215 ALLAN (WHELAN), William



Searching for a Portrait
Searching for a Portrait

215 William Patrick Allan (Whelan)


215 William Patrick Allan was actually born  William Whelan in Dundee Scotland in 1877 to parents Patrick and Georgina  nee Gunn.

William also had two older brothers Michael, and Patrick.  William was married and with his wife Margaret had a daughter born in 1897 named Georgina after his mother.

There is no detail discovered as to the circumstances that brought William to Australia and exactly when he arrived. When he enlisted he did not declare he was married and he used an alias , William Allan, and his age was also slightly reduced.

William’s war record shows that he was a restless character, the officers may have even classed him as trouble maker or a potential “storm centre”.

William like many others in the AIF, certainly didn’t always display the discipline that was expected from them, and their revelry, although often harmless, was still contrary behaviour, conduct often described as “prejudice of good order and unit discipline”.

This lack of discipline was always punished with either forfeiture of pay, confinement to base, a court martial or all of the above, as was the case for William, on more than one occasion.

Within the initial weeks of training at Moore Park Sydney and a few days before the company had left Australia, William was fined for being drunk and misconduct . This was an early indication of what to expect from William.

On arrival in Egypt in  after seven weeks on a troopship at sea,  William let loose and while at Mena camp, within 15 days he was AWL on four separate occasions and had accumulated 35 days “confined to base” and another 14 days detention.

At Gallipoli, William was a dawn lander and the real task ahead for him, like all the men at Gallipoli was to remain alive. William remained at Anzac Cove up to the 12th July  and then suffering with Influenza he was transferred to Mustapha.

While recovering he was up to his tricks again, escaping from close arrest, two charges for drunkenness.  He was AWL and missing from embarkation returning to Gallipoli and also guilty for making a false declaration.  William was then detained in Cairo  and awarded 28 days detention.

He finally reported for duty  with the company at Tel el Kebir in late December and oddly he was promoted to Lance Corporal, perhaps the off chance that given some responsibility  he may steer himself in the right direction.

Unfortunately this was short lived and just six days later he was charged with drunkenness, AWL and  was reduced back to rank of sapper . Perhaps his promotion celebrations were intentionally overdone by William , but certainly came as no surprise.

He was now confined to base for the duration of camp.

In March 1916 the 1st FCE embarked on the ‘Invernia’ for France and the western front, William rejoining the company and arriving at Marseilles on the 28th March.1916.

On the 10th July, William made up a will, leaving everything to his mother Georgina Whelan  and her sisters in Scotland. His witness to the will  titled  “Somewhere in France” was fellow original 165 Alfred O’Brien. There was still no reference to his wife Margaret or his daughter.



At the Battle of Pozieres  on the 23rd July 1916…233 Cpl Thomas Arkinstall reported that the section  was in front of Pozieres about 100 yards past the village , and were digging an advanced Machine Gun position overlooking two roads leading to Pozieres and Bapaume.

Machine Gun Strong Point Engineering Plan
Machine Gun Strong Point Engineering Plan


William was attached to section 4 and attempting to build the strong point between the lines but the entire section was under heavy bombardment and continuous machine gun fire.

During the operation fellow sapper 2385 A. Dayball was wounded in “no mans land. There are conflicting accounts but William in an effort to assist Dayball was also hit by a bullet.

Fellow original 33 Frederick Paton was told later by sapper Suett that he went out and attempted to bring William back in but William was hit once again and was killed outright.

Sapper 2442 Fleming reported that “everyone said he ought to get the V.C . he went out in the very thick of the firing”

A few days later  members of the 1st Pioneers gave word they saw him laying dead. Both Dayball and Whelan had been reported both lying dead in a shell hole.

Previously reported missing on the 23rd, all later enquiries confirmed that 215 sapper William Whelan was killed in action on the 25th .

The Battle of Pozieres within four days proved a very costly battle for the AIF and the originals of the 1st FCE, having fourteen of the originals wounded in action and including William four killed in action.

In 1918 it finally came to the notice of the war office that William was actually William Whelan and he was in fact married . Margaret was officially recognised as his next of kin and the administration later forwarded William’s medal to her with the correct inscriptions.

William Patrick Whelan is memorialized at the Australian Memorial – Villers Bretonneux Somme France.



Location on the Roll of Honour

William Whelan’s name is located at 25 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial (as indicated by the poppy on the plan).

Plan of Commemorative area showing which panel the name William Whelan's is located

Roll of Honour name projection

William Whelan’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on:

  • Sat 19 March, 2016 at 10:48 pm
  • Sat 7 May, 2016 at 10:22 pm
  • Sun 19 June, 2016 at 5:53 am
  • Sun 31 July, 2016 at 9:49 pm
  • Sat 17 September, 2016 at 11:16 pm
  • Mon 14 November, 2016 at 3:53 am
  • Thu 19 January, 2017 at 1:16 am
  • Sun 19 March, 2017 at 1:59 am
  • Sun 7 May, 2017 at 3:47 am
  • Mon 19 June, 2017 at 3:47 am
  • Mon 31 July, 2017 at 6:11 am

Roll of Honour – William Whelan

Also known as: William Patrick Allan

Service Number: 215

Rank: Sapper

Unit: 1st Field Company Australian Engineers

Service: Australian Army

Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Date of death: 25 July 1916

Place of death: France

Cause of death: Killed in action

Age at death: 40

Place of association: Sydney, Australia

Cemetery or memorial details: France: Villers-Bretonneux Memorial

Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army


William is also remembered on the Dundee wall of honour   http://www.fdca.org.uk/pdf%20files/RollHonourW.pdf


Story Copyright©VanceKelly2016