William Trew was the third son of George Trew (1862-1916) and Christina Lough (1864-1922). He was born in 1889 at Harrow Victoria where his father had a brickworks. William’s grand father Samuel Trew had learned the brickmaking trade in Essex England and had started the family’s brickmaking venture in a partnership at Sawpit Swamp after working as a brickmaker in various locations around Victoria.
William had been working as a labourer in Warracknabeal in 1916 when, at the age of 25, he enlisted in the Australian army to serve in World War 1. After enlisting on 14th April 1915 he was discharged as ‘unfit for duty’ on 11 May 1915. The reasons are a little curious. The ‘Detailed Medical History of an Invalid’ document that was completed about his health stated:
Disease or Disability: Physically unfit. Narrow chest & of slight physique
When did Disease or Disability Originate: At birth
State the Case Clearly & Explicitly: Narrow chest & generally poor development. Chest measurement 32 inches full expansion.
To what extent is his capacity for earning a livelihood impaired: 1/2
Following the examination by the medical board and despite their recommendation that he be permanently discharged as an invalid, William departed from Melbourne on August 16 1916 and departed from Southampton for France on November 22 1916.
We’ll probably never know exactly why or how he was accepted for service after failing the medical exam, but after being in France for just six and a half months he was killed in action. His service record says that he was killed by a gun shot wound to the left lung and right forearm.
His family was notified on February 12 1918. William’s father had died on June 24 1916, three weeks before William boarded the RMS Orontes to begin his service.
If William was as unfit as the medical board stated then we can only imagine how difficult his short time in France was.