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William McWilliam SANDEMAN

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
ER Sgt 2461 18y4m 19 Jan 1917 5 Jul 1919 2

Sergeant William McWilliam Sandeman (1898 – 1967)

Sandeman Brothers Booklet

 Forty-two men from the 35 families in the rural district of Maroon in south-east Queensland enlisted in the 1st AIF, and 17 of these men made the ultimate sacrifice – an unusually high proportion from the one community. The Maroon volunteers included the Sandeman brothers John (known as ‘Jack’) and Will, who served in the 5th and 11th Australian Light Horse Regiments respectively, and they were among those who did return.

Will returned to his pre-war employment with Queensland Railways, also married and raised a family, and had various postings as a railway station master throughout Queensland. In World War 2 he served full-time as a Lieutenant in the Australian Army Pay Corps, including a period in New Guinea.

Family background

Jack and Will were of Scottish descent, both of their parents having been born in Scotland - John McLean Sandeman (1859-1929) in Broughty Ferry, the son of a Robert Learmonth/Learmouth Sandeman (a gardener and farmer) and his wife Mary (née Bell); while Elizabeth Kerr McLelland (1858-1923) was born in Kirkcolm to Samuel (then a tailor, later a grocer) and his wife Margaret (née Kerr).

John and Elizabeth were married with Presbyterian rites in Brisbane in 1882. John was working as a mariner at that stage, and had met Elizabeth in 1881 when she was a passenger on a ship on which he was working.

In 1887 part of a pastoral run named Maroon in southern Queensland, near the border with NSW, was divided into small agricultural lots and sold as ‘excellent dairy farms’. It was very much pioneering for those who took up a block, with the settlers clearing scrub, erecting their slab huts with a shingle roof, growing their own vegetables, meat, maize and making their own bread, butter and cheese. By at least 1891 John and Elizabeth were on a block at Maroon and John was a member of the first committee for the Maroon School opened in 1891 – built on the initiative of the locals at their own expense.

The couple had nine children, although not all lived to adulthood – sons Jack and Will were the only males who did so. John managed the local cheese factory for a time, and was among the first trustees of the 1905 School of Arts.

John and Elizabeth moved back to Brisbane sometime before 1919, and were communicant members of Saint Andrew’s Church on the corner of Ann and Creek Streets in the Brisbane CBD.


William McWilliam Sandeman (known as ‘Will’) was born in Ipswich on 21 September 1898. After attending the Maroon School, he started work as a porter with the Queensland Railways when he was 16, and enlisted in the 1st AIF on 19 January 1917 when he was 18 (the minimum required age).

As he was under 21 parental consent was required – and this was forthcoming but with the interesting qualification that Will was not to be sent overseas until his 19th birthday.

This was an unusual qualification, and perhaps a compromise between parental concern about both their surviving sons being at risk (and knowing how many of the other Maroon men had died) as against Will’s keenness to serve in the 1st AIF.

Will had had four years with the senior militia cadets, and on enlistment stood 175cms tall, weighed 63.5kg, and had a fair complexion, light brown hair and grey eyes. His religion was Presbyterian.

The condition set by his parents was honoured, and Will trained as a Private in the reserve unit until he turned 19 in September 1917 – then three days later he was placed as a Trooper in the 20th reinforcements for the 11th Light Horse Regiment. Shortly before embarking on the HMAT Ulysses A38 on 19 December 1917 in Sydney Will was made a Corporal, and a few days after sailing a temporary (albeit unpaid) Sergeant.

Service in the Middle East

The reinforcements disembarked in Egypt in mid-January 1918, and in February Will went to the Imperial School of Instruction in Moascar (still as a Sergeant but unpaid), passed the NCOs course at Zeitoun in April, and then attended the Central Gas School in Raja in May - after which he did receive extra duty pay as a Sergeant in the Central Training Depot. In July the thoroughly trained William was made a Sergeant at the instructional staff HQ.

After the Turks surrendered on 30 October 1918, Will applied for an early return home due to the ill health of his parents. He boarded the SS Dorset at the end of April 1919 and after arriving back in Australia in June, was formally discharged on 5 July 1919.


Will returned to his employment with the Queensland railways, living initially at New Farm and then Coorparoo, and was on the communion roll of Saint Andrew’s in the Brisbane CBD (as were his parents). Relief postings saw him work in several locations.

In 1924 Will was stationed at Goodwood (half way between Maryborough and Bundaberg), and in October of that year he married Sarah Eliza Keeble in St Peter’s Church of England, Wynnum. Sarah had been born in Eidsvold in 1900, the youngest daughter of Arthur Keeble and Dinah Priscella (née Buckingham).

Postings for Will to Beerburrum and Toowoomba followed, with a break in his railway employment during the Second World War when he served full-time from July 1940 to June 1946 in the Australian Army Pay Corps – at the rank of Lieutenant from October 1943 – with some of this service being in New Guinea.

After a posting to Blackwater, by 1949 Will was back in Brisbane, with he and Sarah residing in Rosling Street, Moorooka. At the time of his retirement in December 1964 Will was the Assistant Station Master at the South Brisbane Station (as both a local terminus and the terminus with goods sheds and shunting yards for Interstate trains it was large and very busy). 

Will didn’t get to enjoy his retirement for very long – he passed away on 7 October 1967 in the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, aged 69, and his remains were cremated at the Mt Thompson Memorial Gardens with Presbyterian rites. He was survived by Sarah, a son Glen and one daughter Beverley.

In commemoration of their service in World War 1, Will and his brother Jack are listed on the Honour Boards in Saint Andrew’s Church in the Brisbane CBD, and the War Memorial at their home town of Maroon.

Select bibliography
• Australian electoral rolls.
• Australian War Memorial – embarkation rolls.
• National Archives of Australia – service records (WW1 and WW2), repatriation files. 
• Queensland births, marriages and deaths registers.
• The assistance of John’s daughter Jessie is gratefully acknowledged.
• Hammond, E.W., History of 11th Light Horse Regiment, Fourth Light Horse Brigade, Australian Imperial forces, war 1914-1919 (William Brooks and Co., Brisbane, 1942).
• Krause, H.A., The story of Maroon in the Fassifern District of Queensland: a souvenir review of its history and development, 1827-1961 (Maroon Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1961).
Maroon Centenary Celebrations Committee Maroon State School: Centenary Celebrations 1891-1991 (Maroon Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1991).
• Pfeffer, Colin, The Fassifern story: a history of Boonah Shire and surroundings to 1989 (Boonah Shire Council, 1991).
• Walsh, Leo. W., A brief history and detailed nominal roll of the 5th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force, 1914 to 1919 (Victoria Barracks Museum and Historical Society, Brisbane, 2010).
• Wilson, L.C. and Wetherell, H., History of the Fifth Light Horse Regiment (Australian Imperial Force) (A. Green, Brisbane, 2008). 
Courier Mail (Brisbane) 1 June 1968.

Written by Ian Carnell AM, Buderim.   November 2017 ©  Revised March 2018 ©



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