023 – Private William John Elwick Feltham

Private William John Elwick Feltham  12th Battalion

William Feltham was a 29 year old single labourer from Seymour Street, New Town. He volunteered for enlistment in late August 1916 and was allotted to the 21st reinforcements for the 12th Battalion, departing Melbourne on board HMAT A23 Suffolk.

On 25 March 1917 he was taken on strength at the Front with the Battalion having departed England six days earlier.  On 7 April, the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade were detailed to attack and capture Hermies. In order to divert attention from the major operation, the 3rd Brigade was ordered to capture the smaller village of Boursies on the main Bapaume-Cambrai road and the task was allotted to the 12th Battalion. This was the first and only time that the Battalion would carry out an attack of any size without the assistance and co-operation of other units of the Brigade.

The success that the Battalion achieved came at a high cost with 2 officers killed and 5 wounded, a further 70 other ranks killed or missing and 179 wounded. Among those who did not answer the next roll call was Private William Feltham. Who was reported missing. It later transpired that he had been taken as a Prisoner of War. The 3rd Echelon were later informed that he was at Camp Cassel, Germany where he remained for the duration of the war, being repatriated to England on 23 December 1918.

According to his own account on repatriation, he was wounded in the back and right leg when the enemy surrounded his platoon. He was taken to a dressing station and then to hospital at Cambrai. At Aachen he was operated on and on 12 November 1917 was transferred to Langensalaza where he spent three months before being sent to work at a salt mine. Here his treatment was very bad and the food uneatable. If it had not been for the Red Cross parcels of food and other items he would have died of starvation.

After the signing of the Armistice, he stated that he refused to work and was sent to the lager. On 14 December he left for Holland and arrived at Hull on 21st December 1918.

In 1921 William Feltham married Lillian Coyle. The couple lived at New Town with William working as a carter. William died on 10 April 1952 after a long and painful illness according to his death notice.