40 SUTHERLAND, William Alexander

Searching for a Portrait
Searching for a Portrait


40 William Alexander Sutherland was born in 1893 in Wallsend Newcastle, to parents William Swanson Sutherland and Annie Elizabeth nee Sessions.
William had three sisters , Nellie, Emma and Edith and two younger brothers Neil and Allan.

William was 22 years old when he enlisted in August 1914 and had been working for five years as a Cooper or “barrel maker” for Stewart and Hawkins Ltd. of Newcastle.

His younger brother Neil also enlisted later in April 1916 and was No. 2405 with the  4th Reinfs. 35th Battalion 9th Brigade.

While at Gallipoli on the 4th May suffering from rheumatic fever he was admitted to hospital and transferred to Mudros and then transferred to Cairo hospital.

While in hospital William would provide one of the earliest letters from the war in the Dardanelles to his father dated 12th May detailing the landing at Gallipoli, his narrow escape from a bullet and his involvement in being the first ashore on that morning of the 25th April.

His letter published in June in the Sydney Morning Herald also provides great insight into the large scale of works conducted by the Engineers at Lemnos prior to the Gallipoli landing and at Gallipoli itself in the first weeks.


On his return after a period of convalescing he returned to his trade as a Cooper and in 1918 he married Vera Isabel Elliot in Newcastle. Together they had a son Gordon William Sutherland born in 1919 and they had settled in Hamilton, Newcastle.

By this time his brother Neil had also returned home safely.

The years had passed and in 1962 sadly William’s wife Vera passed away.
In 1967 William made application for his Anzac commemorative medallion and lapel badge. He was still living in Hamilton at 182 Lawson st , in a small workers cottage which still stands today.


anzac medallion and lapel badge
ANZAC Commemoration Medal and Lapel Badge


gallipoli medal
Original letter from William

William was thorough, his letter clearly showing his penmanship and his ordered summary of his service. Most importantly his letter was once again proof of the 1st Field Co. Engineers of New South Wales being among the first landing party ashore.
“Was a member of the first landing part to go ashore on Gallipoli Peninsula on the morning of the 25th April 1915” – Sapper W.A Sutherland

In 1972 William was still quietly living at 182 Lawson st, Hamilton, he would have had no idea that his letter to his father published in 1915 would see the light of day once again, and republished one hundred years later. His very own testimony to the 1st Field Company Engineers and their historic involvement in the First World War.

William later died on 29th December 1980 ,  he was 87 years old.


Story ©VanceKelly 2016


Sources and References:


Full biography on brother Neil Robert Sullivan in the Harrower Collection which also includes a picture of William Alexander Sullivan as a youngster.
Source – The Harrower Collection – http://harrowercollection.com/index.html