Private 15337 Luke Gwilliams

Killed in Action on Saturday, 1st July 1916, age 34.
Commemorated on Pier and Face 7 B of Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

1st Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 91st Brigade of 7th Division.

Husband of Mrs Ann Maria Gwilliams, of 8 Wades Passage, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Dudley, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 17th December 1914.
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. Matthew's memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/788150/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Luke Gwilliams registered December quarter 1881 at Dudley. He was actually born on 14th November 1881; the birth is incorrectly registered as Gwillam.

1901 Census
1 Court 8 House Dudley Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Note: Surame was written incorrectly as Williams rather than Gwilliams.
Edward Williams (45, Canal Bargeman, born Dudley), his wife Sarah A. (43, born Dudley), and their 2 children: Luke (20, Canal Bargeman, born Dudley), and Rose A. (17, born Dudley). Also, Tom Canon (Lodger, 22, Coal Miner, born Dudley).

Marriage of Luke Gwilliams and Ann Maria Hingley registered September quarter 1904 in Dudley (actually 26th December 1904).

1911 Census
8 Wades Passage, Tipton, Staffs.
Luke Gwilliams (29 Canal Bargeman, born Dudley), his wife Maria (28, born Coseley), and their 3 children: Edith (4, born Tipton), Eliza Jane (2, born Tipton), and Mona (6 weeks, born Tipton). A futher child, Edward Luke Gwilliams was born in June quarter 1913.

Personal Data

The 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, had been re-called from South Africa immediately on the outbreak of war, landing in Southampton on 19th September 1914. They joined the newly formed 7th Division consisting of other regular battalions returning from around the British Empire, and landed at Zeebrugge, Belgium, on 6th October 1914.

As Luke first landed in France on 17th December 1914, he would have been a reinforcement for the 1st South Staffs; by the end of 1914 the 1st South Staffs already had over 250 men killed. It is likely that Luke was either a 'Special Reservist" or an existing member of the Territorial Forces, as Kitchener volunteers did not land in France so early in the war.

After Luke's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £0/5/1d (5 shillings and 1 penny); this was paid to his widow, Annie M., in October 1916. His War Gratuity was £7/10/0d (7 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to Annie in November 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Luke had enlisted in approximately November 1914.

Action resulting in his death

The 1st South Staffs, as part of 7th Division, attacked the village of Mametz. This was well to the south of the Somme battlefield where the attack achieved many of the objectives. The initial attack at 7.30am captured most of Mametz, but was forced to a halt by mid-morning by German resistance. By early afternoon, the attack was carried forward again with a German garrison of around 200 surrendering. By 7.30pm, all the Staffords objectives had been achieved.

The 1st South Staffs had 4 officers and 82 men killed on the day, with more dying of wounds of subsequent days. Of these 82 men, 5 were from Tipton: James Butcher, Luke Gwilliams, Dan Turner, George Wheatley and John Wilkinson. James Butcher and George Wheatley are buried in Dantzig Alley Cemetery, the other three have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. Another man, John Akins, was wounded in action and died on 2nd July.

War Diary for 1st South Staffs
1st July 1916: MAMETZ
7.30 am:
Attack launched. The attack was pushed forward very successfully and with very few casualties until the whole Battalion was in MAMETZ, where a large number of Germans were encountered. At 9.08 am a message was received from O.C. 'D' company stating the Battalion was held-up on South side of MAMETZ and required reinforcements, the enemy being in strong numbers in the village. A Company of the 21st Manchester Regiment was sent to our support and at 11.20 am we received a message stating that we had advanced to the North East corner of the village and were consolidating. We also held BRIGHT ALLEY with a small force.
The position of Companies was:- 'C' Company on the Right, making a strong point, 'D' Company in DANZIG ALLEY making a strong point with two Stokes Guns. 'B' Company on the Left Front.
2.00 pm:
Battalion had gained and was consolidating the whole of its objective with the exception of BUNNY ALLEY.
3.10 pm:
Battalion had to withdraw in line with the church as FRITZ TRENCH had not been captured.
5.30 pm:
Battalion Headquarters moved up into MAMETZ and on reaching the village found that the Battalion's final objective had not been captured. Major Morris, with great skill, at once reorganised all the troops in the village and allotted each a task. The final objectives were taken and held at about 7.40 pm.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald January 23rd 1915
Gwilliams Luke 8 Wades Passage (South Staffs).
Gwilliams E. 20 Wades Passage (Regiment Unknown). >>>> possibly a relative?

Evening Despatch August 15th 1916
The following casualties amongst warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men are reported under various dates:
S. Staffords- Gwilliams, 15337, L., (Tipton).