The AIF Project

William Alfred FITCH

Regimental number538
Place of birthBrighton, Victoria
SchoolBrighton State School, Victoria
ReligionMethodist
OccupationCarpenter
AddressPrimrose Crescent, Brighton, Victoria
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation19
Next of kinMother, Mrs J Fitch, Primrose Crescent, Brighton, Victoria
Previous military serviceServed for 3 years in the Senior Cadets [Attestation Form states 4 years]; 1 year with Citizen Forces, Field Engineers, 7th Company, Melbourne.
Enlistment date9 July 1915
Date of enlistment from Nominal Roll14 July 1915
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name29th Battalion, B Company
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/46/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A11 Ascanius on 10 November 1915
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll5th Divisional Signal Company
FateKilled in Action 25 September 1917
Place of death or woundingPolygon Wood, Ypres, Belgium
Age at death21
Age at death from cemetery records21
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsThe Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 7), Belgium

The Menin Gate Memorial (so named because the road led to the town of Menin) was constructed on the site of a gateway in the eastern walls of the old Flemish town of Ypres, Belgium, where hundreds of thousands of allied troops passed on their way to the front, the Ypres salient, the site from April 1915 to the end of the war of some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

The Memorial was conceived as a monument to the 350,000 men of the British Empire who fought in the campaign. Inside the arch, on tablets of Portland stone, are inscribed the names of 56,000 men, including 6,178 Australians, who served in the Ypres campaign and who have no known grave.

The opening of the Menin Gate Memorial on 24 July 1927 so moved the Australian artist Will Longstaff that he painted 'The Menin Gate at Midnight', which portrays a ghostly army of the dead marching past the Menin Gate. The painting now hangs in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, at the entrance of which are two medieval stone lions presented to the Memorial by the City of Ypres in 1936.

Since the 1930s, with the brief interval of the German occupation in the Second World War, the City of Ypres has conducted a ceremony at the Memorial at dusk each evening to commemorate those who died in the Ypres campaign.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
25
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: Alfred and Jemima FITCH, 'Lochiel', 139 Hampton Street, Middle Brighton, Victoria
Other details

War service: Egypt, Western Front

Disembarked Suez, 7 December 1915.

Proceeded from Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 16 June 1916; disembarked Marseilles, 23 June 1916.

Transferred to 5th Divisional Signal Company, 1 April 1917; taken on strength as Power Buzzer.

Granted furlough to England, 8 August 1917; rejoined unit from furlough, 21 August 1917.

Reported missing in action, 25 September 1917; Court of Inquiry, 3 April 1918, confirmed fate as killed in action.

Statement by 15910 Signaller W.G. FAIRNIE, 15 December 1917: 'On the 24th September 1917 at Ypres, I was gassed. At the time I was in the same dugout as Private Fitch, who was also gassed. We both reported at Casualty Clearing Station and I did not see Private Fitch.'

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

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