William and Michael were the sons of Patrick and Eliza Byrnes of Inverell. They both enlisted in 1915; William at Dubbo NSW in August and Michael at Inverell in September.
On his enlistment papers William stated he was a twenty three year old Labourer and that he was born at Glen Innes NSW. He joined the 2nd Battalion, 12th Reinforcement and left Australia on the ship HMAT A7 Medic in December 1915. He spent a short time in Egypt before going to France in March 1916.
Six months later he became ill and was then sent to England for treatment at Tunbridge Wells Hospital. He died of disease on 30 January 1918 and was buried at Tunbridge Wells Cemetery, Kent. A full military funeral was held and his polished oak coffin draped with the Union Jack flag. His brother Michael attended the funeral. William’s few personal possessions were returned to his family and included a watch, letter, pen knife and unit colours.
Michael’s enlistment papers record that he was a twenty two year old Labourer, born at Glen Innes NSW. He joined the 18th Battalion, 14th Reinforcement, and left Australia on the ship HMAT A18 Wiltshire in August 1916. He arrived in England in October and two months later was sent to France where he served with the Australian Army Veterinary Hospital. He returned home in June 1919 and was medically discharged.
Private William Byrnes has his name inscribed on the Inverell Honor Roll and the Cenotaph. In 1919 he was one of the men for whom a memorial tree was planted in Kurrajong Parade, Inverell. The name of Private Michael Byrnes is also inscribed on the Inverell Honor Roll.