Jul 22, 2014

Nelson Wesley Eustace Barwise [1891 - 1917]

Studio portrait of 1670 Private (Pte) Nelson Wesley Barwise, 2nd Reinforcements, 23rd Battalion, of Northcote, Vic. Pte Barwise enlisted on 15 May 1915 and embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Demosthenes on 16 July 1915. He was killed in action at Albert in France on 20 March 1917. His two brothers, 34206 Dvr Albert George Barwise and 34207 Dvr Henry William Barwise, and three of his cousins also served with the AIF.

Nelson Wesley Eustace Barwise was born on 28th August 1891 in Stawell, Victoria, Australia.

His parents  - Henry Machel Barwise and Harriet Isabella Walkeden - were married at Great Western in December 1873 and went on to have eight children.

Nelson attended the Stawell State School from 1897 through to 1904 when he was 13 years of age.

View looking from street of two men standing on the footpath in front of a fence and
Stawell State School buildings. cir1885

Soon after the War broke out in 1914, Nelson signed his enlistment papers on 15 May 1915 and was allocated 23rd Battalion with service number 1670.

After eight weeks of basic training at the Broadmeadows Camp, Nelson embarked Melbourne on board the HMAT Demosthenes on 16th July 1915.   The following image shows the troops boarding the "Demosthenes" and then as it was sailing up the bay.

By October 1915 the 23rd Battalion found themselves at Lone Pine, on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The fighting here was so dangerous and exhausting that battalions were relieved every day. The 23rd manned Lone Pine, alternating with the 24th Battalion, until they left Gallipoli in December 1915.

But not before Nelson was admitted to hospital on 10th December with "frost bite". He was in hospital for 10 days where it is noted that his toes were "swollen and painful" and 'no feeling in the big toe'.

Medical Documents of Nelson Barwise

AIF papers belonging to Nelson Barwise

The battalion was next “in the line” on 10 April 1916, when it occupied forward trenches of the Armentières sector in northern France.

Nelson - or Nellie as he was known - left his unit in July 1916 to join the Australian Training Depot in Tel-El-Kebir until mid August 1916. He was then shipped to England to be part of the 6th Training Battalion until early October 1916 when he rejoined his Battalion. The 23rd Battalion at this time were in the Ypres Salient area.

The Ypres Salient is the area around Ypres in Belgium which was the scene of some of the biggest battles in World War I. In military terms, a salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. Therefore, the salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable..

By early November the 23rd Bn were once again in the front trenches, this time at Dernancourt. On 1st December the 23rd departed Dernancourt and entrained at Edge Hill, then detrained at Vignacourt before marching 3.5 miles to Flesselles arriving at 9.00pm.  They stayed in this area until 24th December.

January 1917 the Battalion moved constantly within this area, from Needle Trench to Front Line and back again and by the 31st January 1917 they were not far from Warlencourt and Noreuil.

In late March 1917, the German Army was withdrawing east and north – east of Bapaume back to its new fortress, the Hindenburg Line. This long stretch of trenches and barbed wire ran from Arras in a south–easterly direction towards Bullecourt, where it circled the village. Placenames such as Lagnicourt, Vaulx–Vraucourt, Morchies, Louverval, Noreuil, Boursies and Hermies, where sharp actions took place costing Australian lives, passed into Australian military history but are now largely forgotten.

But Noreuil will never be forgotten by the family of Nelson Wesley Eustace Barwise, as this was where he was killed by Machine Gun Fire on 20th March 1917.

He was killed along with five of his mates in a trench on the sunken road leading into Noreuil and
was buried by a salvage party in an open field between Noreuil & Bullecourt between 15 April & 20th April. Pte Sidney Propating 4018 Witness to burial.

witness reports from the Red Cross Movement

some of the above comments read as follows:

"he was shot by Machine Gun through the heart"

"He had an effeminate way of talking & we nicknamed him Nellie"

"he was hit with a machine gun bullet and was dead when I got there"

"he was killed in the Noreuil stunt of 2 or 3 weeks before"

"we called him Nellie, dark, pleasant face, hair inclined to be curly"

"was killed by M.G. Fire on the Sunken Road leading to Noreuil"

"found & buried Barwise's body near where he fell, 300 yards this side of village"

"on or about 10th April at Lagnicourt, they found & buried six men, one of whom was N. W. Barwise. The men were lying dead about three weeks"

"I knew Barwise well, we called him Nellie. He was a bit of a ladies man"

Today, as in 1917, this is an open countryside of large fields and views stretching across gradual undulations and big, gentle ridges. A feature of the area are the so–called ‘sunken roads’ lying beneath the level of the field boundaries. This ‘sunken’ effect was due to the continual ploughing over the centuries which raised the level of the fields at the edges, making steep banks for the roads.

The Australians, the British and the Germans all used the banks for bivouacs and defences as they gave protection against enemy fire. Little niches were burrowed into the sides of the road, where a man might live out of the rain and be fairly safe from shell bursts. In this way whole companies of men could find a temporary home in burrows called by the Germans ‘rabbit holes’.

Nelson Wesley Barwise is remembered for all time at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial as seen below:

above notices were located in the newspapers at the time.

A death notice (on the right) placed by Nelson's Fiance, no one in the family knew of her
until this notice and no one knows what happened to her.

Nelson Wesley Eustace Barwise was born on 28th August 1891 in Stawell, Victoria, Australia and died at the age of 26 years on 20th March 1917 in Noreuil, France.

May he forever rest in peace along side his mates.


Nelson Wesley Barwise's name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the AWM in Canberra on:

  • Wed 3 September, 2014 at 3:33 am
  • Mon 20 October, 2014 at 11:45 pm
  • Sat 13 December, 2014 at 10:44 pm
  • Fri 6 February, 2015 at 10:37 pm
  • Sun 29 March, 2015 at 8:33 pm
  • Sun 10 May, 2015 at 10:33 pm
  • Fri 19 June, 2015 at 6:39 pm
  • Mon 27 July, 2015 at 1:16 am

These dates and times are estimates. The actual time of projection could change as a result of weather and other factors, so it is advisable to check closer to the date.
In the rare event of a temporary loss of electrical power, the names scheduled for display in that period will not appear until the next time listed.



  1. Thankyou for this Leone, Nelson also had two brothers Henry and Albert go to war. Henry was already married and lost one of his small sons while away but came home to have further children. Sadly Henry had problems coping with the world and went on to live on the streets. His face was continuous sores from the gas he was injured from and he finally died and was found in an old farm shack. Albert went on to Marry and and have 3 children, one of which was my mother.

  2. Rest in Peace Nelson and thank you,

  3. A wonderful tribute, which is very well written and presented. I look forward to reading more.