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William Alfred LATHAM

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Lieut 256 27y8m 2 Sep 1914 26 Dec 1919 1

William Alfred Latham (1887 - 1963)

Latham Brothers Booklet

The Latham Family of Murgon

John Stewart and his wife Jane née Duncan were amongst the pioneering settlers at Bald Hills in 1857.  Earlier in that year, excessive flooding in the Hunter River area of New South Wales had caused them to seek new holdings.  The virgin soil near two hills to the north of Brisbane was recommended to them.  The Stewarts and Duncans were Scottish families who within six years built there a Presbyterian church of simple slab construction.  

John and Jane Stewart’s children, one of whom was Jessie attended the little Bald Hills School, the fourth state school in Queensland. A young man called Samuel Latham, a farmer, came to Australia from Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England and in 1883 married nineteen year old Jessie Stewart of Bald Hills.

The family of Samuel and Jessie Latham numbered eleven, the eldest of whom, Annie and her brothers John Stewart and William Alfred were born at Bald Hills.

Samuel and Jessie Latham and family later took up farming in the Murgon District.  Mrs Jessie Latham died there in 1921 and Mr Samuel Latham had reached the age of 84 years when he died at his Murgon residence called Redgate in 1943.

This is the story of their son Bill Latham.

William Alfred Latham's early life.

Bill Latham was born at Bald Hills on 26 January 1887. He accompanied his family to Murgon and was engaged in farming at Goomeri, served in the citizen defence XIII Australian Light Horse Regiment and took part in rifle club activities over a period of about seven years.  


He joined the Australian Imperial Force at Gympie at the age of 27 years 8 months on 2 September 1914, soon after the outbreak of war and was appointed to B Company, 9th Battalion for training at Enoggera.

Private Latham, service number 256, embarked on HMAT Omrah from Brisbane on 24 September 1914.  On the same ship were five other soldiers whose names are on the honour boards at Saint Andrew’s Church: Alexander Easton, Quinton John Hunter, Walter Scipio Mactaggart, Harry Mercer-Smith and Padre Ernest Merrington.

Five year military service

William Latham’s military career, extending over a five year period, included service at Gallipoli and France and was interrupted by periods in hospital for treatment of wounds and various illnesses. Yet he gained promotions to commissioned rank.  

A medical case sheet summarised his experiences in the year 1915 mentioning hospitalisation in Egypt before departure to the Dardanelles, landings at Gallipoli three times, gunshot wound to thigh, gunshot wound to right shoulder, influenza, evacuation at the end of November and illness again in December. The report added, “Has never had the piece of shrapnel removed from the R shoulder”.  Despite his wounds, illnesses and periods in hospitals and convalescence at Lemnos, Heliopolis, Mena and the Greek Community Hospital at Alexandria, William Latham was promoted to the rank of sergeant on 11 December 1915.

 Sergeant Latham was in hospital twice in Egypt at the beginning of 1916, first with influenza then for the repair of a hernia.  He reached the Australian Divisional Base Depot at Étaples, France at the beginning of June 1916 but was admitted to the 24th General Hospital there just days afterwards for treatment of mumps.  He was transferred to 3rd Training Battalion in England during October and was treated for laryngitis in hospital there in December.

Except for a fortnight in hospital in June, Sergeant Latham served with his unit throughout 1917 when the 9th Battalion took part in the advance to the Hindenburg Line.

Officers' training college

On 26 January 1918, Sergeant Latham proceeded to Officers Training College, Cambridge. A report recommending him for commissioned rank contained the commanding officer’s remarks:

 “A good and capable all round man.  Has worked well and will make a good officer.”

Lieutenant Latham returned to Australia per the ship Ascanius and his appointment was terminated on 26 December 1919.

Post war

On 18 September 1920, just one week after his brother’s wedding at Taringa, William Alfred Latham married Gertrude Eastwood1 who was a music teacher, eldest daughter of Mrs T. Eastwood of Enoggera Terrace, Red Hill.  The wedding ceremony was conducted by Rev. Dr Ernest Merrington at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane.

Gertrude accompanied Bill to his dairy farm called Mountain View at Goomeribong, via Goomeri.  There they remained till their retirement in about 1958 when they moved to 63 MacTaggart Street, Goomeri.

They had two children. During World War II, William Latham served in the Volunteer Defence Corps with the rank of captain from 10 May 1942 to 17 July 1943.  Mr Bill Latham died in 1963 and Gertrude in 1967.

1. Horace Eastwood whose name is on an honour board at Saint Andrew’s Church was Gertrude’s brother.

Select Bibliography
• National Archives of Australia, military records, World War 1
• Australian War Memorial - Unit Histories, First World War Embarkation Rolls
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• New South Wales Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• Bean, C. E. W., Anzacs to Amiens, Penguin Books, Melbourne, 2014
• Ancestry on line
The Brisbane Courier, 25 Sept 1920, page 6; 12 Aug 1921; 10 Sept 1921, page 4; 
The Courier Mail, 12 May 1934, page 10; 20 June 1953, page 7
Brisbane Telegraph, 6 June 1953, page 9; 20 June 1953, page 9; 
• Australian Electoral Rolls
• Brisbane City Council Cemetery Records
• John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland - cited images.

Compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane.  June 2016 ©



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