Premier’s ANZAC Spirit School Prize 2018 – William Charles Nightingale Waite – By Angelique Dellaney

All service men and women who served within WW1 experienced horrendous things that no human would ever wish on another. The battlefronts of Gallipoli, the Western Front and throughout the Middle East areas were not close to what was expected, but all soldiers and troops carried on and did their best to fight for our country. Millions of lives were lost, but Australia is continuously grateful, thankful and honour those who fought and served for their country.

Gallipoli is one of the most well-known destinations within the First World War. Life on the beaches and area around Gallipoli was horrifying for all; strategies did not go as planned, blood and gore, limbless bodies and body parts of other men were everywhere along Gallipoli. It soon became routine for the men. By the end of WW1, all soldiers had experienced things no human would have ever wished to possibly imagine.

The Turks were watched and shot at from the trenches where soldiers were involved within bombing duels and was where they spent most of their time while at Gallipoli. The appearance of the trenches has been commonly described as being deep and narrow alleys in which the men were “living” and enclosed lanes of busy cities where they occasionally had the luxury of having a blanket or waterproof sheet to protect them from the deadly cold and breeze of the night. Temperatures could go from 400C, to freezing cold with strong breezes and rain. Soldiers who weren’t allocated to the front line spent the majority of their days doing things that were necessities such as transporting water and leading groups of donkeys that had been carrying supplies to and from the beach. The only chance Australian soldiers had to wash off, was when they were able to have a swim on the beach front.

There was very little food, so there wasn’t time for being fussy as there was no choice and variety when food was accessible.  The main food that was available was salty bully beef with hard tack biscuits which was usually the base of most foods. Bully beef and tack biscuits were usually eaten with bacon, jam, onion and cheese when available. When troops had time to eat, it was a constant worry because of the diseases that were being carried around within the air due to deceased and separated limbs, flies and other insects carrying infections and diseases where they were getting in and around all the food and bodies that would then often land on troops food. Disease was seen as an equal enemy to the actual enemy within the war.

The son of William Waite and Anna Weston, William Charles Nightingale Waite was born on the 8th of September 1880, Adelaide and was one of thousands within South Australia who served in WW1. When growing up, William attended school in Adelaide at Prince Alfred College and St Bartholomew’s Church of England, before joining join the C Battery of SA Garrison Artillery in 1897 for 3 years. William decided to travel to South Africa where he served in the South African Boer War as Corporal William CN Waite (Regimental Number 11) from years 1899-1902. During the Boer War, William was associated with the 1st South Australian Mounted Rifles Unit, he then moved back to South Australia and enlisted within the Boer War again in the 6th South Australian Imperial Bushmen Unit where he again moved back to South Africa. For Waite’s service within the South African Boer War, he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal and 5 clasps, and the King’s South Africa Medal and 2 clasps. During his time in the 6th Contingent William decided to stay in South Africa and remained as an Intelligence Agent where he then met his wife Florence Alberta Thomas and married at Germiston, Transvaal on the 13th of March 1907. Together they decided to move to South Australia three weeks later. Once moving back to his home country with his wife, William was working as a livestock agent and an auctioneer until WW1.

After settling back in his home town, WW1 soon began and William Waite enlisted on the 20th of August 1914 within the Australian Imperial Force as a Lieutenant in Adelaide; around a third of the men who served in the South African Boer War, were enlisted as a captain, lieutenant or colonel within WW1 due to having previous experience. Two months following his enlistment he was then embarked on the 20th of October as a Captain within the AIF, and was also posted in the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade. William C.N Waite’s involvement within WW1 included being promoted to Captain for the first three years of war where he was then transferred to the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column for two years as well as again enlisting and embarking.

On the 25th of April in 1915, Captain Waite and his unit was sent to Gallipoli within the AIF service and continued to serve there until the evacuation in December, the same year where Waite was first commanding the 7th and the 8th Field Artillery Battery. William Waite was mentioned within dispatches and went on and received a Military Cross, primarily for his service at Gallipoli.

William was sent to serve in Egypt for a short period of time until the 1st of March 1916 where he was transferred to the 4th division within the AIF service but was promoted as a Lieutenant Colonel and commanding and controlling the 24th Field Artillery Brigade. Whilst following the war William Waite was a Second Lieutenant which allowed him to keep up to date with military associations within the Field Artillery.

When June came around William Waite decided to embark in-order to serve at France where the brigade then continued to go into action at Fromelles and Bois Grenier as well as at Ypres in Belgium. In January 1917, William decided to take further power of the 11th Field Artillery Brigade and continued to then serve as an Artillery Brigade and commander of group operations at the following destinations in order of Somme, Bullecourt, Ypres, Messines, Dernancourt as well as Villers-Bretonneux. As of his service, guidance and participation within all his commitments, Waite was awarded with the Distinguished Service Order Award. Lieutenant Colonel Waite  was then able to return home to Australia on the 24th of December in 1918 but maintained his commission through years 1926-1930 and also controlled the Adelaide Rifles 10th Battalion.

The dictionary meaning of perseverance is “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success” (Google Dictionary, 2018) which I believe suits Waite and his achievements, success and contributions perfectly. I feel that William Charles Nightingale Waite showed the characteristic of perseverance within WW1 and continuing as he always participated and volunteered within artilleries, WW1 services, AIF, and more. Throughout Waite’s lifetime, he showed tremendous levels of perseverance as no matter what had come up even if he was injured whether it be a war or war services, military service, artilleries, AIF service, anything, Waite would volunteer and put his hand up or do anything he could within his power to help, support and protect his family and country. If his life was in danger and there was a chance of him not surviving and living on to tell his stories and experiences within the First World War, Waite was always willing to put his hand up and continue to volunteer and do what he does best no matter the circumstances as proven and shown within his involvement within WW1. When being promoted from Captain to Lieutenant within World War One, there is no doubt that he would have continued to persist and ensure that whoever was under his power and control, that they did what was best for their own safety as well as protection for their country, otherwise why give him the role? Having experience within the South African Boer War would have gained his knowledge, confidence and persistence with what to do and how to do it when it came to serving in the First World War. World War was and still is difficult for millions; the men and women who serve/d are put through so many difficult, unimaginable, horrific and traumatic experiences where they all still manage to persist and continue on with their lives within war no matter how challenging and demanding a certain circumstance or position is, just as William C.N Waite would have. Even after surviving World War 1, Waite continued to represent the Light Horseman within ANZAC Day marches.

William Waite was most definitely one of the men within South Australia, who pursued his personal best efforts and persisted no matter the circumstance and environment he was in, and we will forever remember and thank him for all he has done for our country.

References (Harvard Generator)