Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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BIRRELL, William Alexander Hamilton (1885-1948)

BIRRELL, Dr William Alexander Hamilton (1885-1948)

William Birrell was born on 24 January 1885, the son of Albert Birrell and Christina nee Matheson. He became a boarder at Geelong College in 1903 and his address at enrolment by A V Birrell was Traralgon. He was a member of the 1st Football XVIII in 1903 and 1904, and the 1st Cricket XI in 1904. The Annual Report of 1903 lists him as the recipient of the Boarders' Scripture Prize in the 5th Class.

He later studied at the University of Melbourne, where he graduated MBBS, and was awarded a half blue for football.

During World War I, he volunteered immediately after graduation and enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1915 as a Lieutenant. He served in France at the Western Front where he was posted to 58th Field Ambulance and as RMO of the 9th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, 7th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment, 6th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment and 7th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. He was gassed on 26 July 1916, having been promoted Captain shortly before, and was discharged medically unfit in January 1917.

He returned to Australia and commenced a medical practise in Cheltenham, Victoria.

Dr Birrell died in 1948.

His brother, Herbert Albert Birrell (1886-1927), was also educated at Geelong College.

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck p141(citing The University of Melbourne: Record of Active Service of Teachers, Graduates, Undergraduates, Officers and Servants (1926); Pegasus; The National Archives Kew, England.); Australian Doctors on the Western Front, R.Likeman.
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