ANZAC Centenary 2014-2018: Sharing Victoria's Stories

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WWI Stories – Billy and Birdie


Finding a letter in an old book purchased at a market sparked a 15-year-old mystery for Rick Cove. With the help of the media, that mystery was finally solved – 100 years after the clue itself was written.

scan0211A letter-in-a-bottle, written by Billy and thrown overboard from the A20 HMAT Hororata off Western Australia on or about 28th October 1914, was what I found in an old book at a market in 1999. Through a little research, I found that the love letter in a bottle was found and on-posted by someone in Western Australia to a Miss A. Bird in Bendigo. I searched for 15 years to put the story together. On Wednesday 15 October, 2014, the story was placed on the Channel 7 News and the mystery was finally solved.

“Billy” was Sergeant William Edgar Gordon Paul, service number 527. He was 20 years of age at enlistment and hailed from Footscray, Victoria. He joined the 66th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Battalion and embarkation on the Hororata on 19 October from Port Melbourne.

William Paul was severely injured during the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1914. Shrapnel injured his knee and he was shot through both hands. Sent to recuperate in Egypt, he came back to Australia, and his sweetheart, Annie Bird, in 1916.

Billy and Birdie were married in 1917 and had 2 children. Billy went on to be a Magistrate and lived in Toorak.