William Joseph "Bill" Thorneloe

Information about birth

Year of birth:
Place of birth:
Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia

General information

Last known residence:
Carlton, Victoria, Australia
Church of England

Army information

Australian Imperial Force
Lance Corporal
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
 —  Australian Infantry, 6th Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Brick Kiln & Yard, Zonnebeke, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Hooge Crater Cemetery
Plot: XIX
Row: L
Grave: 15

Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 3

#1 Last known residence
#2 Enlistment place
#3 Place of death (approximate)

My story

William Joseph “Bill” Thorneloe, a former groom, was born in December 1897 in Fitzroy North, Victoria, Australia and lived in North Carlton, Victoria. He was the son of William James Thorneloe. Before enlisting, he served in the Cadets and the Citizen Forces. On February 2, 1916 he enlisted in Melbourne and embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT A32 Themistocles on July 28, 1916, with the 19th reinforcement of the 6th Battalion, part of the 2nd Australian Brigade of the 1st Australian Division.

He got married in England in 1917 with Lily May Thorneloe. According to his files, he had the name of being the best dressed man in the battalion. He was also part of the 5th Bugle Band.

On 4 October 1917 the 1st Australian Division participated in the Battle of Broodseinde, a phase of the Third Battle of Ypres. The Division had to advance on the right of the village of Zonnebeke and had to capture and secure the Broodseinde Ridge and a part of the Passchendaele-Beselare Road. Its attack was carried by two Brigades. The 1st Australian Brigade and 2nd Australian Brigade. The 2nd Australian Brigade firstly attacked with the 8th Battalion. Once they had captured the first objective the 6th and 7th Battalions would move through to the second objective.

The 6th battalion moved into position at about 02.00 a.m. While the Battalion was waiting till the sign to attack the German artillery laid down a very heavy barrage on the line. Many Australians were caught in the open and the Battalions in the line suffered heavy casualties. The German shelling did not indicate any pre-knowledge of an Australian attack, but was a precursor to a German attack that was due to commence coincidentally with the Australian attack. When the German infantry attacked they were caught in the allied barrage, which preceded the Australian assault. The barrage drove everything beyond it, inflicting very heavy casualties on the German defenders. The German soldiers had almost no place to hide. The ones that did survive the heavy shelling were quickly dispersed, killed or taken prisoner by the advancing troops. Even the Germans in the concrete strongpoints were utterly shocked. Most of them surrendered without putting up a fight.

The main resistance of the 6th Battalion’s advance came from a large crater, near Retaliation Farm, in which a pill-box was situated. This position supported by other nearby posts. Bombing parties of the 6th Battalion quickly outflanked the positions and eventually managed to silence or capture the defenders.
Meanwhile the 8th Battalion had advanced through the marsh and tree stumps of Romulus and Remus Woods, north of the hamlet of Molenaarelsthoek. They arrived at the first objective, the red line, around 07.15 a.m.

Around 08.00 a.m. the 7th and 6th Battalions moved through the 8th Battalion and carried on the advance. They quickly captured the summit of the ridge. While passing west of Celtic Wood, the 6th Battalion was now fired upon from distant machine gun positions on the Keiberg. At one stage the advance on Celtic Wood was halted by a German strongpoint. It was silenced by a Lewis gun team and by noon, the Australians had consolidated their positions astride the ridge. No counter-attacks were launched and the Battalion kept on holding the line till they were relieved on the next day.

William Joseph, aged 19, was killed in action on October 4, 1917. He was killed during the attack while he was carrying up ammunition. Lance Corporal Thorneloe was initially buried where he fell, near Brick Kiln & Yard (28.D.28.c.60.70). His remains were exhumed and re-interred in the Hooge Crater Cemetery, Plot 19, Row L, Grave 15.

Sources 5

2nd Brigade Australian Infantry (Australian War Memorial, Campbell (AWM), AWM4 23/2/30).
Sources used
6th Battalion Australian Infantry (Australian War Memorial, Campbell (AWM), AWM4 23/23/23).
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