On 20 October 1914, at the age of 28, William Keith Eltham embarked with his sporting friends from their hometown of Hobart as a part of the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade.
Before joining Australia’s First World War campaign, Eltham represented Tasmania in cricket against England, South Africa, Victoria, and New South Wales.
Eltham originally played cricket with the Wellington Club. When district cricket was introduced in 1905, he joined the West Hobart Club and was one of its principal mainstays until his enlistment.
The 3rd Field Artillery Brigade landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. There Eltham received a shrapnel wound to the mouth on 13 July and was evacuated to Alexandria for medical treatment. He re-joined his unit on Gallipoli on 10 September 1915, and remained there until the evacuation that December.
He spent several months in Egypt, during which time he sent reports to The Mercury on football and cricket matches among the troops, including Tasmania’s victory over Western Australia in March 1916.
Eltham arrived in France at the end of March 1916 and transferred to 1st Field Artillery Brigade on 17 May.
He was wounded in action on 4 November 1916 with a gunshot wound to the left buttock, and was invalided to England for medical treatment.
He returned to France and re-joined the 1st Field Artillery Brigade on 22 December 1916.
Just over a week later William Eltham was killed in action by shell-fire at Flers on 31 December 1916.
On 12 January 1917 another Hobart newspaper, The Critic, reported that Eltham’s death had caused great regret in the community, extending sympathy to his parents on the loss of their gallant son.
“The deceased was one of our most prominent cricketers and enjoyed a popularity which only persons with a pleasing personality can command,” the newspaper said.
“Lieutenant Eltham distinguished himself in the Dardanelles campaign, in which he was wounded. He was looked upon as a remarkably able and efficient officer.
“The flag at the Town Hall was half-masted today to honour the memory of a trusted official, a true comrade, and an heroic soldier.”
The Hobart City Council honoured Eltham on Remembrance Day 2015 when the new sporting pavilion at the Soldiers’ Memorial Oval on the Queens Domain was named after him.