William’s birth was registered at Glen Innes NSW in 1891. He was the fifth child of John and Selina Kearsey who lived on a property near Furracabad. He was a Coach Builder and Painter before the War and had played football for the Inverell Albion Club.
After previously being rejected due to his eyesight, William was finally accepted for war service in April 1916. He became a member of the 33rd Battalion, 4th Reinforcement and sailed from Australia for England on HMAT A30 Borda in October. Following disembarkation at Plymouth his Battalion undertook further training. For William this included attending Musketry School at Tidworth and training in the use of a Lewis Gun. He was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal and sent to France in September 1917.
Just sixteen days later he was seriously wounded in action, admitted to hospital and then invalided back to England. William had a severe gunshot wound to his face and arm and was treated at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup where pioneering plastic surgery was carried out for soldiers with facial injuries. Finally he returned to Australia in 1919 on the hospital ship ‘Karoola’. William’s injuries were so severe he spent three and a half years in hospital undergoing twenty nine operations.
Remarkably William recovered, returned to Inverell and purchased a property in the Ashford district where he lived until the late 1960s. He died at Inverell in 1971 and is buried in the New General section of the Inverell Cemetery.
During the Centenary of World War 1, William’s amazing story was featured in an exhibition called ‘Love and Sorrow’ at the Melbourne Museum in Victoria.
Image: Courtsey Australian War Memorial Image no P10965