Spencer William Coleman was born at Wheeo, near Gunning, in May 1880, one of thirteen children born to Charles William Coleman and his wife Maria Selmes. Young Spencer attended the local public school and later trained as a police officer.
In 1903 Spencer married Emily Pole at Kogarah in Sydney.
During 1911 and 1912 Police Constable Coleman was stationed in Orange. During this time he was an active member of the Ancient Order of Foresters. In 1913 he was transferred to Forbes. Constable Coleman remained in Forbes until January 1915 when he was transferred to Paddington as a detective.
Constable Coleman enlisted for war service in July 1915. He noted on his attestation papers that he had served in the police force for a period of 14 years.
Spencer embarked from Sydney in April 1916, a private in the 30th Battalion, 5th Reinforcement. Private Coleman served in England for a year before proceeding to the Western Front in France. He was hospitalised twice during this time; in August 1916 with influenza, and in February 1917 with bronchitis.
Private Coleman proceeded to France in late April 1917 and was transferred to the 29th Battalion in early May.
On 1 February Private Coleman received a promotion to Lieutenant.
On 9 August 1918 the 29th Battalion was engaged in the advance on Vauvillers, part of the Battle of Amiens. Lieutenant Coleman was one of three officers killed that day. The commanding officer noted:
Great bravery was exhibited by all ranks in advancing against extremely heavy machine gun fire and ultimately silencing all opposition.
Shortly before his death Lieutenant Coleman wrote a letter to his old friend in Orange, Arnold T Caldwell. He said:
Just a few lines to let you know I am in the best of health, and still endeavouring to do my bit towards helping in this awful struggle, which is ever in progress over here … What sort of season have we been having round Orange? How are the crops, including the fruit? How is the Foresters’ lodge getting on, and all our old friends? I am awfully thankful to you all for your great kindness in sending me the parcels. They always arrive at the right time—just when the tobacco supply is getting low, or when one feels he would like a change in the rations … I am anxiously awaiting my leave to England, and, with anything like good luck, I should be there in about five weeks. It is a great change to go away from the roar of battle for only a few days …
Spencer William Coleman is commemorated on the Ancient Order of Foresters Orange Roll of Honor, the Crookwell War Memorial, on his parents’ grave in Crookwell Cemetery, and on panel number 115 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Lieut TW Coleman, presumably Spencer”. It was donated by the Ancient Order of Foresters. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Spencer’s brother, Leslie Raswell Elton Coleman also served in WWI; he died of wounds in Belgium in September 1917.