Private 15751 William Westwood

Killed in Action on Thursday, 16th May 1918, age 23.
Buried in Grave I. C. 16. at Houchin British Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France.

1st/6th Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 137th Brigade of 46th Division.

Son of William and Sarah Westwood, of 9 back, 19, High St., Moxley, Wednesbury, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Darlaston, Resident: Wednesbury.

First landed France & Flanders, 24th August 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 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/513249/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
69 Aston Street, Tipton, Staffs.
William Westwood (36, Coal Miner, born West Bromwich), his wife Sarah (35, born Tividale), and their 4 children: Mary (12, born Tipton), Beatrice (7, born Tipton), William (5, born Tipton), and Henry (2, born Tipton).

1911 Census
38 Wood Street, Wednesbury, Staffs.
Benjamin Eccleston (50, Widower, Coal Miner, born Wolverhampton), Sarah Ann Westwood (46, Widow, In Work, born Tividale), and her 7 children: Mary (23, born Tipton), Beatrice (18, born Tipton), William (16, born Tipton), Henry (13, born Tipton), Albert (10, School, born Tipton), Arthur (8, School, born Bilston), and John (4, born Bilston).

Personal Data

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £7/17/2d (7 pounds, 17 shillings and 2 pence); this was paid to his mother and sole legatee, Sarah, in September 1918. His War Gratuity was £16/10/0d (16 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to his mother in December 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that William had enlisted in approximately November 1914.

Action resulting in his death

War History of the 6th South Staffs
Towards the end of April 1918, the 1/6th South Staffs moved to the Loisne sector in French Flanders. The Battalion's sector stretched from Festubert to Locon, with the villages of Gorre and Essar as support posts and Verquin and Vuadricourt as reserve areas. This area was held constantly until August 1918. There were no trenches, merely an irregular series of disconnected holes. Their occupants reached them by marching up the main road and doing the best they could in spite of enemy shelling and machine-gun fire. At this time there was constant night bombing by aircraft, and bombardment of back lines by long range guns.

On the early morning of May 1st 1918, the 1/6th South Staffs suffered an intense deluge of gas shells whilst in support at Gorre. This inflicted heavy casualties at once and also resulted in conditions painful in the extreme for long hours afterwards. In the full light and heat of the sun on the following day, gas vapours rose from the ground and made victims of many who had survived the bombardment itself. Casualties reached such a proportion that the battalion was moved to reserve on May 2nd.

After a brief rest, the 1/6th returned to duty, immediately to suffer a still more intense bombardment, the number of shells being put at ten thousand, of which five hundred were "eight inch" and the larger part carried gas. The casualties of this raid were 6 Officers and 134 Other Ranks. It is likely that this raid was the one which lead to the death of Pte Westwood on 15th May, he is buried at Houchin British Cemetery.

War Diary 1/6th 16th May 1918
At about 2.30 a.m. the enemy shelled the main VERQUIN - BEUVRY Road obtaining direct hits on 'D' & 'B' Companies billets, causing considerable casualties. 'B' company had 1 man killed and 10 men wounded whilst 'D' Company had 4 men killed and 11 men wounded. In addition to the casualties much food was destroyed. The Chaplain of the Cyclist Corps rendered valuable assistance in attending to the wounded. 'B' & 'D' companies went into VAUDRICOURT WOOD under canvas.

Newspaper Cuttings