William Clement was born in Orange in about 1876 to John Dana Clement and his wife Susan. The couple also had a daughter, Marguerite. William went to school in Mudgee and as a young man worked for the Mudgee Guardian newspaper. William later lived in Wellington; he was well known in sporting circles in both towns.
William’s parents died prior to the outbreak of the First World War. William was 39 years of age when he enlisted in March 1915. He was living with his sister, Marguerite, and her husband in Maroubra, and working as a butcher. He nominated Marguerite – his only living relative – as his next of kin.
Private Clement was assigned to the 13th Battalion, 15th Reinforcements; he embarked from Sydney in March 1916. In May that year he was transferred to the 45th Battalion, and the following month joined the British Expeditionary Force in France.
Service records show that in June, en route from Marseilles to Etaples, Clement disobeyed orders and left the train he was travelling on, becoming caught between the buffers of two train carriages, and sustaining wounds to his right buttock. He was hospitalised initially in Etaples, then transferred to the Ontario Military Hospital in England.
Private Clement rejoined his unit in France three months later. He served for just six weeks, before he was again hospitalised, this time with a contusion of the right foot.
On 7 June 1917 Private Clement was reported wounded. This was soon upgraded to wounded and missing in action. The proceedings of a court of enquiry held on 7 December 1917 found him to have been killed in action 7 June 1917.
Private JH Packs, a stretcher bearer, wrote a letter to Clement’s sister describing the events surrounding her brother’s death: “We had just left the reserve trench and were moving up the ridge about 20 yards in front of the trench when an enemy shell landed amongst us killing one and wounding several others, your brother amongst them.”
William Clement is commemorated on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph.