“Never mind me; I’m all right; look after the others first”
William Holland was born in Bourke in 1893. He was living in Orange and working as a station hand when WWI began. William enlisted in December 1914, joining the Light Horse Reserve. William and his mother were residing at his aunt’s and uncle’s house in Byng Street; William’s uncle – Henry Armytage – was Orange Municipal Council’s sanitary inspector.
In March 1915 William was transferred to 12th Light Horse Regiment as a transport driver. He embarked in June 1915, arriving at Gallipoli on 29 August 1915. Driver Holland was sent directly to the trenches. The following day he wrote a letter to his grandparents from the trenches:
“the bullets are flying over my head. We are…as safe as a bank as long as we lie low…Some of the boys have been here 17 weeks and longer, and are none the worse for the experience.”
William would be mortally wounded just a month after writing that letter; he was killed in action before his grandparents received his letter. He was just 22 years of age.
William’s mother, Elizabeth Simmons, was advised of her son’s death via a telegram from the Defence Department. The 103rd Casualty List, however, reported that No. 319 Private W. Holland (7th Light Horse, late 12th Light Horse) of Orange had been killed in action. William’s service number was 314 (not 319). A distressed Elizabeth contacted the Australian Red Cross Society in the hope that her son was still alive, however this was not the case.
In June 1916 William’s commanding officer, Sergeant Vernon, wrote a letter of condolence to William’s grandparents, describing how he had “died a hero”. Private Holland and five other soldiers had been struck by a shell, and as the stretcher bearers approached him William exclaimed: “Never mind me; I’m all right; look after the others first”. By the time they returned to collect William he had passed away. The Leader published the letter in an article entitled “The spirit of the true ANZAC”.
William is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll.
Leader, 25 October 1915, p. 2.
From the Front
Leader, 7 July 1916, p. 4.
“Look after the others first”. The spirit of the true ANZAC.