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William Rosser (1879–1917)

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

Broken Hill defendants, 1909 [Rosser is far right, front row]

Broken Hill defendants, 1909 [Rosser is far right, front row]

Leader (Melbourne), 1 May 1909, p 23

William Rosser (1879-1917) trade union leader, Socialist, IWW member, soldier 

Birth: January 1879 in parish of Mumbles, Swansea, Wales, son of Samuel Rosser, farmer, and Martha, née Eaton. Marriage: unknown. Death: 15 April 1917 killed in action in machine gun post in the village of Hermies, near Lagnicourt, France. Religion: Unitarian. 

  • Prominent Amalgamated Miners' Association and socialist activist, Broken Hill. Arrested with Tom Mann and Harry Holland and sent for trial to Albury during crushing of 1908-09 Broken Hill strike. Acquitted. Became supportive of return to work with other leaders during 1909 lockout.
  • Active member of Barrier Social Democratic Club, Broken Hill (established 1903).
  • Editor 'The Navvy', fortnightly paper of Railway Workers and General Labourers' Association 1912-16. President of Railway Workers and General Labourers' Association (RWGLA) of NSW, 1909, 1914-16. President City Branch RWGLA 1914-15?
  • Sometime secretary of Australian Labor Federation. 1914 criticised NSW Labor government for opposition to Colliery Employees' Federation's campaign for abolition of afternoon shift. Active member of Sydney Industrial Workers of the World Club. Became increasingly pro-war 1915.
  • Enlisted for military service in the Australian Imperial Forces on 2 February 1916. Criticised by 'International Socialist' for doing ruling class's bidding.
  • Was always supposed to have been an "International Socialist".

information from Peter Sheldon, Dec. 1992; Brian Kennedy Silver, sin and sixpenny ale: a social history of Broken Hill (Melbourne, 1978),  pp. 99, 109, 113, 'Navvy'; Edgar Ross, A history of the Miners' Federation of Australia ([Sydney] 1970); Verity Burgmann, In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905, (Sydney, 1985); International Socialist, 22 January 1916 p 4, Peter Sheldon, 'System and Strategy: The Changing Shape of Unionism among NSW Construction Labourers, 1910-19', Labour History, no 65, Nov 1993, pp 115-135. 

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Citation details

'Rosser, William (1879–1917)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Broken Hill defendants, 1909 [Rosser is far right, front row]

Broken Hill defendants, 1909 [Rosser is far right, front row]

Leader (Melbourne), 1 May 1909, p 23

Life Summary [details]


January, 1879
Mumbles, Swansea, Wales


15 April, 1917 (aged 38)
Hermies, France

Cause of Death

killed in action

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service
Key Organisations