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Waite, William Charles Nightingale (1880–1973)

by S. N. Gower

This article was published:

William Charles Nightingale Waite (1880-1973), soldier and auctioneer, was born on 8 September 1880 in Adelaide, son of English-born parents, William Nicholas Waite, licensed victualler, and his wife Anna, née Weston. Educated at St Bartholomew's Church of England School, Norwood, and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, he joined the South Australian Garrison Artillery (militia) in 1897.

With the outbreak of the South African War, Waite embarked for active service in November 1899 as a corporal with the 1st South Australian Contingent. After twelve months of campaigning he returned home and re-enlisted with the 6th (Imperial Bushmen) South Australian Contingent in 1901 as a lieutenant. The unit operated in Transvaal, Cape Colony and the Orange River Colony, and Waite was mentioned in dispatches. When the contingent completed its service Waite remained in South Africa as an intelligence officer; at the war's end he settled at The Springs, a mining centre near Johannesburg. He later worked for a large mining corporation in the Rand. On 13 March 1907, at Germiston, Transvaal, he married a Queenslander, Florence Alberta Thomas. They were to have three children. That year they returned to Adelaide and in 1908-09 Waite was city manager for Reynella Wine Vaults. In 1910 he became a livestock-dealer. He kept up his military associations as a second lieutenant and then a lieutenant in the field artillery.

Having worked as a stock auctioneer at Willunga, Waite joined the Australian Imperial Force as a lieutenant on 20 August 1914 and was posted to the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade; shortly before embarkation he was promoted captain and transferred to the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column. His unit landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and Waite served there until the evacuation in December, first commanding the 7th Field Artillery Battery and then the 8th. For his Gallipoli service he was awarded the Military Cross and was mentioned in dispatches. One of his proudest possessions was an 18-pounder cartridge case from No.4 gun of the 8th F.A.B.: he averred that he had disobeyed orders by waiting another five minutes in order to fire the last artillery round of the campaign.

After a brief time in staff appointments in Egypt, Waite was transferred in March 1916 to the newly formed 4th Division, A.I.F., as lieutenant-colonel commanding the 24th Field Artillery Brigade. In June he embarked for France and the brigade went into action at Bois Grenier and Fromelles, and at Ypres, Belgium. Waite took command of the 11th Field Artillery Brigade from January 1917. He served as an artillery brigade and group commander in operations on the Somme, at Bullecourt, Ypres, Messines, Dernancourt and Villers-Bretonneux, received the Distinguished Service Order, particularly for his work at Fromelles, Ypres and the Somme, and was again mentioned in dispatches. In August 1918 he was invalided home.

After demobilization Waite became an auctioneer, valuer and agent in Adelaide. He retained his commission in the militia and in 1926-30 commanded the 10th Battalion (Adelaide Rifles). In World War II he resumed full-time military duties, initially as camp commandant at Wayville and Woodside, and later as deputy director of recruiting at Keswick Barracks, Adelaide.

Waite's service to the nation in three wars was outstanding; he also served the community well, being an active participant in ex-servicemen's organizations, a visiting justice of the peace to the South Australian Department of Prisons for twenty-seven years and a member of the Burnside Town Council for seventeen. The Colonel Waite Memorial Oval at Kensington Gardens, Adelaide, honours his service to the council. He was a Freemason and a keen tennis player. Healthy and active until late in life, Waite cut a dapper, cheery and sprightly figure; his erect bearing and precise habits reflected years of disciplined military life. At 90 he presided over the last memorial meeting of Boer War veterans. He was especially well known as chief marshal on Anzac Days in Adelaide; proudly mounted on a dapple-grey charger, he led the parade on twenty-nine occasions.

Predeceased by his wife, Waite died at Norwood on 25 December 1973 and was cremated. He was survived by a son and two daughters. His brother, Arthur Cyril Roy, also served as an artilleryman in the A.I.F. and won the Military Cross.

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 Story of Anzac, vols 1, 2 (Syd, 1921, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • Reveille (Sydney), June 1932, p 20
  • nominal roll, 3rd Field Brigade Ammunition Column at embarkation 20 Oct 1914 (Australian War Memorial)
  • war diaries, 3rd, 11th and 24th Field Artillery Brigades, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • recommendation files for honours and awards, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • Prince Alfred College, Kent Town, Adelaide archives
  • private information.

Citation details

S. N. Gower, 'Waite, William Charles Nightingale (1880–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 26 September 2022.

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

View the front pages for Volume 12

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