William McIntosh Irwin

First Name: 
Middle Name: 
Last Name: 
Alternate Spelling: 
Date of Birth: 
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Mother's Name: 
Elizabeth Irwin (nee McIntosh)
Father's Name: 
Thomas Kennedy Irwin (Senior)
Date Enlisted: 
Monday, March 27, 1916
Rank at Enlistment: 
Rank at Discharge: 
13th Battalion
20th Reinforcements
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Date of Death: 
Saturday, September 2, 1967
Place of Death: 

William “Bill” McIntosh Irwin was born on 5 November 1895 in Gwynneville to Thomas Kennedy Irwin (senior) and Elizabeth Irwin.  

Bill was raised and educated in Wollongong. He was apprenticed as a coach builder and blacksmith and was a member of the North Wollongong ‘Water Rats’ Surf Life Saving Club until 1917.

The Irwin family was actively involved in the First World War. His father Thomas Kennedy Irwin (senior) and brothers Charles Duff and Thomas Kennedy (junior) enlisted at various times of the war.  Bill was enlisted in the local cadets for two years prior to enlisting on 27 March 1916. He embarked from Sydney on 9 September 1916, and served in Etaples, France.

He returned to Australia on 27 August 1917. According to an extract from W. Davies Diaries (1915-1919) vol.2:
Thursday October 25th 1917: Train arrived in Wollongong and two cars are sent to meet the troops. Private W. Irwin also arrived and a good reception and crowd were there to meet him. Someone brought his dog to meet him and yelled out, “why don’t you talk to your dog Billy?”

Bill’s return from the war saw him participating in voluntary ambulance work around Corrimal and Wollongong. He was kept busy due to the influenza epidemic of 1919 where met his wife, Dorothy Baker. She was a nursing sister at Wollongong Hospital and had fallen ill to the plague. Bill took looked after her, his interest in her grew. Subsequently they were married and had one child, Joan Elizabeth who would go on to spend her life working as a nurse at Wollongong Hospital.

Bill joined the Police Force in 1920. He completed his basic training at Redfern Barracks before receiving his first posting at Corrimal. He stayed there for ten years becoming active in community and sporting affairs.

During the year of 1930, he was transferred to Nowra which had just one sergeant and constable at the time. Constable Irwin took up the position which included being lock-up keeper. His wife was responsible for feeding prisoners when the need arose. Not long after his arrival in Nowra, he saw the need for an ambulance service. With the only public hospital at Berry, the task of getting the sick and injured from the numerous villages to hospitals was a problem. He spoke to the doctors, professional and business people of the town and to anyone else who would listen.

Bill’s perseverance brought results in the form of a public meeting which was called by Nowra branch of the County Women’s Association on 24 March 1931 for the purpose of providing an ambulance for the Shoalhaven district. A committee was formed and Bill Irwin took the role of secretary. With the residents of Nowra, Bill ran everything from raffles and card nights to dances and concerts.

Within a year, sufficient money had been raised and the first ambulance was handed over at a public ceremony on 3 May, 1931. It was a very proud Bill Irwin which threw back the covers to reveal the new G.M.C and it was Bill who drove it a few days later on its first case. Along with nine volunteers, he ran the ambulance service in Nowra for the next 18 months until the appointment of Superintendent Dalton. According to President and Chairman Dr Frank Ryan of the Shoalhaven Ambulance District, Bill Irwin was the driving force behind the ambulance project and was "the founder of the local ambulance", responsible for initiating the movement in the district (Selwyn & Watt). He had been so involved with the project that at one stage, his sergeant suggested he should make up his mind on whether he wanted to be an ambulance man or policeman.

Around September 1933 he was asked by the Police Personnel Branch to join the Water Police at Blakehurst which he accepted. Bill was instrumental in starting the Sutherland water police and later promoted to Sergeant of Water Police, then on to Crown Sergeant at Sutherland where he stayed until his retirement.

He was then appointed a Life Member of the SNW Ambulance Service for “meritorious service.”

Bill died in Wollongong, on 2 September 1967.


The portrait photogaph shows William McIntosh on the left, Thomas Kennedy (senior), middle and Charles Duff on the right.


Heslin, Anthony, Selwyn Watt, Clark Alan (ed), Visions Accomplished: An 80 year History Ambulance services for the Shoalhaven, NSW Ambulance Publishing, Sydney, 1992.


Black and white photo of William and Thomas shaking hands.

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