We miss him most, who loved him best

When Christina Ingham’s two eldest sons enlisted in 1915, she was solely supporting her other 6 children, with one more due that year.

William and Benjamin Ingham, c1914

She cherished the letters they wrote from so far away, and along with postcards, photographs and a diary, have been donated to the State Library of Queensland for us all to share.

Private William John Ingham, 9th Battalion

Private William John Ingham #2397 – 9th & 49th Infantry Battalions

William, age 21 landed in Egypt in time to join the reinforcements for the 9th Infantry Battalion on Lemnos Island in December 1915, not knowing that his younger brother Benjamin had also enlisted, just a few weeks after his 18th birthday.

Poem by William Ingham, 4 December 1915

William penned a rollicking poem about his quest for enlistment, from their camp at Mudros, as the allies were preparing for evacuation from Gallipoli.

Private Benjamin Joseph Ingham

Private Benjamin Joseph Ingham #4552 – 15th & 47th Infantry Battalions

Benjamin enlisted in September 1915 and embarked with the 15th Infantry Battalion for Egypt in January 1916. By this time the allies had withdrawn all personnel from the Peninsula, and were regrouping to form new Divisions to serve in France.

The two brothers eventually found each other in Cairo in May 1916, and William wrote to his mother saying he tried to have his brother assigned to the same battalion, but Ben was quite happy with the group of men with whom he had already shared so much with.

Postcard, 1915-1916

William and Benjamin were transferred to separate Battalions and departed independently for France and the war on the Western Front. The unit diaries show us that they fought in the same districts in August 1916.

William kept a diary of his activities with the 49th Battalion from January 1916 and his entry for 8 August notes the casualties for that day.

War Diary 8 August 1916

His brother Ben was wounded in the shoulder during heavy bombardment at Pozieres less than 10km away, on 6th August 1916. Also suffering from amnesia and tremulous shell-shock, Ben was evacuated to England where he was admitted to the Brook War Hospital in Woolwich.

Letter, Benjamin Ingham September 1916

Letters he wrote home talked of him feeling well, but Ben was never considered fit for active service again.

While Ben continued to convalesce in England, William remained with his Battalion through the notorious winter of 1916/17 and continued to write home.

In February 1917 as Ben was waiting to be repatriated home, William was severely wounded in the front line at Flers and died at the 45th Casualty Clearing Station.

Photograph of original grave, sent to Christina Ingham

Original grave of Private William Ingham

Private William Ingham was buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery extension, 3km SSW of Albert and his name will be projected on exterior of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial, 28 December 2016.

Further reading:

Marg Powell  |  QANZAC 100 Content Technician  State Library of Queensland