Private 9685 William Giles

Killed in Action on Sunday, 16th May 1915, age 41.
Commemorated on Panel 21 and 22 of Le Touret Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

2nd Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 6th Brigade of 2nd Division.

Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Wolverhampton, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 9th November 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914 Star, 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/859874/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
No trace, probably in South Africa (Boer War).

1911 Census
Norton Barracks, Norton, Worcs.
Private William Giles, Worcestershire Regiment, Single, age 38, born Tipton.

Personal Data

William Giles attested for the Worcesters on 8th September 1893, and was given the number 3785. He was 20 years and 1 month old, and employed as an Engine Driver, and was already serving with the Worcester Militia. He was born in Tipton.
He was 5 feet 4½ inches tall, weighed 122 pounds with a 33-inch chest. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair.

William saw service on Malta, Bermuda and South Africa where he earned the King's and Queen's South Africa medals, with 'Cape Colony', 'Wittebergen', ' Transvaal', '1901' and '1902' clasps.

He left the Army in 1903, but within a year had re-joined with the intention of completing 21 years. He left the Army for a second time in 1911 after 18 years service, intending to take his pension. He was then 38 years and 3 month old, still 5 feet 4½ inches tall, and his discharge papers stated that he had been "employed as Officer's Servant for 13 years, steady, hard-working and sober, and understood the duties of a valet."

It is possible that William was still a reservist at the outbreak of war as he had landed in France on the 9th November 1914, but this was with the South Staffs rather than the Worcesters where he spent his career as a regular soldier.

Action resulting in his death

The Battle of Festubert commenced on the night of 15th/16th May against a German salient between Neuve Chapelle and Festubert, and was the first night attack of the war. The bombardment had failed to significantly damage the German defences, and only the 6th Brigade - with the 2nd South Staffs in reserve - made initial progress.

On the 17th the Germans withdrew 1200 yards to a newly-prepared line, this allowed the British to capture a German strongpoint called the Quadrilateral and over 450 prisoners. Unfortunately a subsequent attack during that afternoon, attempting to take advantage of this success, failed to produce any results.

On the 18th the Canadian Division, assisted by the 51st (Highland) Division, renewed the advance, but this made little progress in the face of effective German artillery fire. The British forces then entrenched themselves at the new front line in conditions of heavy rain. The 2nd South Staffs, as part of 2nd Division, were relieved on the 19th May having lost heavily on the previous day.

When French ordered Haig to terminate the offensive on 25th May, 1200 yards had been gained but at a cost of 16,000 casualties.

On 16th May, William was killed in action during the Battle of Festubert. William has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.

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