Private 78858 William Thomas Follos

Follos William 96 419x600

Killed in Action on Thursday, 21st March 1918, age 19.
Buried in Grave III. E. 3. at Vaulx Hill Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France.

2nd Bn., Durham Light Infantry. 18th Brigade of 6th Division.
Formerly 65981 86th Training Reserve.

Son of Mr Samuel and Mrs Rosannah Follos, of 25 Ocker Hill Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 18th January 1918.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

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/614402/

Genealogical Data

Birth of William Thomas Follos registered March quarter 1899 in Dudley.

1901 Census
84 Leabrook Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Samuel Followers (43, Puddler, born Tipton), his wife Rosannah (38, born Tipton), and their 6 children: Gertrude (16, born Tipton), Sarah Jane (14, born Tipton), Alice Maud (12, born Tipton), Beatrice M. (10, born Tipton), Samuel (7, born Tipton), and William T. (2, born Tipton).

1911 Census
25 Ocker Hill Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Samuel Follows (53, Puddler, born Tipton), his wife Rosannah (50, born Tipton), and their 7 children: Gertrude (25, Earthernware Pot Maker, born Tipton), Alice (21, Domestic Servant, born Tipton), Beatrice (20, Domestic servant, born Tipton), Samuel (18, Screwer, born Tipton), William (13, School, born Tipton), Elizabeth (10, School, born Tipton), and Alfred (5, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Tipton Library and St Mark's Memorials have William's surname as Follows, but CWGC and his Soldier's Papers (including his own signature) have Follos, let us assume he can spell his own surname so Follos it is.

William presented himself for enlistment on 2nd March 1916 but he was not called up until 15th February 1917. He gave his age as 18 years and 241 days old which was a slight exaggeration, was 5ft 3inches tall, weighed just 96 pounds but had good physical development, and was employed as tube screwer.

He was initially posted to the 86th battalion of the Training Reserve, which became the the 52nd (Graduated) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. He arrived in France (Boulogne) on 18th January 1918 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry, joining them on 25th January.

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £9/19/5d (9 pounds, 19 shillings and 5 pence); this was paid to his father, Samuel, in July 1918. His War Gratuity was £4/0/0d (4 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in December 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that William had enlisted in February 1917.

Action resulting in his death

On 19th March 1918 the 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry took over the front line in the Morchies sector, about 5 miles north east of Bapaume. The Durhams had been warned that the Germans were planning a major offensive. At 5pm on the evening of the 20th of March a thick ground mist started to rise until 9pm when it was thick fog.

At 5am on the morning of the 21st March, the 2nd Durhams stood-to in their trenches. A terrific German barrage began which consisted largely of gas shells and fell principally on the support trenches. At 7am communications were lost with the front line as the shelling became heavier still and fell on the front lines as well. At 8.20am a message came from the front line saying that the German infantry was attacking, those in the reserve lines could see the front line area "covered with advancing Germans".

By 10am the Germans were seen advancing on both of the Durhams' flanks as the front line continued to hold. At 10.20am the enemy infantry advanced towards the reserve lines but were slaughtered by rifle and machinegun fire from the defenders. At 10.45am they launched another attack, using bombs to work their way up a communication trench towards battalion headquarters. This attack was forced back by the defenders who also used bombs. Having held their line for most of the day the Durhams watched as German artillery moved past their flanks towards the rear.

At 3pm came an order from Corps Headquarters to retire by which time the Durhams were almost completely surrounded. After repelling another attack it was decided that it would be too dangerous to retreat in daylight and that the beleaguered men should retire after nightfall. At 7.15pm the fog returned and the order was passed down that every man should make his own was back to the Corps line.

On 21st March the 2nd Durhams had 110 Other Ranks killed, including William Follos who is buried in Vaulx Hill Cemetery.

Newspaper Cuttings