Private 685 William Hopkins

Hopkins William 96 401x600

Killed in Action on Saturday, 1st July 1916, age 35.
Buried in Grave I. L. 19. at Foncquevillers Military Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France.

1st/5th Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 137th Brigade of 46th Division.

Born: Wednesbury, Enlisted: Wednesbury, 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.

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/196855/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
25 Old Row, Golds Hill, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Mary A. Hopkins (41, Widow, born Kenilworth), and her 5 children: William (19, Labourer, born Wednesbury), Rose H. (14, born Wednesbury), John T. (12, born Wednesbury), Susan (9, born Wednesbury), and Eliza (6, born Wednesbury).

Marriage of William Hopkins and Amelia Hodgkinson registered December quarter 1908 in West Bromwich.

1911 Census
42 Leabrook Road, Wednesbury, Staffs.
William Hopkins (29, General Labourer at Ironworks, born Wednesbury), and his wife Amelia (26, Breeze Washer, born Hanley) and their daughter: Sarah (2, born Tipton), and William's stepson Arthur Hodgkinson (5, born Wednesbury). It is probable that William and Amelia had 3 further children: Fanny (birth registered September quarter 1911 in West Bromwich), Elizabeth (birth registered June quarter 1913 in Dudley) and Amelia (birth registered December quarter 1915 in Dudley).

Personal Data

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £0/8/6d (8 shillings and 6 pence); this was paid to his widow, Amelia, in January 1917. His War Gratuity was £4/0/0d (4 pounds exactly), this was also paid to Amelia in September 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that William had enlisted in June 1915.

Action resulting in his death

At the very northern extent of the Somme battlefield was Gommecourt, also the most westerly point on the Western Front. Here the British attack on the first day of the Somme was a diversionary raid intended to keep the Germans occupied. If there was no attack here, German guns would turn south to the next attacking division - the 31st Pals Division.

The objective was to take the Gommecourt salient strongpoint, but to go no further. The 46th (North Midlands) Division, including the 1/5th and 1/6th South Staffs, was to attack from the north, and the 56th (London) Division from the south, encircling the German strongpoint. Very simply, the 56th managed to break through two German lines, but the 46th with one exception - the Sherwood Foresters - failed to penetrate the German wire.

Amongst the reasons for this failure were: British smoke was thick causing a loss of direction, the German wire was uncut and also hidden in tall grass, and German resistance was fierce with a machine gun firing the length of No Man's Land.

The Divisional Commander - Montague-Stuart-Wortley was sacked and sent back to the UK, the only Divisional Commander 'sacked'. The comment "lack of offensive spirit" was used by his Corps Commander D'Oyly-Snow. Many thought it was more D'Oyly-Snow to blame.

The 1/5th South Staffs had 42 men killed on the day. The majority have no known grave, but William Hopkins is buried in Foncquvillers Military Cemetery.

Newspaper Cuttings