Kinseys Fighting for Australia in WWI: William Roderick Darrell Kinsey

With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, thousands of Australians and New Zealanders answered the call to form the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). Many of those who enlisted had deep roots to the UK.

Included in those men and women were two members of the Kinsey family, Joseph Richard Kinsey and William Roderick Darrell Kinsey.  One made it home, while the other did not.

Those who did not make it home: William Roderick Darrell Kinsey

The son of William David Kinsey and Jessie Rankin was born in Clermont, Queensland, Australia in 1898.  W. D. Kinsey had immigrated to Australia some time in the 1890s from Montgomeryshire, Wales.  He then married Jessie in 1897 and their son was born soon after.

William David Kinsey died in 1906 leaving his wife and young son.  By 1916, Darrell was a teenager and working as a billiard marker.  A billiard marker was someone who worked in a pool hall setting up the tables, keeping score, etc.


Attestation Paper of William Roderick Darrell Kinsey - front
Attestation Paper of William Roderick Darrell Kinsey - back

Enlisting in the 42nd Battalion

Darrell Kinsey enlisted on 6 July 1916 and was placed in the 42nd Battalion, 4th Reinforcement of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).  He was a private.

Photo of the A36 HMAT Boonah       

He left Brisbane aboard the A36 HMAT Boonah on 21 October 1916 and they arrived in Plymouth, England on 10 January 1917.  That makes a total of 2 1/2 months at sea.

The HMAT Boonah was the same transport that many Aussies travelled on to Europe and back.  Included in which was Sapper Joseph Richard Kinsey when he was shipped back to Australia in 1919.  The HMAT Boonah was also the scene of one of the saddest events during WWI - The Boonah Tragedy.

The Boonah Tragedy

In 1918 when armistice was called, the HMAT Boonah started course to return to Australia with 1200 AIF soldiers on board.  However, while at sea there was a breakout of influenza and by the time of its arrival in Freemantle over 300 cases had been reported.  Immigration officials refused to allow the soldiers to disembark.  The situation worsened and a public outrage ensued.  By the end of the crisis nine days later, 24 soldiers and 4 nurses had died.

The 42nd and the Warneton Stunt

The AIF 's 42nd Battalion was first formed in 1916 during the early days of the war.  Private Kinsey arrived in Europe to join the 42nd in France on 25 June 1917 as part of the 4th Reinforcement.

A diary from one of the members of the 42nd tells the story about the nickname of the 42nd - The Australian Black Watch:
Our Battalion bore the same regimental number as the Highland Regiment called "The Black Watch," hence the 42nd Battalion AIF was jocularly referred to as "The Australian Black Watch." A drum and pipe band always accompanied us. It may have been a coincidence, but we certainly did receive into our ranks, a number of men who were either born Scotsmen or of Scottish descent.

By the summer of 1917, the 42nd Battalion was fighting in the Messines area of Belgium.  It was on 13 July 1917 that Darrell joined the rest of his unit at the front line.  His medical records at the time of enlistment stated that he was 5' 5 1/2" and 130 lbs.  He had hazel eyes, black hair and was of fair complexion.

We pick up the story of the 42nd, from the same diary:
On June 23rd, we returned to the Black Line and the Green Line. Here we remained for a period of twenty-one days, during which we consolidated and strengthened our new line of defence. The communicating trenches were named: Unbearable, Gapaard, Hun's Walk, Owl, Fanny, and Wellington. These were all in bad condition. The Front Line was not joined up. Water was two feet deep in some parts of the trenches owing to continuous wet weather.

There was a great scarcity of engineering material, but in spite of all these drawbacks we made good progress by steadily gaining ground and pushing out strong posts in the direction of Warneton.  Our casualties were not severe, but never a day passed without toll being taken of our comrades by death or wounds.


The enemy presented evidence of nervousness and anxiety. He became very active with patrols and succeeded in establishing several strong posts in No-man's Land, which it was our object to eliminate, resulting in the action known as - The Warneton Stunt.


We were relieved in the Messines sector on July 11th by the 36th Battalion and moved into tents and shelters by the side of a small streamlet called "Le Petit Douve.' Thence onwards until the end of July a continuous series of downpours saturated the ground, turning it into one huge bog. The little streamlet became a swiftly flowing river, ready to burst its banks at any moment, so that the conditions under which we existed were most discomforting.


Our strength was increased on July 14th by a draft of 108, and again on the 16th by a further draft of 50.


The Warneton Stunt, which we carried out in conjunction with the 43rd Battalion, although directed mainly towards wiping out the enemy's strong posts established in No-man's Land, which had caused us so much annoyance, was also devised to serve as a diversion for the offensive taking place on the North-west (Belgium) Front.


On the night of July 31st we returned to the trenches, performing part of the journey by motor lorries. The ground was so water logged that it took five hours to make the approach march. 


The 43rd Battalion attacked on the right. The 42nd Battalion attacked on the left. The operation was highly successful. Strong post after strong post was attacked and captured along with many prisoners and counterattacks beaten off. It is estimated that 150 of the enemy were killed in our first attack. Our casualties were fairly light but our captures were many. Our men were utterly exhausted by the strain of fifty hours continuous fighting and digging, in the most abominable Weather. The Corps Commander awarded eight of our men military medals for their conspicuous achievements on this occasion.
His Passing

According to his service record, Private Kinsey was wounded in the abdomen by a gunshot wound on 31 July 1917.  He was taken to the 11th Australian Ambulance Station that same day but to no avail.  He died of his wounds on the 31st of July.

Casualty Report of William Roderick Darrell Kinsey - front
Casualty Report of William Roderick Darrell Kinsey - back
For his war effort, he was awarded:
  • The 1914-15 Star
  • The British War Medal (1914-1918)
  • The Allied Victory Medal (1914-1919)
Private William Roderick Darrell Kinsey was buried soon after in a nearby cemetery -  Kandahar Farm Cemetery, Neuve-Eglise, Heuvelland, West Vlaandereren, Belgium.

His sole remaining relative, his mom Jessie Kinsey, received word a few days later in a cable on 7 August.  She was still living at their home at "Trenthan", Wickham Terrace in Brisbane.  Later on, she was sent his personal effects: a disc. pipe, a metal cigarette case, a match box holder, some photos, some letters and some cards.

Photo of Kandahar Farm Cemetery, Messines, Belgum
His grave is located in Plot 2, row F, burial 15 of the Kandahar Farm Cemetery. He had only been at the front for a little more than two weeks.  He was only 19.

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