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Boswell, William Walter (1892–1959)

by R. Sutton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

William Walter Boswell (1892-1959), soldier, labourer and railway ganger, was born on 20 July 1892 at Broombee, near Mudgee, New South Wales, son of Arthur William Boswell, farm-labourer, and his wife Rebecca, née Winter. Educated at Hargraves Public School, he worked as a farm-hand and fettler in the Mudgee district until World War I.

Appalled by the sinking of the Lusitania by a submarine in May 1915, Boswell enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 10 June and embarked for Egypt with reinforcements for the 2nd Battalion. On 31 March 1916 he was posted to the 45th Battalion, which sailed for France in June and occupied a quiet sector of the front near Fleurbaix. They took over the newly captured line east of Pozières on 5 August and, in the continuous German bombardment of the next ten days, suffered severe casualties. Boswell, who 'worked unceasingly' as a stretcher-bearer, received the Military Medal. The citation specially referred to his bravery on 7 August in the attack on Munster Alley and Toor Trench; though exposed to heavy fire he had spent three hours treating wounded men and carrying them to the aid-post. In November Boswell was promoted lance corporal. He served at Gueudecourt in the early months of 1917 and at Messines and Passchendaele later that year.

On 5 April 1918 the Germans attacked the 4th Australian Division at Dernancourt and the 45th Battalion took part in a spirited counter-attack which drove them back. The stretcher-bearers worked under artillery fire throughout the engagement and Boswell was awarded a Bar to his Military Medal for 'gallant conduct and untiring energy in collecting and attending the wounded'. A month later he was promoted corporal. From Dernancourt the battalion moved on to Villers-Bretonneux where it fought in the decisive battle of 8 August. Its last engagement was at Le Verguier on 18 September and he gained a second Bar to his Military Medal: in charge of a party of stretcher-bearers, he continued to tend the wounded despite a heavy barrage.

Boswell returned to Australia in June 1919 and in October joined the New South Wales Government Railways as a labourer. Next year, on 20 October, he married Sarah Jane Bunyan at Emu Plains. He was promoted to railway ganger in 1928 and worked in the Blue Mountains, Tamworth and Bathurst areas until 1944 when he retired because of poor health. In 1945-49 he worked as a ganger in the Department of Main Roads.

In retirement Boswell lived at Windsor where, survived by his wife, he died of cardiac disease on 22 June 1959; his ashes were placed in the memorial wall at St Matthew's Anglican Church. Boswell's elder brother James Harold also served in World War I; he was in the 1st Signals Squadron, Australian Mounted Division.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Lee, The Chronicle of the 45th Battalion, A.I.F. (Syd, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • J. E. Lee, A Brief History of the 45th Battalion, A.I.F., 1916-1919 (Syd, 1962)
  • London Gazette, 9 Dec 1916, 16 July 1918, 17 June 1919
  • staff records (Department of Main Roads, Sydney, and Public Transport of New South Wales, Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

R. Sutton, 'Boswell, William Walter (1892–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/boswell-william-walter-5300/text8945, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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