187 William Boag Aitken
187 William Boag Aitken was born in Partick Lanarkshire Scotland in 1879. He was 34 years of age and a certified “first class” marine engineer, an occupation he had held for over 13 years. William came from a large family consisting of 4 brothers and 4 sisters. His parents were Hugh Aitken a wine and spirit merchant and mother Elizabeth Boag (nee Adam). When William was about 21 years old his mother Elizabeth had died and his father remarried a younger woman, Margaret, she was 27 and Hugh was 57. Immigration records cannot confirm when William arrived in Australia, but like so many son’s of empire, when the call went out, he did not hesitate to volunteer in the Australian Imperial Forces.
He was one of the tallest men in the company at 6 ft 1 ½ inches and as Aussie’s have a love for nicknames, it is most likely the tall Scotsman was simply known as Big Bill.
On Christmas Day 1914 William was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal.
Based on his war records, he served a near faultless military career and I suspect William was well liked. William had some set backs with his teeth while serving at Gallipoli, dental hygiene being a common problem at Gallipoli and no dental care was available. Many soldiers were evacuated for “defective teeth”, William was such a case and had his upper teeth removed in Egypt.
While serving at the western front in 1916 , William was transferred to the 4th Pioneer Battalion and promoted to 2nd Lieutenant but within a few months he was admitted to hospital in France with Pyorrhoea the term which fully described his dental condition. William for 12 months had an infection in the bones, as well as the ligaments that support the teeth, and had to have his remaining upper teeth removed as well.
His overall health was compromised by his infection as well as a poor diet and the extreme fighting conditions on the front.
A medical board had reviewed William’s health on the 30th August 1916 and made the following summary and findings……. He was at “Gallipoli for 5 months ,Egypt a year and France for 6 months and at Poziers on the 24th August 1916, he was unable to carry on from weakness and headaches, insomnia, dreams, reflexes plus has had pyorrhoea – gum infection for twelve months and had his upper teeth removed in Egypt and his lower teeth removed in France 3 days after Poziers on the 27th Aug.”
The findings confirmed that he was suffering from Neurasthenia, a nervous debility, and exhaustion which was caused by the stress of military service.
With a strong background as a marine engineer, William clearly had a closer connection to the sea and big ships and felt his specialty was more useful to the war effort than returning at only half strength to the western front, so he applied for a commission in the Royal Navy as an Engineer and it was granted. He took up his commission as Engineer Lieutenant on 8th Feb 1917.
His war service record after this date is only available from the Royal Navy Officers 1899-1919 service Records.
After the war William had returned to England and on July 3rd, 1919 he married Adeline Victoria Peroni at Saint Pancras London, William was 39 and Adeline was 40 years.
He was 51 in 1931 and made a voyage from Calcutta India returning to London on British India Steam Ship Co. “Mandala” he was still a marine Engineer DBS and his address was 32 Newmarket Rd, Norwich, Norfolk UK. William died in March 1940 aged 59 in Norfolk England.
Not a lot more information has been unearthed about William and it seems that William and Adeline had no children from their marriage.
Sources: AWM, NAA, NLA Ancestry.com