Private 88418 William H Cottom

Cottom William 96 443x600

Died Home on Sunday, 17th November 1918, age 28.
Buried in Grave C. Ded. 264A. at Tipton Cemetery, Staffordshire, United Kingdom.

3rd Bn., The King's (Liverpool Regiment).
Formerly 88418 2/7th The King's (Liverpool Regiment).

Son of Mrs Hannah Cottom, of Railway St., Horseley Heath, Tipton.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Unknown, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/395340/

Genealogical Data

1891 Census
5 Railway Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Thomas Cottom (42, Labourer, born Dudley), his wife Hannah (39, born Tipton), and their 3 children: John Thomas (12, Scholar, born Tipton), Mary Ann (6, born Tipton), and William (11 months, born Tipton).

1901 Census
5 Railway Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Thomas Cottom (52, Horse Driver for local Board, born Dudley), his wife Hannah (48, born Tipton), and their 4 children: Mary A. (18, General Servant, born Tipton), William Cottom (11, born Tipton), Florence (5, born Tipton), Hannah (3, born Tipton).

1911 Census
5 Railway Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Hannah Cottam (55, Widow, born West Bromwich), and 2 of her 5 surviving children of 9: William (20, Waggoner for Hay & Corn Merchant, born Tipton), and Annie (13, School, born Tipton).

Personal Data

William's surname is recorded in many ways - Cottam (most likely), Cotton, Contom and Cottom. Cottom is used here as this is the spelling used by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

There are 2 Medal Index Cards for William Cottom, neither has the correct surname spelling. One has the surname Contom in error, but shows he enlisted on 12th December 1915 and was discharged on 4th June 1918 after having served abroad. The other has the surname Cotton in error and just shows that he was awarded the Victory & War Medals.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records William as being in the 3rd Battalion, King's (Liverpool). This was the Depot Battalion and always based in the UK; as William was awarded the British War and Victory Medals he served abroad. His overseas service must have been in a different Battalion, the transfer to the Depot Battalion would have been an administrative requirement on his return to the UK.

The answer to his overseas battalion was found in the Medal Roll which shows that William formerly served in the 2nd/7th Battalion, King's (Liverpool). This is confirmed with an entry in the 2nd/7th War Diary for October 1917 which shows W Cotton (sic) being re-numbered from 300121 to 88418.

William was awarded his 'Silver War Badge' in May 1918; this was worn on the lapel to show that he had been discharged from active service. This confirmed his dates of enlistment and discharge, and recorded that his discharge was "on account of disablement or ill-health".

William's War Gratuity was £5/0/0d (5 pounds exactly), this was paid to his mother, Hannah, in June 1919.

Action resulting in his death

William died in England within a week of the Armistice being signed; we know that he served abroad with the 2/7th King's (Liverpool) Regiment and that he was discharged in May 1918. As he has a Commonwealth War Graves headstone, it was officially accepted that his death was, at least in part, attributable to his war service. Unfortunately the surviving official records do not give any clues to the reason for his death.

An undated 1917 cutting from the Tipton Herald (from the 'Hackwood files' in Tipton Library) says simply: "Missing WH Cottom". A further item in the Wednesbury Borough News of 10th November 1917 says: "Prisoner of War, W.H. Cottam of Tipton". Assuming that these two newspaper items are accurate, it would seem that he was missing in action (as reported by his comrades), but taken Prisoner of War (as reported by the Red Cross).

Unfortunately the newspaper items do not give a clue to when he was captured. The 2/7th King's were in the Ypres area in October 1917, in camp north of Ypres (near Elverdinge) during most of the month providing working parties, and moving up to the front line at Eagle Trench (East of Langemarck) on the 28th October. It is possible (but with no proof) that William was captured at that time, during the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

No Prisoners of War in German hands at the Armistice could have been repatriated by the time of William's death. If the newspaper items are correct, then he must have been subject to Prisoner of War repatriation via the Red Cross before the Armistice, often via neutral Switzerland. This would only happen with the most seriously wounded men - loss of sight, loss of limbs and the like, where there was absolutely no chance of their re-joining the army. This does sound possible as William died in November 1918, presumably from the effects of his wounds; William is buried in Tipton Cemetery.

Newspaper Cuttings