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William Maurice Coghlan was born in Ballarat and was an Auctioneer by trade when he enlisted in the 39th Battalion on 29 February 1916 at the age of 29. His unit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A11 Ascanius on 27 May 1916. . In November 1916 he arrived at the battle front in France. He was withdrawn for a period to attend the Southern Command Bombing School where he qualified as an instructor. In late April 1917 his gallantry earned for him the Military Medal, his recommendation reading, æAt Ploegsteert on the night of 29th-30th April 1917 on the occasion of an enemy raid and very severe bombardment of our trenches, this man acted as a runner along the front line, and was instrumental in keeping the officer on duty posted on the state of affairs throughout, although this necessitated his being exposed to a very heavy barrage. In one of his trips he encountered and killed a German. Coghlan's work was invaluable.' On August 25th 1918 he was wounded in action, suffering a gunshot wound to his left leg, but was able to rejoin his unit two months later. He returned to Australia on the Karagola, disembarking at Melbourne on June 12th
Tree No. 2181