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Captain William Henry Payne and despatch riders with the 1st Cavalry Divisional Signal Squadron, Mesopotamia, 1917. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

William Henry Payne was born in Orange in 1887. His father, William snr, was a popular local hairdresser and his mother was Mary Ann nee Jones. William and Mary had married in Orange in September 1886 and William Henry was their first-born son. A second son, Curtis Robert, followed in 1891.

William attended Orange Public School and later joined the operating staff at the Orange Railway Station. He trained with the Australasian branch of the Marconi Company and was also a Deputy Manager with Amalgamated Wireless (Australia) Ltd.

As a young man William took himself off to New Zealand, where he served two and a half years with the 3rd Auckland Infantry Regiment (C Company). In July 1914 he married Ethel Mary Fromm of Gisborne. The couple relocated to Sydney, where Ethel gave birth to two children.

When WWI broke out William served two years and seven months as a Lieutenant with the 17th Signal Troop Army Engineers at Moore Park, where he developed the AIF Wireless School, effectively organising the entire scheme for military wireless training in the Commonwealth.

William and his brother Curtis enlisted together in Sydney on 19 February 1917. Both were assigned to the 1st Cavalry Divisional Signal Squadron; William as a captain and Robert as a sapper. The brothers embarked HMAT A15 Port Sydney for overseas service on 9 May 1917.

Captain Payne proceeded to Mesopotamia; his squadron formed part of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. William was hospitalised shortly after his arrival in Mesopotamia. He returned to duty in August 1917, but was readmitted to hospital in late November with small pox. William’s condition deteriorated and he died on 10 December 1917, aged 30. He was buried in Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery in Iraq.

William Henry Payne is commemorated on panel number 26 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

William’s brother Curtis Robert Payne returned to Australia in May 1918.