Soldier finds peace in Hakaru
Another World War I soldier with strong local ties has recently found a home on the commemorative wall at the Hakaru RSA.
The family of William Henry Williams arrived in Hakaru in 1895 and bought a farm, located across the road and slightly to the right of the RSA of today. William was born in Hakaru in 1896, where he attended school. Upon leaving school he worked for William Leslie of Kaiwaka until he left for WWI.
The farm was sold in late 1916 or early 1917 and the family returned to Auckland now with a total of four children, three of which were born in Hakaru.
Prior to WWI William joined the North Auckland Mounted Rifles, enlisting on December 15, 1915.
Carrying his first known rank of private/rifleman, Williams embarked on April 1 1916 destined for Egypt. Arriving in Suez on May 2 he soon transferred to the New Zealand 2nd Battalion Auckland Infantry Regiment which was at fighting in Belgium, arriving on the battlefield August 9.
The first major battle that William took part in would have been the Battle of Flers Courcelette in December 1916.The Auckland Infantry Regiment, of which Williams was now a member, played a huge role.
His next major sortee was the Battle of Messines, June 1917, which unfortunately proved to be his last. The New Zealand forces took the town of Messines from the Germans and then helped to take the ridge that overlooked the town. The Germans regrouped on June 8 and heavily bombarded the New Zealand trenches. William would have been one of the hundreds of New Zealand soldiers that were reported killed that day by withstanding the German attack and not yielding.
William was buried at a British supply depot called Stinking Farm, not far from where the Battle of Messines took place – grave number 148. However his body was exhumed and reburied at the Wulverghem War Cemetery in Belgium the next day, just 2.5 miles from where he died. The address of his final grave has been recorded in his information section.
William’s eldest brother, Albert Pritchard Williams, also fought in WWI and was badly wounded in France in 1917, just a few months after William was killed. Albert’s eldest son, Albert Henry Williams, was killed in action in Tunisia in 1943.
“Our family has sadly lost men overseas at war and we still grieve today, just like many other families do,” says Aucklander Bill Williams, who prepared this report on the life and service of his uncle William Williams.
He also pays tribute to Mangawhai man Bill Leslie who was able to locate a photo of Williams and additional information through his own grandfather’s archives.
NOT FORGOTTEN: Hakaru RSA president Neville Andrew (left) with the commemorative frame of Private William Henry Williams, serial number 23/2304, presented by grand-nephew Bill Williams.