Their bodies are buried in peace; but their names liveth for evermore.
Their Duty Done
A tribute to the men and women of the East Gippsland Region who Died as a result of their participation in World War One : 1914 -1919
248 Private William Napoleon Cottrell - Bairnsdale Killed in Action 9 June 1917
William and his siblings were all born in the Cooma and Bombala area before his parents, David and Mary and at least four of the younger children moved to Bairnsdale when the children were young adults. William was about twenty years old when they arrived in Bairnsdale and in 1910 he was employed with Messrs John Cook and Co. on the corner of Main and Bailey Streets as a sales assistant and labourer.  The consequences of the war did not start to effect the Cottrell family when two of their boys enlisted. The Cottrell girls, Sophie, Catherine and Anne were all well entrenched in the Red Cross Society, raising funds for the Comforts Fund and the Returned Soldiers and Sailers Club throughout the durration of the war. William was entrneched in the Hibernian Australian Catholic Benefit Society as treasurer and as such very much involved in fund raising as well. On 12 February, William and his brother Edwin attended a recruitment meeting at the Theatre Royal in Bairnsdale. It was a most successful night of recruitment with many young men signing up including Clyde Sharrow and the two Cottrell boys. When William signed up he gave his father as next of kin but before embarking he married Florence Reid and changed his next of kin details to reflect his change in marital status. After William left she lived for a time in Seymour before coming back to Bairnsdale. William and Edwin embarked on 3 June 1916 on the Persic which docked at Plymouth, England on 25 July, and sent a cable home saying that they had arrived safely and well at Salisbury, England. William was attached to the 37th Battalion and they proceeded to France on 22 November 1916. The next entry in his file reads Killed in action somewhere between 7-9 June 1917. In a letter home to his parents dated 16 June 1917, Pte. C.V. Stephens said We have been in the big push, but I was lucky as I got through safely … Poor Will Cottrell. I saw his battalion coming out of the trenches. When they were returning I asked some of them how the Cottrell boys got on, and they said that Ted had been slightly gassed and Will was killed. His two sergeants said to me not to forget to let you know that he died one of the bravest men on the field as he went out to get a wounded comrade and rushed about looking for a stretcher bearer and had just bent down to pick him up when he got a bullet through the head. The family received the word of the wounded son before that of the deceased son and it was while they were absorbing that news that Father Cremin knocked on the door the following day to inform them of the death of William. Father Cremin organised a mass to be said shortly after at St Mary’s for William. According to newspaper reports  the parents and wife of the deceased soldier were in attendacne at the service which was of a most solemn character. Pte. Cottrell was a young man who was greatly respected and was a prominent member of the Catholic Young Men’s Society. Much sympathy was expressed for his young wife and relatives in the sorrow they are undergoing. In 1920 Florence, who was now living in Melbourne, wrote to the Department in reference to receiving the widow’s gratutity money and advised that at present I haven’t got enough money to pay for my burial expenses if I were to die. Hoping you will understand and believe me Yours truly Florence Cottrell wife-widow of the late 248 Private William Napoleon Cottrell. She was granted £2 per fortnight. Six years later, in 1926, she remarried to Len Maher. It was 1920 before Edwin returned to Australia as he was hospitalised many times, the gassing being far more serious than first thought. Almost exactly one year after William embarked he was killed in action. He has no known grave and is remembered on the St Mary’s Honour roll, the Bairnsdale Shire Honour roll and on the Menin Gate memorial, Ypres, Belgium.
….. he died one of the bravest men on the field