Indigenous Australian, William NAPOLEON, 49th Infantry Battalion.
William Joseph NAPOLEON was born in Cangai, NSW to Bertrand Napoleon and Annie Olive in 1884.
William was a keen sportsman competing in amateur boxing and wrestling, and woodchop events many times, before volunteering to join the first AIF in December 1915. After enlisting in Lismore he trained at Bells Paddock Camp, Enoggera just outside Brisbane.
Assigned to the 7th Reinforcements for the 49th Infantry Battalion, he left Brisbane aboard the troopship Marathon in October 1916, bound for England.
Just prior to embarking he was granted ‘home leave’ and travelled by train to say farewell to his mother Annie, sister Amy and older brother Henry. His younger brother Samuel, was already serving overseas, also with the 49th Battalion.
During the voyage to England he was appointed V.O. Corporal [for the voyage only] and after arriving he was admitted to hospital for observation, eventually being diagnosed with mumps, which was commonly spread among the troops travelling overseas.
William was able to join the 49th Battalion in France 19 May 1917 where they were out of the front lines at Buire, and shortly after moved to Neuve-Eglise.
Just a few weeks later, Private William Napoleon was severely wounded in action. The 49th were in the front lines at Neuve-Eglise when the battalion was ordered into what would become known as the Battle of Messines. There were heavy losses, and William Napoleon suffered multiple gun shot wounds to his face and hands.
He was first treated by the 77th Field Ambulance, one of the units of the Royal Army Medical Corps, then transferred out of the area to the 2nd Casualty Clearance Station, but his wounds were too severe and he was admitted to the 16th General Military Hospital, Le Treport, north east of Dieppe, where he died of his injuries.
Private William Napoleon was buried at the nearby Mont Huon Military Cemetery, the inscription on his head stone reads:
“As the ivy clings to the oak our memory clings to thee”
William’s effects and service medals were in time, dispatched to and received by his mother Annie and sister Amy.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: NAPOLEON, William
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 7th Reinf. 49th Infantry Battalion
- Roll of honour | Roll of honour circular
- AWM Unit Diaries, 49th Battalion, July 1917
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission, cemetery details
- Image: The Queenslander Pictorial, 29 July 1916
- ‘Obituary Bertram Napoleon.’ The Grafton Argus and Clarence River General Advertiser 19 April 1906, p4
- One of the soldiers featured in SLQ’s HistoryPin Collection
- View the whole Collection: Indigenous enlistment
- Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen Digital Story and Oral History
Marg Powell & Des Crump | QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland