Cullen: William Edward Harold

Born on 23rd Jan 1895 at Coromandel Valley, William Edward Harold was the eldest son of William and Lily Cullen. He attended the Coromandel Valley Public School before commencing work as a gardener.

At the time of his enlistment on Jan 11th, 1916, he had a letter from his parents giving their permission as he was yet to turn 21 years of age. His enlistment papers at Adelaide state that he was 5’8” (173cm) tall, weighed 136lbs (62kg), had hazel eyes, dark hair and belonged to the Methodist Church.

A reinforcement for the 27th Battalion, Private (Pte) 4406 William Cullen embarked for overseas service from Adelaide aboard the HMAT Shropshire on 25th March 1916. After his arrival in Egypt, he would have undergone the usual couple of months of training before embarking for France from Alexandria on board the HMT Tunisian on 29th May.

Upon arriving at Marseilles on 5th June, William was part of the 27th Battalion until transferred to the 48th in October 1916. In early December 1916 he reported sick with Trench Feet, an ailment that was caused by standing in wet, soggy conditions for lengthy periods of time. Often, the remedy was the amputation of the frostbitten foot, toes or even both feet in dire circumstances.

The winter of 1916 in France is remembered as one of the coldest in more than 40 years. Many men froze to death during that time.

William spent several months recovering in hospital in England during 1917 with various illnesses including Influenza and Trench Fever. After rejoining his unit in Belgium in late 1917, he became ill again with recurring Trench Feet resulting in further bouts of hospitalisation. Ultimately, he was transferred back to the 27th Battalion in France in July 1918.

The 27th Battn took part in the attack on the German line at Amiens, France, on 8th August 1918, which German General Erich Ludendorf labelled “Das Schwartz Tag” or “The Black Day”.

The Australian infantry were part of the attack which smashed the German defences along the Western Front. Amongst the casualties was William Cullen, who was seriously wounded with gunshots to the legs and upper arm. These wounds proved fatal and he died at the 13th USA General Field Hospital on 12th August 1918, aged 23. He was buried in the Terlinethum British Cemetery, France.

His medals and Memorial Plaque were sent to his father in 1921-22. A photograph of him is amongst those members of the Coromandel Valley Methodist Church who were killed in the Great War that is on display at the Blackwood RSL. His name is also recorded on the Roll of Honour of the Coromandel Valley Public School and on the Coromandel Valley War Memorial.

Research by Geoff Lock, 2015