A Hundred Years Ago…

Sorry, this is a bit of a downbeat post, but it relates to events 100 years ago today, and it seems appropriate. This is from the Clitheroe Advertiser on 21st December 1917.

Obituary notice - Wm H Wilson

Obituary notice – W H Wilson

It’s not quite accurate, as he’d originally volunteered in 1914 but been turned down (my grandfather went with him to volunteer that day but claimed to be less than nine months younger than him – this was hailed as a medical miracle by the recruiting sergeant, who also rejected my grandfather.) The fact that he wasn’t called up until  a year after conscription could indicate that he was needed on the farm as part of the war effort, but there is no indication on his card.

He joined the battalion in July 1917 and was wounded in action on 22nd October, a slight gunshot wound to the head according to his medical records. Slight? They were obviously tougher in those days.

He rejoined the battalion on 5th December, and was, as reported in the paper, fatally wounded whilst in trenches in the Ypres salient on 12th December.

He is buried in Lijsssenthoek Militart Cemetery and is unusual amongst the three members of the family killed in the war in having a marked grave.


This is the lisy of personal effects sent home to his mother – photos, wallet, cigarette case, cards, 2 cap badges, 2 numerals (probably shoulder titles), 9 carat gold ring (WHW), 1 farthing, bag.. They would later send a tin case containing a safety razor and blades. Shaving was a complicated subject in the trenches.

WHW Effects

He was, according to one of my great-grandmother’s letters, walking out with a local woman, before being sent to France. At that point he had only five months to live and was to be wounded twice and mentioned in despatches in that time.


The war memorial in Slaidburn (currently being restored) features his name, as does my great-grandmother’s gravestone (which also mentions my great-grandfather). If you compared the war memorial  figures at Clitheroe and Slaidburn you will see that they are the same, something I learned whilst pteparing the previous post on Clitheroe. She never recovered from Billy’s death (he was Billy to the family – William to record-keepers) and threw out anything that reminded her of the war. That, we are told, is why there is no existing photo of him.

Great-grandmother is buried in Chatburn, the village where my mother was bombed, and where I later went to school less than 100 yards from the gravestone, which I never knew about until a few years ago.

This closes the circle as her son-in-law is commemorated on Chatburn war memorial – something else I never knew when I went to Chatburn school – the school is the building in the background of this photograph.



18 thoughts on “A Hundred Years Ago…

  1. Pingback: A Post that took a Week to Write | quercuscommunity

  2. paolsoren

    What a bloody waste. I see you already know Derrick Knight. It’s a small world.Am very interested in what is going to happen to all the Quercus people – I have a number of reasons. an ex school teacher, a brother with a Downes syndrome son, a mother who spent the last 40 years in a wheelchair as a result of a car accident, a a childhood on a farm.
    So I am now officially a follower.

    1. quercuscommunity

      Thank you. All the group except one found alternatives. We still see most of them about, either in person or on Facebook.

      Dave is unable to get out and about much because the district nurse service no longer makes appointments – just expects him to stay in all day until they arrive. He is working round this by making various woodwork projects at home, and is helping Julia with some of her garden projects.

    1. quercuscommunity

      It’s nice to be able to reconstruct a bit of his story. My great-grandfather was able to leave a family, some books he won as prizes, and a couple of photos. Billy wasn’t able to do that.

  3. Laurie Graves

    Oh, my! Maybe we should make it a law that whenever a country goes to war, that country’s leader must be in the front lines, along with any family members old enough to fight. Might slow things down.

  4. Clare Pooley

    Aren’t families strange? There are some families who are grave visitors and regularly go and tend them and leave flowers and then are some who aren’t and never visit the grave and never talk about it. I come from a family of people who never visit graves though I like wandering round graveyards. My husband is from a family that finds comfort in visiting graves and feels that having a memorial stone is important.
    I feel sorry for your great-grandmother and the loss of her Billy.

    1. quercuscommunity

      My uncle keeps an eye on this one -he still lives in the village. In general we don’t visit graves because we’re so dispersed, and because we’re a family of cremators these days.

  5. arlingwoman

    Yes, and if you survived the war, the flu might well have got you. My grandfather was called up late (of course the US came into the war late) because he was on a farm, but the war ended before he was shipped out and he spent much of his army time digging graves for comrades who died in the epidemic–what better place for flu to spread than a barracks? In any event, I”m glad you discovered this history you grew up with.

  6. Lavinia Ross

    These are sad, but interesting historical accountings of your family. I am glad to hear you had time with your grandfather. I only knew one of my grandparents, my father’s mother. The rest had passed on before I was born.


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