W. J. Balsillie
H. Walker. Second row - G. C. Miln, W. J. Balsillie, J. Sloss, A. R. Deshler, L. J. G. Hamilton, R. H.J. Chapman, D. W. Ariell, H. Gilbert, E. Burton. Front row - J. L.
Henrys, A. W. Abbott.
Description: Sports day at the Canterbury Agricultural College, Lincoln.
Source: The weekly press, 19 Oct. 1904, p. 41
Balsillie, was a Lance-Corporal in the 2nd Battalion of the Otago Infantry Regiment. This regiment suffered the highest casualty rate of all the New Zealand units in the battle.
William John Balsillie, enrolled at Canterbury Agricultural College in February 1904, aged 17. He was from Palmerston North. He left Lincoln in December 1906 having been awarded the Diploma in Agriculture and the College Medal. After leaving from the College, he was farming on his father's farm Te Rata, Kairanga, Palmerston North.
While at Canterbury Agricultural College Balsillie excelled at sport. He was a member of the 1st Rugby XV in 1905 and in the College Athletic Sports of 1906 he won the 100 yards sprint, the shot put and the long jump. He was a member of committee and secretary of the College Tennis Club.
MARCHING TO ATTACK FROM FRANCE TO BELGIUM NEW ZEALANDERS AT WAR. (MARCHING TO ATTACK., Manawatu Standard, Volume XLII, Issue 1035, 12 December 1917)
"Men are collecting here in thousands today - Australians, New Zealanders and others - so there must be a 'stunt' coming off." So wrote Corporal W. J. Balsille, son of Mr and Mrs J. Baslsille, of Kairanga, referring to the preliminary operations which took place at the end of September and early in October around Bellevue Spur, where later the main operations ended so heroically—and tragically for the New Zealanders.' It was after this fight that Corporal Balsillie was reported missing, and later "missing, believed killed."
Corporal Balsillie proceeds to state that on September 24 they were ordered to pack their kits and be ready to move ' at a moment's notice from their resting place, having just come out of the trenches for a spell. They had to carry 170 rounds of ammunition and service pack. The start was made at 7.30 o'clock next day, and the Now' Zealanders marched 16 miles in hot weather. Next morning a further march of nine miles was executed. The following day the march was continued and another ten miles were negotiated. "We are having quite a walking tour of France," proceeds the letter. We passed through S and are now in Belgium, having crossed the border today (September 28). The roads are fairly hard to march on, being paved with stone. A lot of hops are grown here, and we helped the Belgian people to pick them. Next day motor-lorries took us 15 miles to a place near Ypres. The following morning we set out in battle order and passed through Ypres, which is a battered mass of ruins. "We marched till 10 o'clock, when we struck our reserve trench, one recently taken from the Huns. We put in a cold night, having no blankets or overcoats, and 'Fritz' put over a good deal of gas, thirteen of our company suffering. Today (September 30) we left our trench at 8.30 o'clock tor our support position, two of our platoon bene wounded on the way up. We had to build a dressing station, and saw many gruesome sights in the place – men lying unburied everywhere. 'Fritz' had a very strong line here, practically till concrete trenches and dug-outs. The walls of the houses (pill-boxes) are four feet thick of reinforced concrete. Our sergeant counted 36 dead Germans in one alone. Every inch of the ground is ploughed up and is a regular wilderness. A lot of tanks-nine-have been put out of action, as the ground is too wet for them.”
Coporal Balsillie concludes by describing the preparations made prior to the big attack in the way of rations, etc., and for four nights his company had little or no sleep owing to the uncomfortable quarters and the booming of the guns as they rained their storm of shells on the German positions.
Date of Death12th October 1917Military Serial Number39934Military RankLance CorporalExternal LinkCommonwealth War Graves CommissionMilitary personnel fileOnline Cenotaph DatabaseLINCOLN COLLEGE SPORTS.., Press, Volume LXII, Issue 12362, 28 November 1905MARCHING TO ATTACK., Manawatu Standard, Volume XLII, Issue 1035, 12 December 1917KeywordsWorld War One
The Luxford Shield, for the best collection of root crops, was won by W. J. Balsillie, Slack Bros, being second, and S. R. Lancaster third. Manawatu times, volume LXV, issue 749, 23 June 1909