William John Toms
Serial No. 988
William John Toms - Information
As the leaders in Europe were poised for war, William was living in Glenfield with his family. William was born in Brisbane on the 29th of August 1890 to John Broad and Agnes Toms, their only son. The Toms then relocated to Glenfield. Growing up, William gained military experience as a member of the Transvaal Volunteers leaving the country in performance of duty. Upon his return, he found work as a farmer. His relatively quiet life in the rural district would soon be interrupted with the announcement that Britain, and therefore Australia, was at war with Germany. As soon as volunteers were called for, William travelled to Randwick to sign up on the 22nd of August 1914. After training, he was shipped overseas with all the other eager young lads; departing Sydney on the 18th of October 1914.
William disembarked in Egypt in late 1914, where months of endless exercises gave way to boredom. On the 5th of April 1915, he left Alexandria to join the MEF on Lemnos Island, before heading out to Gallipoli. He was in one of the first landing waves, as part of the Machine Gun Section of the 2nd Battalion. However, the attack did not go as planned and stalemate developed. Trenches would come to dominate the awkward coastline. The Allied trenches were often poorly constructed and precarious, making life in the lines miserable, especially in the summer heat. Consequently, William reported to No.3 Field Ambulance at Gaba Tepe with severe diarrhoea on the 14th of May. He returned to duty ten days later, but was then evacuated sick to Lemnos Island with cellulitis in early July. He was shipped to Malta and admitted to hospital, and in August, was invalided to England for further treatment at Gibraltar.
While he was in England, the Gallipoli campaign was called off, and operational strategy turned towards the Western Front. Therefore, he was transported to France in late July 1916. He rejoined his unit in August, as the 2nd Battalion was trying to move forward from Pozières during the Somme Offensive. In September, while the men were resting out of action up north, William reported for treatment for scabies. He returned to duty in early October, however, the following month reported sick again. He did not return to the line until mid May 1917. Later that year, the Allies positioned themselves for operations for the upcoming Third Battle of Ypres. The 2nd Battalion fought throughout the horrendous conditions in Belgium as heavy rains turned the battlefield into a sodden quagmire. Movement became almost impossible, and any chance of a quick success was lost. William was then wounded in action on the 5th of November near Passchendaele. He was caught in a shell blast which buried him in earth. He was pretty shaken up and had a contused chest, back and right kidney. He was taken to Boulogne and evacuated to England the following day, to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton. The internal damage to his kidney resulted in cystitis, a condition that affects the bladder and urinary tract. He was therefore, invalided back to Australia on the 12th of May 1918 for a medical discharge.
William returned to Glenfield to his family and life as a farmer. However, his life was about to change meeting Henrietta Magee. William and Henrietta married in Liverpool in 1920, and settled on a property at 4 Trafalgar St in Glenfield. Surprisingly, during the Second World War, William enlisted in the armed forces again. He joined the army on the 15th of January 1942 (N388640). He was appointed Sergeant and stationed to the 102nd Australian General Hospital. Helping to take care of sick and wounded troops, William finished his tour in 1944 and was discharged. He returned home to his loving wife. William passed away on the 9th of October 1950 at the Repatriation General Hospital in Concord, and was buried in Rookwood Cemetery. Henrietta sadly died at their residence in Glenfield in 1973. Her ashes were interned alongside Williams' in Rookwood Cemetery.