Topic: Trooper William Henderson

Topic type:

A soldier of the Great War who died of an accident whilst serving on the Middle East.

Henderson, W.

Trooper William  Henderson  - 43165 

William was born at Halkett on 3 March 1885, third son Gilbert and Margaret Henderson. Before enlisting he was farming at Halkett. He had previous military experience having served with the Waimakariri Mounted Rifles. He was 5ft 8 ½ in tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.

William enlisted at Darfield on 17th November 1916 and was assigned to the 29th Reinforcements, Mounted Rifles Brigade. He seems to have not begun his service until January 1917. He was promoted to Corporal on 28 January and retained the rank throughout his training. On 13th November 1917 he embarked on board the Tofua, bound for Suez and disembarked there just before Christmas on 21st December 1917. He was sent immediately to Moascar and relinquished his rank of Corporal. He was posted to the Imperial Camel Corps on 5th January 1918 and proceeded to their reserve depot in Abbassia arriving on 8th January. He joined the Corps in the field on 15th February. He served with them for six months until on 31 July 1918 he was transferred to the 2nd Mounted Machine Gun Squadron. The Machine-Gun Squadron was a sub-unit of the New Zealand Military Forces during the First World War. It was part of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, and served with them in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign from 1916 to 1918. On 3rd October an accident resulted in gunshot wounds to his neck. Later investigation showed that the wound was caused by a revolver bullet from the gun of Sgt Middleton. Much of the rest of William’s file is taken up with the attempt to find out what had happened. Unfortunately the two others involved had been sent back to New Zealand. Statements obtained showed that Sgt Middleton and Trooper Campbell had both obtained revolvers and ammunition and were trying to fire them. Sergeant Middleton’s gun went off unexpectedly and struck William in the neck. He was admitted to the Field Ambulance and then to the French Hospital in Damascus on 4th October where he died of his wounds on 19th October. He was first buried in the Protestant Cemetery (grave 68) but now lies in the Damascus Commonwealth War Cemetery. In New Zealand William is remembered on a Memorial at Halkett Presbyterian Church and on the  Southbridge School Roll of Honour.

Researched and written by L M Seaton


CWGC Cemetery locale history: The cemetery dates from the First World War when Damascus was entered by Commonwealth forces on 1 October 1918. The first medical unit arriving the next day found the Turkish hospitals crowded with sick and wounded, and a few days later an epidemic of influenza and cholera broke out. The First World War burials in this cemetery were mostly from these hospitals. The Second World War burials began in 1941 during the operations against the Vichy French, and later on graves were moved into the cemetery from civilian burial grounds, Deraa French Military Cemetery, and from scattered sites in the areas where the fighting occurred. The first burials were in a tree belt between the cemetery boundaries and the low wall which enclosed the plots of existing graves. Adjoining land to the west, known as "The Cypresses", was acquired by the military authorities when it became necessary to enlarge the cemetery. DAMASCUS COMMONWEALTH WAR CEMETERY now contains 661 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 74 of the burials are unidentified and, in the new part of the cemetery, a special tablet commemorates six men of the Indian army who were buried in Damascus Indian War Cemetery but whose graves are now lost. Second World War burials number 504, of which 14 are unidentified. The cemetery also contains seven war graves of other nationalities. The DAMASCUS 1939-45 MEMORIAL also stands within the cemetery. This simple screen memorial commemorates ten Arab soldiers whose graves in Syria, Lebanon and Israel are so situated that permanent maintenance is not possible.

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Trooper William Henderson

First Names:William
Last Name:Henderson
Date of Birth:3 March 1885
Place of Birth:Halkett
Date of Death:19 October 1918
Place of Death:Palestine
Memorial or Cemetery:Damascus Commonwealth War Cemetery, Syria
Age at death:33
User Name:L M Seaton
Occupation before enlisting:Farmer
Marital Status:Single
Regiment or Service:New Zealand Mounted Machine Gun Squadron
Country:New Zealand
Enlistment details:17th November 1916
Parents or Next of Kin:Son of Gilbert and Margaret Henderson (mother), Halkett Town, Canterbury,
Service Number:43165
Rank last held:Trooper
Embarkation:13 November 1917
Place of Embarkation:Wellington
Theatres of War:Middle East
Cause of Death:Accidental death on active service