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William Randolph Eppes SABINE

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Major (Hon) 2 26 Feb 1859 57y 1914 4 Oct 1924 D Disease 5

William Randolph Eppes Sabine (1859-1924)


Early life

William Randolph Eppes Sabine was born on 26 February 1859 at Moama, New South Wales, son of John Randolph Sabine (chemist) and Catherine (née Hardcastle). He became an accountant and financial manager. He married Annie Briggs in 1884 and their family consisted of four sons and a daughter.

Service in the Boer War

Sergeant WRE Sabine served in the South African War, a member of 3rd Company, Queensland Mounted Infantry raised under proclamation in December 1900. The Contingent left Brisbane on 13 January 1900 and returned to Brisbane on 3 May 1901. He was engaged in operations in Orange Free State, Transvaal and Cape Colony. The Brisbane Courier published a letter he wrote to his wife from Osfontein on 7 March 1900:

I am writing this on the eve of a great battle. About 100 of our men are to be engaged in it and I am left in the camp with Lieutenant Crichton and a few others. All our men got away about 3 am. We can hear the guns quite distinctly and see the smoke from the cannons. We arrived at this place last night. We left Modder River on Sunday morning. It was raining hard and we had to cross the river twice. It is a sight out here. There are graves all over the place.

Whenever the Boers move from one position to another they mark the distances by placing large biscuit tins at measured distances so they have no trouble in picking up the exact distances to range their guns on. We had a brush with the enemy yesterday and Hives was wounded in two places, one through the lip and the other through the arm and a bullet went through his trousers. It was a miracle he was not killed.

The New South Wales men had nine wounded. Mr Harris and Sergeant Cooney have just come in. They got lost during the night and were pretty wild at missing the fight. I saw Major Browne last night and Lieutenant-Colonel Byron. They both look well. Major Browne inquired after all the “Courier” people. 

I had no sleep last night. We got here at 6 o’clock. I then had to go six miles to get a mule team and get rations. It was 10 when I got back. After that I had to take a party back to get tinned meat for the men that were going out at 3 am. Now I have an hour to spare and am writing. Pasco is laid up again; he has sprained his ankle; and Birberg has a broken wrist. The night before last we got no rations the transport was stuck up and they had to bring the things in on horses. I had a cup of tea today – the first since Sunday. A man’s rations here are three biscuits and 1⁄2lb meat per day but today we managed to get full rations.”

He received the Queen’s Medal with four clasps.

Alderman W. R. E. Sabine served on the South Brisbane Council in 1911.

World War 1 service as Quartermaster

Captain Sabine served again in World War 1 as Quartermaster, 1st Australian General Hospital departing Brisbane aboard HMAT Kyarra on 21 November 1914.  Just prior to his leaving he was entertained at Rowe’s Café by a number of his old comrades – commissioned officers of the Australian Imperial Force. In a toast to Captain Sabine, the Enoggera Camp Commandant said:

The Australian General Hospital was most fortunate in having as its quartermaster an officer with such wide experience as Captain Sabine.

After more than 12 months’ service in Egypt and a few days’ leave in Alexandria, W.R.E. Sabine, now an honorary major, embarked from Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force in France but on the way at Marseilles he suffered a sudden attack of faintness while walking up a hill.

Return to Australia

Attacks of considerable severity occurred over the following months. At Tidworth, England a medical officer recommended investigation by a medical board in Australia. He returned immediately on hospital ship Kanowna disembarking at Sydney on 31 October 1916.

Major Sabine was diagnosed by the medical board as suffering from aortic vascular disease with cardiac dilitation and he was unfit for further service at home and abroad. He was discharged on 4 December 1916.

Link to Saint Andrew's

Mr and Mrs Sabine were members of Wharf Street Congregational Church. As a South Brisbane Councillor he was active in civic affairs and he also held office in the local branch of the Returned Soldiers’ Association. Failing health caused a lengthy period in Rosemount Hospital where he died 4 October 1924, aged 65 years.

Select Bibliography
• National Archives of Australia, military records 
The Brisbane Courier, 11 April 1900, 19 November 1914, 7 October 1910, 16 February 1917, 2 November 1921, 18 October 1924 
Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, 4 November 1902
The Queenslander, 20 January 1900, 9 September 1916 
• First World War Embarkation Rolls 
The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 29 June 1943 
• Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church Archives, Wharf Street Congregational Church Year Books 1909 – 1920

Compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane, January 2015 ©



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