Photograph courtesy Brendan Hawthorne
Killed in Action on Tuesday, 30th November 1915, age 21.
Buried in Grave "Menin Road North Memorial 54" at Menin Road South Military Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
8th Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 51st Brigade of 17th Division.
Eldest son of Mr and Mrs W.J. Bolt, of 56, Toll End Rd., Ocker Hill, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Manchester, Enlisted: Lichfield, Resident: Tipton.
First landed France & Flanders, 14th July 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.
Commemorated on the Tipton Library, and St. Mark's memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.
Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/95812/
Birth of William James Bolt registered September quarter 1894 at Prestwich, Lancashire.
49 Buckley Street, Newton Heath, Manchester.
William J. Bolt (29, Engine Fitter, born Walsall), his wife Mary A. (29, born Astley, Lancs), and their 3 children: William J. (6, born Newton Heath), Ethel (3, born Newton Heath), and Beatrice (1, born Bradford).
56 Toll End Road, Tipton, Staffs.
William James Bolt (39, Engine Fitter, born Walsall), his wife Mary Agnes (39, born Astley, Lancs), and their 6 surviving children of 10: William James (16, General Stores Assistant, born Manchester), Ethel (13, School, born Manchester), Beatrice (11, School, born Manchester), Frederick (9, School, born Manchester), John (5, born Ocker Hill, Tipton), and Nellie (2, born Ocker Hill, Tipton)
The 4 children who had died seem to be Edith and Frederick (the two eldest), Gladys (between Frederick and John), and Elizabeth (the very youngest).
Brendan, a relative of 'Billy' Bolt, tells of the family story that Billy was an early pioneering radio 'ham'. He built a powerful set in Toll End enabling him to communicate far and wide. With the outbreak of war, his set was confiscated as being of potential benefit to the enemy, this resulted in Billy deciding to volunteer for the army.
After Billy's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances of £4/17/4d (4 pounds, seventeen shillings and four pence) was paid to his father, William J. Bolt, on 24th February 1916. His War Gratuity of £5/10/0d (5 pounds and 10 shillings) was also paid to his father, on 19th August 1919.
The 8th (Service) Battalion South Staffs was formed at Lichfield in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Second New Army, K2, and became part of 51st Brigade in 17th (Northern) Division. Early days were somewhat chaotic, the new volunteers having very few trained officers and NCOs to command them, no organised billets or equipment. The units of the Division initially concentrated in the Wareham - Lulworth - Swanage - Wool - Bovington area of Dorset but moved to Winchester in June 1915.
After receiving an order that the Division would be retained for home defence (subsequently cancelled), advance parties left for France on 6th July. Main embarkation began on 12th July. The 8th South Staffs landed at Boulogne on 14th July 1915, and units moved to concentrate near St Omer. The Division spent its initial period of trench familiarisation and then holding the front lines in the southern area of the Ypres salient.
In early November 1915, the 8th South Staffs were allocated a series of front line trenches near Railway Wood, just off the Menin Road, 3 km east of Ypres. They moved into the trenches on 25th November for a 6 day tour of duty. Conditions were appalling with standing water and slush, and the German artillery were rarely silent.
The War Diary entry for the 30th November is as follows:
"Heavily shelled during morning & afternoon, Cambridge Road F.13, RAILWAY WOOD and Battalion HQ being the areas to suffer most. Our guns replied vigorously in the afternoon & the enemy shelling died down, but began again when our guns ceased firing.Battalion relieved by 7th Border Regiment, and proceeded to YPRES Ramparts.Casualties: 5 Killed, 4 Wounded."
The five men included William Bolt, and from the letter his parents received we know that all five were killed from shellfire. The other 4 men were Private Fred Dicken from West Bromwich, Private Frank Layzell from Essex, Private Lewis Smith from Birmingham and probably Private Joseph Rowson from Bilston. William Bolt was initially buried in Menin Road North Cemetery, but his grave was probably destroyed by shell fire and could not be found. He now has a Special Commemoration (one of 57) in Menin Road South Military Cemetery.
Extract from 'Soldiers Died in the Great War, courtesy Naval & Military Press.
The following picture is the original grave of Pte Dicken of West Bromwich. Those in the background are mostly 8th South Staffords, and after examining the original photo under magnification it is probable that the grave on the far right is Billy Bolt.
Tipton Herald 12th September 1914
OCKER HILL PATRIOTS.
The following is a first list of men from Ocker Hill (Tipton) who are serving in His Majesty's force.
Tipton Herald 22nd January 1916
TIPTON ELECTRICIAN KILLED AT THE FRONT (Identical article in E&S but with photo)
The death in the trenches is officially announced of Corporal W.J. Bolt, 8th Battalion South Staffords, who enlisted on the 4th September 1914. He proceeded on active service in July 1915, and was killed in action on the 30th November. He commenced work at the Ocker Hill electrical works at the age of 16 and was employed there at the time he joined the colours, being then 21 years of age. Corporal Bolt had spent his time in improving his electrical knowledge and had a bright future. He was the eldest son of Mr & Mrs W.J. Bolt of 56 Toll End Road, Tipton, to whom sympathy is extended.
An officer writing to the deceased's father says:- "Your son was killed while sleeping in his dugout. A shell entered the side and killed Corporal Bolt and four others. We cleared away the debris and found your son and a pal still lying asleep almost in each other's arms. Your son was a willing worker, and his happy smile under trying conditions used to cheer everybody."
Letter family received from W.A. Sefton, O.C. Signals Battalion, South Staffs.
Dear Sir, It is with real sorrow that I have to perform the most painful duty that befalls to us officers. Your son, Corporal Bolt, was killed yesterday, 29th November. He had been patrolling wires since 3.30am and was asleep in his dugout when a shell entered the side and killed Corporal Bolt with four others, collapsing the dugout. We at once dug away the debris and found your son and a pal still lying asleep in each other's arms. Poor fellow, he never woke.
It is poor consolation but every officer in the regiment was deeply grieved, for they all knew the Corporal of the linesmen, the Corporal who went gaily to work in the midst of any shell fire, day or night, to repair the lines and to keep up the communication between the firing line and headquarters.
His wonderful coolness and nerve were respected by all, his happy smile as he came through the shells to the isolated Company cheered everyone. Every officer would put in a good word for him. Within a few weeks he would have been a sergeant. The Colonel himself was greatly upset at the sad incident. From his pals I understand that his mother will probably take the sad news badly, but she may rest assured that her son never felt the slightest pain. May God comfort her and you, for I know how my own parents would be affected.
Yours very sincerely,
O.C. Signals Battalion, South Staffs.
1st December 1915