James Butler White

Information about birth

Year of birth:
Place of birth:
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

General information

Last known residence:
Toraborah, Queensland, Australia

Army information

Australian Imperial Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
 —  Australian Infantry, 23rd Bn. (Victoria)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Retaliation Farm, Zonnebeke, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood
Row: C
Grave: 17

Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 4

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of death or original burial place

My story

James Butler White, a former clerk, was born in 1899 in Rockhampton, Rockhampton Regional, Queensland, Australia. He was the son of John and Jane White. On October 13, 1916 he enlisted in Melbourne and embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT A70 Ballarat on February 19, 1917, with the 24th reinforcement of the 7th Battalion.

The Division participated in the Battle of Broodseinde on the 4th of October 1917, a stage in the Third Battle of Ypres. The attack of the Division was carried by the 6th and 7th Australian Brigades, with the 6th Brigade’s attack led by the 21st and 24th Battalions, and the 23rd Battalion in reserve, providing ammunition carrying- and digging parties.

Moments before the sign to attack, the German artillery targeted the Australian Battalions on their jump-off line, causing heavy casualties. The Germans had no idea of the upcoming allied assault, but were merely shelling the allied frontline, in preparation of an attack of their own. When the German infantry stormed forward, they were caught in the allied barrage. The German attack was immediately checked. Many German survivors of the heavy shelling were cut down or taken prisoner by the attacking Australian Battalion, who advanced behind the barrage.

The surprised and disillusioned German soldiers were no match for the advancing troops. While the fighting Battalions of the 6th Australian Brigade captured their objectives on the Broodseinde Ridge, the 23rd Battalion was involved in other ways. A party of 50 men worked as an ammunition and bomb carrying part, under constant German shell fire. Thirty men were designated to dig a new strongpoint, close to the hamlet of Broodseinde. Another party of more than 122 men was ordered to dig a communication trench from the just captured crest of Broodseinde Ridge to the new front line, several hundred yards on the other side of the crest. Another communication trench was dug out to the front line by a party of 80 men, while another group built a mule track from the Zonnebeke Lake to the De Knoet Farm. The Battalion moved back to their trenches at the end of the day.

Although the Australian Infantry 23rd Battalion didn’t participate in the actual fighting, it suffered heavy casualties, due to German shelling. On the 5th of October 1917 the Battalion kept on working on a communication trench and constructed a mule track. Later on that day it occupied positions in the old front line and in the old support trench. The Battalion suffered two casualties on the 5th of October 1917. One of these casualties was Private James Butler White.

James Butler, aged 18, was killed in action on October 5, 1917. According to witness reports in his Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files he was designated as a runner and he possibly got hit by a German shell. Private White was found after the war where he fell, near Retaliation Farm (28.D.28.d.20.65); his remains were exhumed and reinterred at Buttes New British Cemetery; Plot 18, Row C, Grave 17.

Files 2

Sources 7

"Forward Undeterred, The History of the 23rd Battalion 1915-1918", Austin R., McCrae, Slouch Hat Publications, 1998, pg. 130-132.
Sources used
"The Third Ypres Passchendaele. The Day-by-Day Account", McCarthy C., London, Arms & Armour Press, 1995, pg. 99.
Sources used
23rd Battalion Australian Infantry (Australian War Memorial, Campbell (AWM), AWM4 23/40/25).
Sources used
6th Brigade Australian Infantry (Australian War Memorial, Campbell (AWM), AWM4 23/6/26).
Sources used
Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau (Australian War Memorial, Campbell (AWM), RCDIG1064166).
Sources used
First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920 (National Archives of Australia, Canberra (NAA), B2455).
Sources used
Unit embarkation nominal rolls, 1914-18 War (Australian War Memorial, Campbell (AWM), AWM8).
Sources used

More information 4