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
6617 Private William Joseph Yates - Goon Nure / Forge Creek  Killed in Action 8 October 1917
When war was declared the majority or men who enlisted were single but now, more and more married men and many with families were enlisting to fill the ranks. William Yates was one of these men. William was born in 1877 at Bairnsdale, the eighth child of William Joseph and Susannah Yates. The birth of his fifth sister two years later completed the family. William snr was a building contractor and monumental mason and the family resided at Picnic Point. William was a successful businessman and accumulated property throughout the district including farms in the Goon Nure and Forge Creek area.  At about 11.00am on 19 August 1889 William snr went to harness the horse to take the family to church and William, then eleven years old, discovered his unconscious father under the buggy shafts. He died within hours. The family was comfortable financially and the older boys took over running the business and properties but no doubt after this death William jnr developed a strong independence and determination. In 1910 William married Jessie Spillman and their two sons, William and John were born in 1913 and 1915 respectively. The oldest child, William, contracted polio in infancy which was an infliction that he carried for the rest of his life. Before William enlisted both he and Jessie were constant donors to Red Cross appeals and efforts directed to war support. When William was 38 years old he enlisted on 8 August 1916 and embarked from Melbourne two months later on the Nestor. The ship arrived at New Plymouth on 16 November 1916 and William was attached to No. 3 Command Depot for ten months in England before arriving in Havre, France on 21 August 1917 with the 23 rd  Battalion. He was only there a month before he was reported missing in action on 8 October 1917. A time of intense fighting and conflict, the Red Cross gathered statements in December that verified his death. Pte J. Cattran who had gone from Bairnsdale with him and was in the same Battalion reported how he had been told that on 8 October he went over with his Battalion for an attack on a place near Polygon Wood and didn’t return. A court of enquiry held on 11 January 1918 determined that he had, in fact, been killed in action the same day after considering the witness statements. Throughout all this time, Jessie continued supporting the war effort with regular £1 donations and clothing, particularly socks, for the men and donating to the Soldier’s Institute for the returning men. When William’s death was confirmed his obituary recorded how he was a most popular resident in the district, and that he left behind a widow and two young children. It went on to say that he was acting as a stretcher bearer in France when he fell. In letters received by the last mail from those who had seen him under fire he was spoken of as one of the bravest and coolest that had ever stepped into khaki. In July 1918, Jessie’s hopes were raised, and dashed, when a Pte W.E. Yates was listed as returning in the soldier’s lists regularly published in the papers. George Bray wrote to the Department on Jessie’s behalf, asking the question of the possibility that it was her husband who was returning. They responded, explaining that the returning man was No. 7796 Pte W.E. Yates and that there appeared to be no reason to doubt the authenticity of the death of No. 6617 Pte W.J. Yates. Jessie was subsequently granted £2 per fortnight pension for her and their two sons, William and John. A determined woman, Jessie continued on the farm which eventually passed to her sons and grandsons. William is remembered on the Goon Nure, St Andrew’s Church, Bairnsdale and Forge Creek Honour rolls and also at Menin Gate, Ypres.
….. one of the bravest and coolest that had ever stepped into khaki