Ronald Wesley Williamson
Serial No. 5781, 6157, 67992
24th Battalion & NSW Reinforcements
Ronald Wesley Williamson - Information
Ronald Wesley Williamson, known as Roy, was born in Campbelltown on the 12th of June 1897. Roy was a son of William Wallace and Sarah Victoria Williamson. William had moved the family from the outer Sydney suburbs to the area in the mid 1890s. Roy and his siblings grew up locally, cementing ties to the community and friendships with other locals, such as at the 1907 Campbelltown Jubilee Celebrations. In the 1910s, Roy moved with his family to Kirkcaldy on Lanthall St in South Kensington. Here, he began supporting himself working as a machinist. When Australia declared war on Germany on the 5th of August 1914, the lives of the Williamson family would be forever changed. Two of Roy's older brothers, Wallace and Basil, both enlisted in the military in August, and were sent overseas for war service. In 1915, Basil had returned and re-enlisted in the AIF, along with their father William Wallace. Sadly, in August that year, the Williamsons were informed that Basil had been killed in action at Gallipoli. This was especially devastating news for Roy's mother, Sarah.
The following year, Roy decided to follow in his family's footsteps and enlist in the AIF. He joined up under the name Roy Wesley Williamson all the way out in Bathurst on the 17th of February 1916. At the time, Roy was just 18 years old and needed his parents' permission to serve. Perhaps this is why he travelled all the way to Bathurst to join up. He commenced training at Bathurst Depot and was allocated to the 2nd Reinforcements, 53rd Battalion, and later the 18th Reinforcements, 13th Battalion. His mother, however, refused to give him permission to continue military service, and asked the army for him to be discharged. No doubt she wanted to prevent the loss of another son. Roy was annoyed that he was sent home, wanting to be in on the grand adventure like his family and friends. The Williamsons were then to endure another shock. Towards the end of the Gallipoli Campaign, Roy's father began feeling very ill with nephritis, and was subsequently invalided to Australia. Upon arrival, William was admitted to Randwick Hospital, where he later died from his illness on the 3rd of July 1916. This news was another blow to Sarah, now not only loosing a son but also her husband to the war. She then started writing the army to get Wallace sent back to her, who was serving with the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital in England. The army acquiesced, and in early August, Wallace was sent home to Australia. However, while Wallace was at sea, Roy snuck off to try and enlist in the AIF again, he was now 19.
On the 21st of August 1916, Roy signed up at the Royal Showground Camp under the name Ronald Williamson, claiming he was a station hand. Roy trained at the Dubbo Depot and was posted as a Private to the 17th Reinforcements, 24th Battalion. It is unknown if he lied to his mother about where he was or if she accepted his enlistment with Wallace coming home. But he finally made it, leaving Sydney on the 31st of October 1916 onboard the HMAT Argyllshire. Roy arrived in Plymouth, England in mid January 1917, and was marched out to the 6th Training Battalion in Larkhill. After learning Western Front strategies, he was transported to France from Folkestone at the end of March. Mustered at the 2nd Australian Division Base Depot in Etaples, he then joined the 24th Battalion in the field. At the time, British forces were attacking German units who had withdrawn to a series of fortifications, known as the Hindenburg Line. This led to a succession of battles, including the Second Battle of Bullecourt on the 3rd of May. On this day, Roy was wounded in action. In defence, the Germans released gas shells, which surrounded Roy and his unit. Unluckily, at the same time, he was also shot in his left arm and hand, making it difficult to put on his gas mask. He was quickly rushed to the 10th Casualty Clearing Station and then admitted to hospital in Rouen, where pieces of shrapnel were removed from his arm during an operation. He was also experiencing vomiting attacks and shortness of breath from the effects of the gas. On the 12th of May, with his severe wounds, Roy was evacuated to England, admitted to the 1st Southern General Hospital. In late June, he was transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital in Dartford, and then moved to Weymouth for convalescence. He was still experiencing shortness of breath and was loosing muscle tissue in his arm. Roy was considered unfit for further service, and invalided home to Australia on the 18th of October 1917. When he arrived home, he was given a medical discharge in mid March 1918.
Roy was able to reunite with his brother, Wallace and mother. However, his war experience was not enough for him. At the age of 21, he re-enlisted yet again, signing up in Sydney on the 17th of July 1918. He was stationed to the M & D Depot in Liverpool and was appointed Acting Corporal on the 20th of July. Roy set off as a Private with the NSW Reinforcements, departing Sydney Harbour on the HMAT Medic on the 2nd of November 1918. While he was at sea heading for England, an Armistice was agreed for the 11th of November; the war was over. As a result, his troopship was recalled on the 12th of December. He returned to Australia, during the spread of the dreaded Spanish Influenza pandemic. Becoming sick, Roy was placed in quarantine in Paddington. After he acquired the infection, it intensified rapidly. This was most likely due to his compromised and scarred lung tissue, as a result of the gas attack in 1917. Thus, he became very ill, and remained in treatment for quite some time. Sadly, Roy died in hospital on the 21st of January 1920. He was buried at Waverly General Cemetery in Sydney, alongside his father. Despite her protests, poor Sarah had lost two sons and her husband to the war effort. Disillusioned, she packed up and moved from Kensington to Vaucluse.