AIF Private #511 – John Joseph Hannaford Williams

John Joseph Hannaford Williams
John Joseph Hannaford Williams (1889 – 1915)

Private #511, D Company,
12th Battalion, 3rd Brigade,
1st Division

Just two years after being rescued from a horrendous fire in the Mt Lyall mine in Tasmania, my grandfather’s brother John Joseph Hannaford Williams was among the first to sign-up to serve in the World War 1.

John was a Ballarat boy, working in Queenstown when the war-cooee went round: he’d chucked the mines to labour instead at a local flour mill, having already done his apprenticeship back over on the mainland, at the Ballarat Flour Mills.

John signed into the 12th Battalion, one of the first infantry units raised for the Australian Imperial Force. Nearly half signed on in Tasmania, the rest were recruited from South Australia and Western Australia.
The 12th, 9th, 10th and 11th battalions formed the 3rd Brigade, the ALL AUSTRALIAN BRIGADE who covered the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli, on the 25th April 1915.

picture source (c) AWM, P05934.001
The 12th Battalion at Hobart, Oct 1914. Picture source (c) AWM, P05934.001

John and the 12th were feted out of Hobart on the 20th October 1914, bound for Egypt aboard HMAT Geelong .
John embarked from there for the Dardenelles aboard HMS London,.

At dawn, on the 25th of April 1915 the allied landings began.

John J.H Williams landed with the 1st Australian Division at Anzac Cove, forgot to keep his head down and took a bullet in the forehead, sometime between days 2 to 5 of that infamous, dreadful landing.

When John was finally found he was ferried back out to HMT Mashobra, a transport hastily converted into a hospital ship, that struggled to keep with the flow of wounded from the shore.

HMAT Mashobra 28 Apr 1915, where John J.H.Williams was sent with a bullet wound in his forehead. picture source
HMAT Mashobra 28 Apr 1915, where John J.H.Williams was sent with a bullet wound in his forehead. picture source

John J.H. Williams didn’t pull through.
He died on the 1st May 1915 and his body was consigned to the sea.

Someone kindly informed the Commandant of 6th Military District that John wouldn’t be coming out to fight any more. And so they sent his paltry belongings home: 3 religious books and some postcards, wrapped in a brown paper-parcel along with his Will, war Discs, some souvenirs and a purse containing one pound.

Charles F. and Mary Ann Williams, parents of John J.H, private #115. picture source: Williams Family Archives
Charles F & Mary Ann Williams, John’s parents. Picture source: Williams Family Archives

Australia’s army officialdom sent some wee bit of paper to John’s parents, Charles Francis Williams and Mary Ann (nee Brayshaw) saying something about being “sorry to inform you” that John wasn’t coming home.
Lone Pine Memorial

John Williams died in defence of his ideals and his country.So why is his memorial at Lone Pine spelt wrongly as John Joseph Hamford Williams ?

It’s Hannaford. Not Hamford. It is HANNAFORD , and yes! it matters.
I told that to the army twenty years ago. Guess they must have not gotten the message.

John J.H.Williams' grandmother, Ann "Ellen" Williams nee White. Picture source: Williams Family Archives
John’s grandmother, Ann “Ellen” Williams nee White. Picture source: Williams Family Archives

John Williams was named after his grandfather, John Hannaford Williams (the 1st) who had migrated from England with his wife Ann Eleanor (White) and infant daughter Kate, back in 1855, aboard the Epiminondes. After testing the Geelong region for employment John the 1st shifted the family to Ballarat, which is the country now to which the Williams’ belong.

The family were known as the “White Williams” according to my Nanna Jean. When Nan told me that, I thought she meant that they were “good” people, pure as the driven snow.
But it was actually just a way of determining this branch of the family, as four Williams over the next generation married other people with the surname Williams.
Doing the family tree gets a bit mindboggling.

Charles F. Williams, brother of John J.H. (picture source: Williams Family Archives) John Hannaford Williams, the 1st , was a shopkeeper, on Main Road in Ballarat and the family lived in Errard street.
The Williams’ had five daughters, Kate Wilson, Emily Commons, Annie Millhinch Bickett, Henrietta Cockburn and little Augusta who died just 18 months old. They were John Joseph Hannaford Williams’ aunties. He was their loved nephew.
There were four sons –uncles to John: Frederick and Alfred Williams, my great grandfather Charles Francis Williams and a lilttle boy buried in infancy.

My grandfather Robert 'Bob" H.C Williams, little brother of John J. H. picture source: Williams Family Archives
My grandfather Robert ‘Bob” H.C Williams, little brother of John J. H. picture source: Williams Family Archives

John J. Hannaford Williams, jnr, was born in 1889 at Ballarat, and attended the Macarthur street State School where most of the Williams’ went: even my Dad, in the 1930’s, before the family fled the polio outbreak at Ballarat to combat The Depression in the fresh air and hills of Apollo Bay.

John Joseph Hannaford Williams was the eldest of 11 children: my grandfather was one of the youngest. The Williams family lived at 3 Holmes street in Ballarat. John wasn’t naive, he had done previous service in the Ballarat rifle brigade, and he knew war was serious. But he was a dutiful man, and the Williams’ took duty seriously – all 7 Williams’ brothers joined the army at one war or the other, though not all could do active duty.

Memorial Tree for John J. H. Williams, planted at Ballarat
Memorial Tree for John J. H. Williams planted at Ballarat

Those nice Lucas girls of Ballarat, (the work-force of Lucas’ factory during the war) set their minds to memorializing the lost soldiers from Ballarat, who were never coming home. They even set up a commemorative tree for John Joseph Hannaford Williams. The Lucas girls sold a hell of a lot moon-daisies to raise funds to purchase each tree, and they planted away in rain, hail or shine, creating Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour.
The Williams Brothers of Ballarat John Williams (with cap, back) and brothers, at Ballarat

I would like to thank the family members who have willingly shared photos and memorabilia especially Leigh and Margaret Williams, Ballarat, and David and Andy Williams.