Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Charles Trevascus (1880–1956)

by Graham McLennan

This article was published:

William Charles Trevascus (1880-1956), soldier and carpenter, was born on 2 December 1880 at Shepparton, Victoria, second child of Abraham Trevascus, bricklayer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Sibley, both English born. Nothing is known of his schooling. Said to be a bushman when he volunteered for service in the South African War, he left Melbourne on 15 February 1901 as one of 250 men selected for the marquis of Tullibardine's Scottish Horse. He returned to Melbourne in October and in 1902 joined the 2nd Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, which left in February, took part in a 'drive' from Noitverwacht in May and embarked for home in July. Trevascus was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with five clasps. He worked as a labourer and on 16 September 1903 at Kew married with Baptist forms Mary Matilda Key, an 18-year-old waitress.

Describing himself as a builder, Trevascus enlisted in the 21st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, on 26 March 1915. He embarked for Egypt with 'A' Company on 9 May, was promoted sergeant next month and fought at Gallipoli from early September until the evacuation in December. After operations in Egypt, the battalion reached France in March 1916, went into the line at Fleurbaix on 7 April, and saw action at Pozières in July and Mouquet Farm in August. That month Trevascus was temporary company sergeant major before becoming company quartermaster sergeant. Following the second battle of Bullecourt, in May 1917 he was promoted C.S.M.

In August Trevascus was posted to the 6th Training Battalion. Rejoining his unit in March 1918, he was wounded in action on 23 July, but was back in the line within six weeks. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his heroism in the allied advance on Mont St Quentin in September: attacking an enemy machine-gun post with bombs, he enabled his men to reach their objective. On 5 October, during operations at Montbrehain, he won a Bar to his D.C.M. when he established and held two posts, and captured an enemy machine-gun and six prisoners. He was transferred briefly to the 24th Battalion before being posted to No.5 Officer Cadet Battalion at Cambridge, England, on 8 November. Commissioned provisional second lieutenant in January 1919, he rejoined the 24th Battalion, was promoted lieutenant on 6 April and returned to Australia in August. His A.I.F. appointment ended a year later.

A smallish, burly man, with brown hair and eyes, Trevascus was quietly spoken and energetic. He resumed work as a carpenter and, after being divorced, on 10 January 1922 married Mary Elizabeth Masters at Richmond with Congregational forms. Having visited France in 1924, he later took a job in New Zealand. Back in Melbourne, on 20 December 1939 he was appointed an area officer at Westgarth with the temporary rank of captain; he transferred to the reserve of officers on 5 April 1941. Survived by his wife and their son, and by a son and two daughters of his first marriage, he died at his Coburg home on 2 August 1956 by accidentally inhaling carbon monoxide. He was buried in Coburg cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • W. Calder, Heroes and Gentlemen (Melb, 1985)
  • war diary and embarkation roll, 21st Battalion, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • transcript of citations (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Graham McLennan, 'Trevascus, William Charles (1880–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 25 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 December, 1880
Shepparton, Victoria, Australia


2 August, 1956 (aged 75)
Coburg, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.