Private 23135 William T Peters

Peters William 96 425x600

Killed in Action on Sunday, 30th July 1916, age 22.
Commemorated on Pier and Face 1 D 8 B and 8 C of Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

20th Bn., The King's (Liverpool Regiment). 89th Brigade of 30th Division.

Son of William and Elizabeth Peters of 149 Grange Road, Birkenhead, Cheshire.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Liverpool, Resident: Birkenhead.

First landed France & Flanders, 7th November 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

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/1547917/

Genealogical Data

Birth of William Thomas Peters registered December quarter 1894 in Dudley.

1901 Census
13 Florence Street, Birkenhead, Cheshire.
William H. Peters (37, Boilermaker, born Great Bridge), his wife Elizabeth (37, born Great Bridge), and their 4 children: Elizabeth (10, born Middlesbrough), William T. (7, born Great Bridge), Ernest (3, born Birkenhead), and Harry (11 months, born Birkenhead).

1911 Census
55 Park Street, Birkenhead, Cheshire.
William Henry Peters (47, Potato Dealer, born Tipton), his wife Elizabeth (47, Assists in business, born Tipton), and 5 of their 6 children: William Thomas (17, Labourer-Wines & Spirits, born Tipton), Ernest (13, School, born Birkenhead), Harry (11, School, born Birkenhead), Richard Arthur (8, School, born Birkenhead), and Albert Edward (5, School, born Birkenhead).

Personal Data

The Peters family migrated from Tipton to Birkenhead sometime between mid-1894 when William was born in Tipton, and 1897 when his brother Ernest was born in Birkenhead.

William attested with the King’s (Liverpool) regiment on 10th November 1914 at Liverpool. He is recorded as 20 years and 337 days of age, 5 feet 5¼ inches tall with a 36-inch chest and weighing 127 pounds. He had grey eyes, dark brown hair and a fresh complexion, and had a scar on his right forearm. He was employed as a clerk, and religion stated as Church of England.

His Service Record has little more detail, other than confirming the names of parents and siblings, and arriving in France on 7th November 1915. His Conduct Sheet is clear, and subsequent to his death, there were no personal effects to forward to his family – because his body was never identified.

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £5/6/0d (5 pounds and 6 shillings), this was paid to his father, William H., in December 1916. His War Gratuity was £7/10/0d (7 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to his father in October 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that William had enlisted in approximately November 1914.

Action resulting in his death

The 20th Battalion, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment (20/Kings) was known as the 4th Liverpool Pals. The 17th King’s is acknowledged as the first of the ‘Pals’ battalions – the 1st Liverpool Pals. The Liverpool area had sufficient volunteers to create their 4th Pals battalion in November 1914, William Peters volunteered at this time.

All 4 Liverpool Pals battalions served in the 30th Division. The 17th, 19th and 20th battalions served in the 89th Brigade, and the 18th battalion in the 88th Brigade of that Division. This made the casualties from severe actions (such as 30th July below) particularly painful for the Liverpool area.

The Liverpool Pals arrived in France in November 1915, but in common with many Pals battalions, their first significant action was on 1st July 1916 - the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The 30th Division were at the extreme south of the British line attacking Montauban, and were one of the few successes on that dreadful day. 20/Kings took all their objectives, dug in to protect their newly-won ground and held off all counter-attacks. 20/Kings had almost 50 Officers and Other Ranks killed during the first week of the Somme battle. By the standards of that week that could be seen as quite light, especially in comparison with the other Pals battalions in the Serre area.

The most significant action for the Liverpool Pals battalions was to be the Battle of Guillemont on 30th July. Most of July was spent holding the newly-won line, or behind the lines at Corbie and Vaux-sur-Somme re-fitting men and material, and preparing for Guillemont. 20/Kings moved to their assembly trenches near Maltz Horn Trench on the evening of 29th July. In the 89th Brigade area, 20/Kings was on the right and 19/Kings on the left with 17/Kings in support near Trones Wood. Zero hour was set for 4.45am on 30th July.

The 20/Kings War Diary records: “At 4.45am prompt the attack was launched. Unfortunately, a thick mist prevailed and it was impossible to see more than 10 yards ahead. This continued until about 6 o’clock when it lifted slightly, but it was still too hazy and impossible to see what was happening 100 yards ahead. This being so, it was not surprising to find that the attacking waves were experiencing great difficulty in maintaining connection.”

At 6am, Lt. RE Melly, No.1 Company, reported that his men had taken the German Maltz Horn trench.

At 6.30am, 2/Lt. CP Moore reported that he had 150 men, 4 Stokes Mortars and 2 Lewis Guns, but he was the only officer. He also said that due to the fog, both his “flanks were in the air” i.e. he was not in contact with neighbouring troops.

At 9.10am, Moore was still not in contact at his flanks, and now he had only 75 men, he had sent out 2 patrols and neither not returned. Later Moore established communication with the French on his right.

Around 10.00am, 2/Lt Musker reported that he had just over a company with him, but his left flank was suffering from German machine gun fire. Later he reported that he had over 30 casualties from the machine gun fire. His flanks were also “in the air”. No contact was made with this party until the remnants returned around 9.30pm, all runners sent were killed or missing. The War Diary states that this group had: ”held the ground won all day, and this permitted the consolidation of the ground won on the Maltz Horn ridge with little interference from the enemy”.

Relief for 20/Kings had been planned for 11.00pm, but it was 5.00am on the 31st July before it took place, ending a tragic day for the Liverpool Pals.

Graham Maddocks, in his superb book ‘Liverpool Pals’ described it as "the blackest day in the short history of the Liverpool Pals". It is hard to disagree as 20/Kings had 154 men killed, 19/Kings had 192 killed and 17/Kings had 116 killed. It is certain that more men of the Pals battalions will have died from wounds received on that “black day”.

Of the 462 men killed that day, 351 have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. William Peters is one of the 351 men ‘Known Unto God’.

Newspaper Cuttings

Birkenhead News 23rd August 1916
A Birkenhead ‘Pal’ killed.
Claughton Male Voice Choir Member.
The sad news has been received by Mr and Mrs W.H. Peters, of 149 Grange Road, that their eldest son, Private Wm. Thomas Peters, of the 4th Liverpool (“Pals”), was killed in action on July 30th. He was 22 years of age, and most popular with his fellow soldiers in the regiment. He joined the Army in November 1914, and was sent to the front with his battalion In November 1915. He was an old boy of St. John’s School, Oliver Street, and prior to joining the forces he was in the employ of the Birkenhead Brewery Company, Oxton Road. The deceased soldier was in pre-war days an enthusiastic member of the Claughton Male Voice Choir, and was well-known throughout the town.