Per his military service record (regimental no. 4917), William Webber was born at Granville, N.S.W. He gave his age as 23 years and 5 months, his marital status as single, and his occupation as fitter. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 5 inches tall, weight 136 lbs., with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair. His religious denomination was Church of England. He claimed that he had no previous military experience. He completed his medical on the 11th November 1915 at Ashfield, and was attested at Ashfield on the 11th November 1915.
After completing the Coo-ee March he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.
On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was Walker Street, Five Dock, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his mother, Mrs. M. E. [Mary Elizabeth] Webber, Walker Street, Five Dock, N.S.W.
On 8th March 1916 Private Webber departed Sydney on the HMAT A15 Star of England, along with many of the other Coo-ees, arriving in Egypt on the 11th April 1916. On the 19th April 1916 he was transferred to the 45th Battalion at Serapeum.
On 1st May 1916 at Serapeum, Egypt, Private Webber was charged with Being Absent Without Leave from 0815 on 29th April 1916 to 1500 on 30th April 1916. He was awarded 7 days Confined to Barracks and forfeiture of four days pay. On 25th May 1916 Private Webber was charged with being Absent for Parade at 1830. He was awarded 7 days Confined to Barracks.
On 2nd June 1916 Private Webber left Alexandria aboard the Transport Kinfauns Castle bound for France, arriving at Marseilles on 8th June 1916.
Private Webber served with the 45th Battalion through its first action at Fleurbaix, France in July 1916.
On 6th August 1916 the 45th Battalion was in action between Pozieres and Martinpuch, France. They had been under heavy artillery fire since entering the battle the day before, and suffered numerous casualties, with 32 killed (including fellow Coo-ee Jack Morris who had joined the Coo-ees at Parramatta), and 70 wounded. Private Webber was evacuated suffering shell shock, and listed as wounded in action. He was sent back to the 1st Australian Rest Station. On 14th August 1916 Private Webber returned to the Battalion when it was relieving the 46th Battalion in the front line near Pozieres.
On 16th September 1916 the 45th Battalion had been moved to Victoria Camp near Rhenninghelst, Belgium, conducting training. On this day Private Webber was charged with being Absent for Parade at 0645, 0900, 1400 on 15th September 1916. He was awarded 7 days field Punishment Number 2.
On 7th November 1916 the 45th Battalion was at Dernacourt, France, conducting training, when Private Webber was charged with Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline to with making remarks likely to cause insubordination. He was awarded 14 days Field Punishment Number 2.
On 11th November 1916 the 45th Battalion moved forward from Dernacourt to Fricourt, France. At 1030 on this day Private Webber went missing. He was not located until 1115 on 7th December 1916. Private Webber was placed under arrest and sent to the 4th Australian Division Base Depot at Etaples, France, under escort.
On 26th December 1916 a Field General Court Martial was held with Private Webber being charged with When on Active Service Deserting his Majesty’s Service. Private Webber was found guilty and sentenced to be shot. On 3rd January 1917 the sentence was varied by General Rawlinson, Commander of the 4th Army, to 10 years Penal Servitude.
On 20th January 1917 Private Webber was admitted to the Number 1 Military Prison at Rouen, France, to undergo his sentence. On 4th February 1917 the sentence was commuted to 2 years Imprisonment with Hard Labour by the Commander In Chief.
On 25th January 1918 Private Webber was released from the number 1 Military Prison at Rouen, France, with the remainder of his sentence being suspended. On 29th January 1918 Private Webber rejoined the 45th Battalion whilst it was training at La Clytte, Belgium.
On 6th April 1918 the 45th Battalion was in action in the vicinity of Dernacourt, France, when Private Webber was killed by an artillery shell that burst in the trench he was manning.
Private Cyril Roy McMillan, who had joined the Coo-ees at Parramatta, was taken as a German prisoner of war in the same battle, and he reported after his release in a letter to “The Argus” dated 20th November 1918, that Webber, whom he described as one of his ‘mates’ he had ‘enlisted with’, had been ‘killed alongside’ him, just before they ‘started to advance on the Germans’ (The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 18/1/1919, p. 10).
Private Webber was initially buried in the trench by his platoon members, then later reinterred at the Millencourt Communal Cemetery near Albert, however in later fighting the grave was lost or destroyed and could not be located.
Private Webber has no known grave, and is remembered on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France.
Private Webber’s name is commemorated on panel 140 on the Australian War Memorial First World War Roll of Honour.
Private Webber’s name is also remembered on the Five Dock War Memorial.