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Edward Emerson Willis


Serial No:
Serial No. 804

30th Battalion


Edward Emerson Willis - Information

Edward Emerson was a son of The Honourable Henry and Campbelltown native Louisa Willis. Edwards father, Henry, was a Speaker in the House of Parliament in Sydney. His parents got married at St Peters Church in Campbelltown on the 26th of September 1889. Edward was then born in Cabramatta in 1892. After the children were born, Henry and Louisa relocated to Mosman in Sydney. Edward supported himself working as a grazier, before deciding to serve his country. When he was 23 years old, he enlisted in the AIF on the 16th of June 1915 in Liverpool. Edward was posted to D Company, 30th Battalion and was then promoted Sergeant on the 1st of August 1915. Edward boarded the HMAT Beltana in Sydney on the 9th of November 1915 for war service.

Edward's unit disembarked in Suez, Egypt in mid December. He underwent further training, and was then detached to a School of Instruction in Zeitoun in April 1916. He was then transported to the trenches in France, landing in Marseilles on the 23rd of June. The 30th Battalion was shortly put into position for the Battle of Fromelles, which commenced on the 19th of July. Designed as a diversion to straighten out Sugarloaf salient and occupy German troops, it proved too costly. Here, Edward witnessed the horrors of modern warfare with rapid machine gun fire and intense artillery bombardments. On the 20th of July, following roll call, he was placed on the list as wounded and missing in action. Three days later, a Court on Inquiry was held in the field. Giving witness statements, his mates iterated that when the battle started, Edward was the Sergeant in charge of XIII Platoon which attacked a series of German trenches at Fleurbaix. As he approached the German lines he was wounded badly when he was hit in both his ankles. Unfortunately, the attack did not go as planned and the 5th Division were hit with enfilading fire and had to retreat. Unfortunately, Edward was left wounded in No Man's Land. He went over the top on the Thursday and lay there until Monday. He would have been scared and in severe pain, unable to move or make sound, in case he was spotted by the Germans. On the Monday, volunteers were called for to go and collect the wounded. Edward was rescued, and taken to the aid post. The Medical Officer that was on duty at the time remembered dressing Edward's wounds, before sending him off with the 15th Field Ambulance. However, the accounts of events after he was rescued could not be confirmed; there were statements that he died at the aid post, went to hospital or evacuated to England. What actually happened to him from then on is unknown. Thus, the Court concluded that Edward died of wounds received in action on the 20th of July 1916. His name is recorded on the VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, in France.