William Bews

William Bews

31st Battalion Australian Imperial Force

Died 19th January 1917 aged 28

Private W.  Bews Aus. Ex. Force

William Bews was born at Gallowcairn, Tornaveen on 11 April 1888.  His parents, David Bews and Jessie Gordon had married at Kincardine O’Neil in 1874. David was a native of Orkney and Jessie was born in Banchory-Devenick. In 1891 the family were living at Gallowcairn and David was working as a crofter/agricultural labourer. There were then six children born in the neat order of boy girl boy girl boy girl at roughly two yearly intervals. In 1891 William was the second youngest but two more children followed.  Ten years later, in 1901, the census enumerator found David, Jessie and their three youngest at “North Fittie”. It appears William had left home. He may be the William Bews who is noted age 13 in the 1901 census as a servant living in the household of farmer William Smith at Ferretfold, Kincardine O’Neil.

In 1911, William Bews, like George Gordon, sailed to Australia on the “Durham” on the same voyage from London on 27 June bound for Brisbane, he also being one of a large gang of “railway workers”. 

Bews enlisted voluntarily as a Private in the 31st Battalion Australian Imperial Force at Brisbane on 13 July 1915, giving his occupation as “Labourer” and details of his widowed mother Mrs Jessie Bews of  North Footie, Torphins as his next of kin. His record gives no further details until he disembarked at Suez in early December 1915, but he was destined, like George Gordon, for the Western Front. On 8 June 1916 he made a will leaving everything to his mother, before embarking once again from Alexandria, this time to join the British Expeditionary Force in France.  He arrived in Marseilles in June 1916 and was wounded in action the following month, with a gunshot wound to the right thigh, probably in the course of the 31st Battalion’s involvement in fighting at Fromelles on 19 July in which it suffered very heavy losses. Bews was shipped to England from Boulogne but returned to France in October.  At the end of November 1916 he took sick again, but rejoined his battalion in January 1917, when it was engaged in the allied advance towards the Hindenburg Line, only to be killed in action aged 28 on 19 January 1917.  He was buried at Grass Lane Cemetery, A.I.F. Burial Ground, Flers. A small bundle of effects was duly posted to Mrs Bews in Torphins.