William's headstone in Fawkner cemetary
Midshipman - Merchant navy
Died 20 August 1945 age 17
William died in Geelong, a port SW of Melbourne, Australia. He died as a reult of carbon monoxide poisoning along with four other crew members of the SS Samarkand, a freighter licensed in London. The gas had accumulated in the hold of the ship. A customs official wrote of his death:
William Balden died a real hero, truly another Jack Cornwall VC. he followed his two superior officers down the tanks, when he saw they were overcome and suffering intensely himself, he was still able to get back on deck for assistance. Notwithstanding his suffering and extra exertion he was first down again, to be finally overcome. Surely no more conscientious boy ever lived.
William is buried in Fawkner Cemetery in the NW suberbs of Melbourne, Row K grave 595.
He was awarded the 1939-45 Star and the War Medal 1939-45
William was the son of William and Mary Balden of Dewsbury, Yorkshire. He spent a year at Gordonstoun before joining the training ship HMS Conway on the Menai Straits in North Wales. He passed out top boy at Conway, gaining the first five prizes including the Mercantile Marine SA gold watch awarded to the most proficient cadet. In 1944 he joined the Blue Funnel Line and sailed in convoys to South Africa, America, Canada and the Far East.
Technically William died after the end of the war in the Pacific. The allies celebrated victory over Japan on 15 August 1945 although General Koiso Kuniaki did not actually surrender with a signed document until the 2nd September. Both dates are know as VJ day.