Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Young, William Ramsay (1894–1965)

by R. R. Freeman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

William Ramsay Young (1894-1965), soldier and butcher, was born on 13 July 1894 at Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, Scotland, son of David Young, wine merchant, and his wife Agnes, née Ramsay. The family migrated to Australia and settled in North Adelaide. Young was educated there and became a chorister at St Peter's Anglican Cathedral and a member of the South Australian Caledonian Society Pipe Band.

After completing his apprenticeship to a butcher, Young enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 3 May 1915 and embarked for Egypt with the 2nd Reinforcements for the 27th Battalion in June. Service on Gallipoli brought promotion to lance corporal. The battalion reached France in March 1916. Young was promoted corporal on 1 September and awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal later that month. The recommendation for the D.C.M. referred to his deeds on three occasions: on the night of 5-6 May two soldiers had been wounded in no man's land, Armentières, near the enemy's wire. Privates Young and Schenscher went 300 yards out to bring them back under heavy machine-gun fire. On the night of 29-30 June at Messines both men were engaged all night carrying wounded from the trenches under considerable artillery fire. Although their stretcher was broken by a shell, they procured another and continued to work. On the night of 4-5 August during the attack on Pozières Ridge both men again behaved with considerable bravery as stretcher-bearers for eighteen uninterrupted hours.

On 6 November Young was promoted sergeant and soon afterwards was awarded the Military Medal for working incessantly for forty hours during an attack on German trenches on 5 November. He 'showed a dogged determination in continuing his work, organising parties, and getting them down to the Regimental Aid Post' and searched no man's land under heavy shell- and machine-gun fire.

In November 1917 he was sent to the 6th Training Battalion in England, rejoining his unit in France in January 1918. During the advance at Morlancourt on 10 June he was wounded and won a Bar to his M.M. He was promoted warrant officer, class 2, and company sergeant major. His two brothers, Lance Corporal Alexander Young, M.M., 50th Battalion, and Private Thomas Young, 27th Battalion, also served with the A.I.F.

Coming home in 1919, Young married Caroline Ivy Freeman (d.1971) in Adelaide on 21 May 1921; they had two children, then shifted to a butchering business at Minlaton. The Depression brought failure. The family moved to Keith where Young worked as a labourer before obtaining positions with the South Australian Railways at Brimbago and Wirrega. In 1935 he returned to Adelaide to a job at the Islington Railway Workshops.

In World War II Young served from July 1940 with the 3rd Training Battalion and in May 1941 was promoted sergeant while stationed at the Loveday Prisoner-of-War Camp; from September he was a warrant officer. He was discharged medically unfit in October 1942. Back at Islington he eventually became supervisor of a hostel for migrant workers until retiring in 1954.

A Freemason and a fervent supporter of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia, Young was a gregarious and generous man whose loud voice gave rise to his nickname, 'The Brompton Bull'. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died of cerebral thrombosis on 9 January 1965 in the Repatriation Hospital, Daw Park, Adelaide, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • London Gazette, 29 Dec 1916, 19 Jan 1917, 21 Oct 1918
  • recommendation files for honours and awards 1914-18 War, AIF, 2nd Australian Division (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

R. R. Freeman, 'Young, William Ramsay (1894–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 March 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019