"I only hope it is all a great mistake". This line jumped out at me as I scrolled through the service record of Harry Etchells, a soldier from Campbelltown who died on the Western Front in 1917. Amongst all the formal documents and official wording of the correspondence between the Base Records Office and Harry's sister Rubie Etchells, it was this line from Rubie that brought home to me the personal tragedy of war. As ANZAC Day approaches, I thought I would briefly tell the story of one of Campbelltown's brave men that never returned.
William Henry Etchells, better known as Harry, was the son of Harry and Nellie Etchells who lived at Eckersley about 1890. When his mother died in 1894, Harry and his sister were raised by relatives in Campbelltown.
William Henry Etchells (on right) with an unidentified friend during the First World War. (Clive "Oke" Etchell Collection).
Harry enlisted in the First World War in 1914, reaching the rank of lance-corporal in the 3rd Battalion. He suffered greatly from sickness and injury during his service. At Gallipoli he was evacuated with shell concussion and he suffered a gunshot wound in France in 1916. In England, he married a woman called Florence. He returned to the front in 1917 where he was badly wounded after losing both his legs and died soon afterwards. Unfortunately for his sister Rubie and the rest of the family there was no mistake.
McGill, Jeff 2001
Campbelltown & World War One 1914-1918
Campbelltown: Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society