The AIF Project


Regimental number585
Place of birthLondon, England
ReligionChurch of England
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation26
Height5' 6"
Weight135 lbs
Next of kinBrother, C.H. Willenbrock, Ngaruawahia, New Zealand
Previous military serviceServed for 1.5 years in the City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders); 3 years as 2nd Lt, 3rd Regiment, Auckland Mounted Rifles.
Enlistment date27 August 1914
Place of enlistmentBundaberg, Queensland
Rank on enlistmentLance Corporal
Unit name2nd Light Horse Regiment, C Squadron
AWM Embarkation Roll number10/7/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Brisbane, Queensland, on board HMAT A15 Star Of England on 24 September 1914
Regimental number from Nominal RollCommissioned
Rank from Nominal RollLieutenant
Unit from Nominal Roll49th Battalion
FateKilled in Action 5 April 1918
Age at death from cemetery records29
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: Frederick and Caroline WILLENBROCK
Other details

War service: Egypt, Gallipoli, Western Front

Embarked Alexandria to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Gallipoli, 9 March 1915.

Admitted to hospital, 13 September 1915; transferred to 1st Auxiliary Hospital, Heliopolis, 19 September 1915 (dysentery); transferred to Helouan Convalescent Camp, 9 October 1915; discharged to duty, 31 October 1915.

Promoted Sergeant, 29 December 1915.

Appointed 2nd Lieutenant, 12 March 1916.

Transferred to 49th Bn, 15 March 1916, and taken on strength, Tel el Kebir.

Detached to School of Instruction, 31 March 1916; rejoined Bn, 22 April 1916.

Embarked Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 5 June 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 13 June 1916.

Promoted Lieutenant, 31 July 1916.

On leave to England, 3 October 1916; rejoined Bn from leave, 15 October 1916.

Promoted Captain, 1 November 1916.

On leave to England, 10 May 1917; rejoined Bn, 22 May 1917.

Detached to School of Instruction, 30 June 1917; rejoined Bn, in the field, 11 July 1917.

Detached to 13th Training Bn, England, 29 July 1917; marched in to Codford, 1 August 1917.

On Command. Machine Gun Training School, Grantham, 1 October 1917; rejoined 13th Training Bn, 5 October 1917.

Marched out to Overseas Training Brigade, Longbridge Deverill, 4 November 1917.

Proceeded overseas to France, 5 December 1917; rejoined 49th Bn, in the field, 11 December 1917.

Killed in action, 5 April 1918.

Note on Red Cross File No 2950406: 'No trace Germany[.] Cert. by Capt. Mills 10/10/19'.

Statement, 3362 Pte E.G. BISHOP, 49th Bn (patient, Great Western Road Hospital, Cheltenham, England), 15 July 1918: 'At Demacourt (sic) while in Command of the Battn. when advancing, Capt. Willenbrock turned round to give an order when he was hit by an explosive bullet at the back of the neck and killed instantly. As we were over the brow of the hill the body could not be recovered. I was about 20 yards away and saw him fall. He was a brave man and a fine leader.'

Second statement, 2408 Sergeant L.W. LANE, 49th Bn, 19 July 1918: ' ... the only information I could give was that he was killed by machine gun bullet in the head and about 5.15 p.m. on the evening of the 5.4.18 ... When I last saw him in the advance he was in the centre of the Coy. and and doing his duty urging the boys on.'

Third statement, 3720 Pte C.H. CATON, B Company, 49th Bn (patient, 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth, England), 28 July 1918: 'I saw Capt. Willenbrock buried in No Man's Land. I did not see him killed but was told by Pte (whose name I cannot at the moment remember) that he was shot through the head ... '

Fourth statement, 3666 Pte J. HENDERSON, C Company, 49th Bn (patient, 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, Kent, England), 26 June 1918: 'I saw his grave at Dernancourt on the field. Grave was marked by a Cross having full details marked thereon.'

Fifth statement, 3597 Pte H.J. SEALY, A Company, 49th Bn (patient, 5th Southern General Hospital, Milton Section, Portsmouth, England), 11 June 1918: 'Captain Willenbrock was in command on Friday 5th April at Dervencourt (sic), to the right of Albert. He got hit about 20 yards before we were held up, and was killed outright.'

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, WILLENBROCK John Henry
Red Cross File No 2950406

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