Topic: William Nelson Spratley (1895-1918)

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During World War I William Nelson Spratley's father was wounded whilst fighting at Gallipoli and his uncle died of disease whilst serving in Egypt. Sergeant William Nelson Spratley died from loss of blood in the 4th Australian Field Ambulance Hospital at Le Hamel in Northern France on 25 June 1918 after his leg was shattered by a shell and had to be amputated. Story by Debbie McCauley.

William Nelson Spratley was born at Fareham in Hampshire, England on 15 June 1895. His parents were William and Annie Constance Spratley (nee Vass) who married in March 1892 at Brentford, Middlesex, England. The family comprised:

  1. Ellen Spratley (1894-1986). Born on 3 March 1984 at Alverstoke, England. She married Richard Leonard Gilbert Knighton (1899-1979) in New Zealand in 1921. Ellen died in 1986. She was buried in Hamilton Park Cemetery.
  2. William Nelson Spratley (1895-1918).
  3. Alice Spratley (1898-1984). Born on 11 April 1898 at Rest camp Quarters, Meerut, India. She married Frederick Molony (1900-1944) in New Zealand in 1921. She married David Clark (1901-1958) in c1944. She married Leo Percival Denize (1916-1991) in 1980. Alice died in New Zealand in 1984. She was buried in Hamilton Park Cemetery.
  4. Emily Spratley (1901-1984). Born on 26 February 1901 in India. Emily died in New Zealand in 1984. She was buried in Waikumete Cemetery in Auckland.
  5. Victoria Elizabeth Spratley (1903-1991). Born on 22 January 1903 at Brecknock in Breconshire, Powys, Wales. She married Albert George Hicks (1903-1986) in New Zealand in 1923. Victoria died in New Zealand in 1991. She was cremated in Tauranga and buried in Taruheru Cemetery in Gisborne.
  6. John Leslie Spratley (1906-1989). Born on 31 January 1906 in Canada. Leslie died in Nelson, New Zealand in 1989.
  7. Violet Margaret Spratley (1908-1989). Born on 21 August 1908 in Canada. She married Thomas Hugh Bain in New Zealand in 1937 (Folio No. 1937/1699). Violet died in 1989. She was buried in Manukau Memorial Gardens in Auckland.

The family were based in India from c1898 to c1901 before returning to the United Kingdom. They then left on board the 'Halifax' arriving in Canada on 29 May 1903. The family departed Canada on 4 September 1911 on board the 'Zelandia', for Sydney, Australia.

At age 45 William (Snr) enlisted to fight during World War I on 18 January 1915 from Fremantle, Western Australia (Regimental No. 1838). His occupation was given as market gardener and his address as 4 Lily Street, South Fremantle, Western Australia. He was a Private with the 11th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement, and embarked from Australia on board the 'Argyllshire' on 19 April 1915.

William (Snr)'s younger brother John Charles Spratley had enlisted to fight during World War I on 26 August 1914. He had already served during the South African War (Boer War) (1899-1902). John was with the 11th Australian Infantry Battalion, embarking from Fremantle, Western Australia, on board Transport A11 Ascanius on 2 November 1914. On 29 March 1915 Lance Corporal John Charles Spratley died of disease in Egypt. He was buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery in Cairo, Egypt.

William (Jnr) was working as a blacksmith when he too enlisted to fight during World War I on 31 December 1915. He embarked from Fremantle, Western Australia, on board HMAT A60 Aeneas on 17 April 1916. William served with the Australian Imperial Force (Service No. 5473) in the 16th Australian Infantry Battalion and was known as 'Sprat'.

William (Snr) saw action at Gallipoli and was wounded before returning to Australia on 19 January 1916. The family then moved to Tauranga in New Zealand, living in 10th Avenue.

William (Jnr) served in Egypt and then France. The Commonwealth Gazette (No. 169) of 4 October 1917 reported on William's receipt of the Military Medal for service at Bullecourt in France:

Is brought to notice for his bravery and devotion to duty on the morning of the 11th April 1917 in bringing in out of "No Man's Land" his Company Sergeant-Major under very heavy shell and machine gun fire. This man also displayed coolness and gallantry and utter contempt for danger both during the assault and afterwards in the heavy bomb fighting which took place after a footing had been established in the HINDENBURG Line. He is recommended for distinction.

On 25 June 1918 William received a shell wound to his right thigh which shattered his leg. He was carried to a dressing station where his leg had to be amputated.

Sergeant William Nelson Spratley died from loss of blood in the 4th Australian Field Ambulance Hospital at Le Hamel in Northern France on 25 June 1918, aged 24. He was buried in the St Pierre Cemetery at Amiens in Picardie, France

William Nelson Spratley (1894-1918)

References: England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915. 1871 England Census.

Australian War Memorial: Sergeant William Nelson Spratley.

Australian War Memorial: Sergeant William Nelson Spratley - digitised record.

Births, Deaths & Marriages Online (New Zealand).

The AIF Project: John Charles Spratley.

The AIF Project: William Spratley.

The AIF Project: William Nelson Spratley.


A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC

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William Nelson Spratley (1895-1918)

Note:Service Number: 5473
First Names:William Nelson
Last Name:Spratley
Date of Birth:15 June 1895
Place of Birth:Fareham, Hampshire
Country of birth:England
Date of death:25 June 1918
Place of death:Le Hamel, France
Place of burial:St Pierre Cemetery, Amiens, Picardie, France
Fathers name:William Spratley
Fathers date of birth:9 December 1866
Fathers place of birth:Finchampstead, Berkshire, England
Fathers date of death:30 April 1953
Fathers place of death:Auckland, New Zealand
Mothers name:Annie Constance Vass
Mothers date of birth:October 1865
Mothers place of birth:Sandhurst, Berkshire, England
Mothers date of death:18 October 1942
Mothers place of death:Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)