PRIVATE WILLIAM LINCOLN RAE
8TH AUGUST 1918 AGE 24
BURIED: VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MILITARY CEMETERY, FRANCE
On 28 October 1916 Australians voted on whether to introduce conscription or not. The answer was, 'not', by 1,160,033 votes to 1,087,557. It was a deeply divisive, bitter and controversial subject. One year and two months later, on 20 December 1917, the public were asked again whether they would support the introduction of conscription and the answer was an even bigger 'no': 1,015,159 in favour and 1,181,747 against. One of the most vehement opponents of conscription, and the leader of the No-Conscription Campaign, was the Labour leader, Arthur Rae (1860-1943).
Rae had five sons, three of military service age; twins Charles and William and their younger brother, Donald. William and Donald enlisted on 28 December 1915, Charles on 27 December 1916, seven days after the no-conscription plebiscite, which his father had done so much to initiate.
William served with the 20th Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed in action on the opening day of the Battle of Amiens. Donald Rae served with the 19th Battalion and was taken prisoner at Hangard Wood on 12 April 1918. Repatriated to Britain on 11 December 1918, he died a month later of pneumonia following on from influenza.
Donald Rae is buried in Dumfries Cemetery, Scotland. His father chose his inscription:
Through fire, wounds, prison
Then gazing homeward
Arthur Rae chose his other son's inscription too, exposing his hostility to the war in which his sons had died.