Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Brazenor (1888–1945)

by M. Austin

This article was published:

William Brazenor (1888-1945), soldier and administrator, was born on 7 April 1888 at Ballarat, Victoria, son of William Brazenor, architect, and Ellen Coogan (d. 1890). Educated at the Pleasant Street State School until 12, he later joined the Ballarat Water Supply as a clerk and began a part-time course with the Victorian Institute of Accountants. He was active in the St Andrew's Young Men's Club where he became a competent debater. In 1909 he was commissioned second lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, 7th Australian Infantry Regiment, and was promoted lieutenant in 1911 and captain in 1912. On 22 November 1911 he married Anne Mabel Cunningham at St Peter's Anglican Church, Ballarat.

Brazenor joined the Australian Imperial Force in March 1915 and in May was allotted to the 23rd Battalion as captain commanding 'C' Company. He sailed for Egypt that month, was promoted major in August and, from September until the evacuation, fought with distinction at Gallipoli, particularly Lone Pine. His unit served in the Sinai Desert in early 1916 then, in March, left for France where it saw action on the Somme. Promoted lieutenant-colonel in December, Brazenor commanded the battalion in all its 1917-18 operations; in 1917 these included the battles of Bullecourt and Ypres and in 1918 Amiens, the Somme, Hamel and Mont St Quentin. Between October 1917 and December 1918 he also temporarily commanded the 6th Brigade on five occasions. His brigade commander spoke of him as a man of 'very great initiative, coolness and determination' and 'a born fighter in the field'. He was mentioned in dispatches three times for outstanding service and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in January 1918. For conspicuous gallantry in the battle of Hamel he received a Bar to this award.

In March 1919 Brazenor returned to Australia and his A.I.F. appointment ended in July. Next year he completed his accountancy studies, received rapid promotion in his civilian career, and between the wars was secretary of the Ballarat Water Commission and then of the Sewerage Authority; in both capacities he showed interest in conservation and afforestation schemes. He served in the Citizen Military Forces as a lieutenant-colonel in the 2nd Battalion, 39th Regiment, in 1920-21. Promoted colonel in 1923, he commanded the 6th Brigade for four years, and was placed on the unattached list in 1927 and on the reserve of officers in 1932. In World War II, in spite of chronic bronchitis, he commanded the 3rd Garrison Brigade and the 20th Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps. Survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons, he died suddenly on 22 September 1945 at Ballarat and was cremated.

Brazenor achieved prominence in both his military and civilian careers through natural ability and hard work. He was involved in many community projects and served terms as president of Ballarat Legacy, the orphanage committee, the Mechanics' Institute and the Old Colonists' Association. A keen sportsman, he was a first-class rifle-shot, had a handicap of 5 at golf and was a 100-break man at billiards. He was a foundation member of Wendouree Masonic Lodge.

His step-brother John Alexander Smyth Brazenor, D.S.O. (1877-1953) served as a major in the Australian Army Service Corps in France.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 2 Jan, 28 Dec 1917, 1 Jan, 24 Sept, 31 Dec 1918
  • Ballarat Courier, 24 Sept 1945
  • Brazenor file (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

M. Austin, 'Brazenor, William (1888–1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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