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australian rowers profiles and history

William G Lane

Jeparit Rowing Club (VIC)

23 April 1898 - 27 April 1918

William Gladstone Lane was only 18 years old when he enlisted on 8th June 1916. His occupation was noted as a clerk at the National Bank and his address noted as "Horsham or Jeparit". His father, Thomas J Lane was at the time station master at Horsham.

He served with the 60th Battalion and his number 2612. Sadly he was killed in action in France on 27th April 1918. He was 'buried in the field with his comrades' indicating that his body was never found. Even more sadly was that his brother Ted was also killed in action 2 days two days earlier, both dying in the now famous counter-attack at Villiers-Bretonneux, where our Australians first stopped the great German rush of 1918.

These brothers were two of the five children of Mr Thomas J Lane and Bertha Lane. Their mother had died before they moved to Horsham. William entered Horsham High School in 1913.

Both brothers were bank clerks in Horsham when they enlisted and had trained with the Horsham Citizen Forces. Both brothers joined at different times but both at the age of 18 years old. They were both in the 60th Infantry Battalion and embarked together om HMAT Nestor.

The following article was published in the Horsham Times on 27th August 1918.

The Brothers Lane HOW TWO HEROES DIED.

Mr. J. T. Lane, at one time stationmaster here, and now of Geelong, has received the following letters from the front regarding the deaths of his two sons, who were members of the same company, and were both killed within a period of two days:-

" France, 1/5/18: Dear Mr. Lane.

It is my sad duty to write and tell you the circumstances of the death of your son Ted. Doubtless you have been informed ere this of his death, but I know you would like to hear from one who was with him daily. Immediately after an attack, it was found necessary to reconnoitre the position to locate exactly where we were. I was in charge of the patrol, with Ted, and another H.Q. observer. We came under heavy fire from the enemy, and poor Ted. was wounded slightly through the foot, and a little later shot through the head. I went to him immediately, but the poor boy, died at once. I secured his papers, which will be sent to you through the official channels. Sergt. Armstrong and I went out a little later with a Red Cross flag, and the enemy allowed us to secure his body. We had him carried right back, and he was buried in the military cemetery at Aubigny, not far from Villiers-Bretonneux; a chaplain was present, and a cross has been erected over his grave. From the colonel down, he was esteemed in this battalion for his gentlemanly conduct, courage and capabilities. He would have been an officer if there had been a vacancy. We, who cared so much for him, feel how much we must miss him; he was a grand boy. I pray that you will be comforted in your great sorrow by the knowledge that he died as he lived, 'A true gentleman and a brave soldier.'

We did not inform his brother of his death, and, when the attack was resumed, we were deeply grieved to hear that the brother was killed. The officers of his company all became casualties, but another officer is writing to tell you how he died. The other boy I only know by his reputation in his company. All of his officers spoke highly of him as a brave and capable soldier. On behalf of the battalion, I extend to you our very deepest sympathy at the loss of your two dear sons and our very gallant comrades. - Very sincerely yours, W. R. Gannon, Lieut."

"France, 2/5/18.-Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lane:

Will you please accept my deepest sympathy in regard to the great loss of your sons, Billie and Ted. Both were great pals of mine; we have been together ever since we left Australia, and Bill and I had never been separated since he first joined the signalling school at Broadmeadows, and, I can assure you, I and my pal, Spittle, feel the loss of our pals keenly. It will comfort you to know that both were immensely popular with everybody in the battalion. Had Ted. been spared he would have undoubtedly made great headway in the battalion, while Bill was very keen on signalling. It might interest you to know that Ted's. officer and the sergeant in charge of the observers went out in broad daylight, about 200 yards from the Hun trench, and, running tremendous risk, succeeded in recovering him, and he was buried by Chaplain-Captain Hall, 15th Infantry Brigade, on 29/4/18, in Aubigny Military Cemetery. A very nice cross was erected by the battalion.

I am sorry I cannot give you any further particulars regarding Billie at present, but, as I am in the battalion office, I shall try and find out and let you know. Trusting this finds you in good health, and comforted by the knowledge of their great sacrifice. I remain, their affectionate pal, Ellis Harbin, Headquarters, 60th Battalion."

" France, 30/4/18.--Dear Sir: 

It is with the greatest of sorrow that I perform the sad task of acquainting you of the circumstances of the death of your son, Private W. G. Lane. The company of which he was a member played a very active part in the recent operations against the enemy, and, throughout all the action, your son conducted himself with the utmost gallantry, ability, and devotion to duty. In his position as signaller and runner he performed a vast amount of particularly valuable work, and it was while fearlessly carrying out his task that he met his death by an enemy shell. In the midst of your grief at the loss of your two dear sons it may perhaps be some small comfort to know that death was instantaneous, and that Will was buried on the field by his comrades. I cannot find words to adequately express my deep sympathy towards you and all his home folk. His loss to the company is a severe one. He was always one of the best of my men, ever ready to perform his duty without hesitation. On behalf of his mates and all the members of C Company I take this opportunity of extending to you our deepest sympathy at the loss of your son and our brave comrade.

Yours sincerely, J. H. Anderson, C. Co., 60th Battalion."

Ted. referred to in above is Arthur J. Lane. They called him Ted. in the battalion. Both were killed in the now famous counter-attack at Villiers-Bretonneux, where our Australians first stopped the great German rush of 1918.

Graham Drage
September 2021

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