Corporal William Edward Stillman

Date of Birth c.1889
Age at Death 27
Date of Death 15 April 1917
Service Number 91
Military Service 5th Company, Australian Machine Gun Corps
Merton Address 7A Robinson Road, Colliers Wood
Local Memorial Christ Church, Colliers Wood

Additional Information

William was born in Hendon in 1889, and baptised on 17 November at St. Mary’s Church. His parents, William and Jane were living at 5 Heading Street, Hendon, and his father was employed as a Carman. By 1901 the family had moved to 6 Balham High Street, and William Snr now had his own business as a Greengrocer. William was now aged 11, and the rest of the family included his older sister Helen aged 18, and younger brother, Herbert aged 9. By the time of the 1911 Census, the family had moved again to 62 Balham Hill. William Jnr had now joined his father as a Greengrocer, while Herbert was employed as a Fitters Mate/Motor Engineer. Helen had moved out of the family home, but a cousin, Frank Stillman aged 7, was now living with the family.

William immigrated to Australia on a ship named the Osterley, which landed at Brisbane on 25 March 1912. The passenger list records him as a Labourer, aged 22. On 10 April 1915, William enlisted at Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia, with the 18th Battalion, 5th Infantry Brigade. His occupation was recorded as a Blacksmiths Striker, and his description reads: Height 5 foot 9 ½ ins – Weight 158 lbs - Eyes – Grey, Hair – Brown, Tatoo on left forearm.

Following training, the battalion was sent to Egypt and on 15 August 1915, the Battalion proceeded to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli as part of a wave of reinforcements that arrived after the initial landing. William was wounded on 26 August 1915, and spent time in various hospitals suffering from illnesses such as diarrhea and dysentery. He eventually returned to duty with ‘A’ Company at Tel El Kebir, Egypt (Training Centre) on 10 January 1916, transferring to “D” Company two days later on 12 January 1916.

William was transferred to the 5th Machine Gun Company on 8 March 1916, which joined the British Expeditionary Force at Alexandria as part of the Australia Corps, landing at Marseilles on 23 March. While serving in France, William suffered from more ailments, including ringworm and gastritis. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 1 January 1917, and then temporarily promoted to the rank of Corporal a few weeks later. William died on15 April, 1917, and is commemorated at Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Somme, France, and locally at Christ Church, Colliers Wood.The family had since moved to 7A Robinson Road, Colliers Wood.

William’s Service Records include a letter dated July 1916, from a Fire Station in Sydney inquiring about his whereabouts. They were concerned that they had heard nothing since he was wounded in August 1915, and that even William’s friends in Egypt had not heard from him. The Records Officer replied that it was assumed that he had progressed satisfactorily, and was most probably back on duty with the 18th Battalion. William had in fact, transferred to the 5th Machine Gun Co, and joined the BEF in France by 23 March 1916.

The Service Records also includes a letter from William’s mother asking that his ‘pre -military effects’ in the custody of a Mrs Shipley in Melbourne, be collected and returned to her.

Another official letter, states that Mrs Shipley claims that a Watch and Chain received by her, belonging to William were bequeathed to her under his will, but the Army officials state that this is incorrect, and that the beneficiary under William’s Will was his mother Jane. The Service Records show that these effects were returned to the “Kit store” in July 1919, and were presumably eventually returned to his mother.

William’s brother, Rifleman Herbert George Stillman, was killed during the Great War, and his story is also included on this website.


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