you when I get back – enough to make you laugh for twelve months without stopping. You and mother will feel a bit lonely I expect, but I know you’ll keep a good heart, as usual, and think for the best. Imagine Bill and I are arriving home again. Don’t believe that either of us are killed, not even if you see such a report in the papers, for I feel that by this time next year we’ll be safely home again. Just think how proud you’ll feel when your soldier-boys will be carrying you shoulder-high through the Main Street, St Marys, in the latter part of 1917.” The letter concludes with characteristically affectionate regards to parents and members of the family and friends.
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