Private PW/1448 William Whale

Killed in Action on Tuesday, 7th December 1915, age 25.
Buried in Grave II. H. 4. at Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy, Pas De Calais, France.

18th Bn., Middlesex Regiment. Pioneer Battalion of 33rd Division.

Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Stoke-on-Trent, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 12th 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/195577/

Genealogical Data

Birth of William Whale registered December quarter 1890 in West Bromwich.

1891 Census
24 Horton Street, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Elijah H. Whale (21, General Labourer, born Tipton), his wife Eliza (20, born West Bromwich), and their only child: William (6 months, born West Bromwich).

1901 Census
18 South Terrace, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs.
Eliza Whale (29, Head, born Wolverhampton), and her 5 children: William (10, born Wolverhampton), Elijah (9, born Wolverhampton), Phoebe (5, born Wolverhampton), Sarah J. (3, born Wolverhampton), and Henry (9 months, born Stoke).

1911 Census
36 Sideway Road, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs.
Elijah Whale (42, Blastfurnace Worker, born Tipton), his wife Eliza (40, born Tipton), and their 8 children: William (20, Blastfurnace Labourer, born Tipton), Elijah (17, Colliery Loader, born Tipton), Phoebe (14, born Tipton), Jane (13, born Tipton), Henry (10, born Stoke), Thomas (4, born Stoke), Eliza (3, born Stoke), and Joseph (1, born Stoke).

Marriage of William Whale and Agnes Elizabeth Kelsall registered June quarter 1914 in Stoke-on-Trent.

Personal Data

William Whale is included here because ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ shows him as being born in Tipton which must have been what he said on his enlistment. The proof of this is slim; the 3 census returns during his life show William being born in West Bromwich, Wolverhampton and Tipton. At the time of the 1891 census Elijah, Eliza and 6-month old William were living in West Bromwich, so this is most likely where he was born. Regardless, William is welcome to his page on this web site.

The Whale family moved from the Black Country to the Potteries around the turn of the 20th century, living in Stoke-on-Trent at the time of the 1901 census.

William Whale enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment on 12th April 1915 in Stoke-on-Trent. He was 24 years and 5 months old, 5 feet 7¼ inches tall with a 40-inch chest and weighed 144 pounds; he was employed as an Ironworker. He was a married man, having married Elizabeth Kelsall on 14th April 1914, they had an adopted daughter, Jessie Ellen (Nellie) Bartram, who was 18 months old, and they lived at 12 Talbot Street, Fenton.

William was immediately posted to the 18th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. This was not an ordinary infantry battalion, but a Pioneer unit intended to provide the manual labour required in a Division, they were known at the 18th (Service) Battalion (1st Public Works Pioneers). After training at Hornsey, Rayleigh, Clipstone Camp (near Mansfield) and finally Salisbury Plain, they departed from Southampton, arriving in Le Havre on 15th November 1915.

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £2/16/4d (2 pounds, 16 shillings and 4 pence); this was paid to his widow and sole legatee, Elizabeth, in March 1916. His War Gratuity was £3/0/0d (3 pounds exactly), this was paid Mrs Ellen Hawkins in December 1919. The value of the War Gratuity confirms that William had enlisted in the 12 months prior to his death. The identity of Mrs Ellen Hawkins is unknown, but William’s widow, Elizabeth, had died in late 1917.

Elizabeth had been awarded a Widow’s Pension of 15/0d (15 shillings) per week from 10th July 1916, this started once the Separation Allowance of 14/0d (14 shillings exactly) plus William’s allotment of pay of 3/6d (3 shillings and 6 pence) per week had ceased. After Elizabeth’s death, the Pension was reduced by 13/9d (13 shillings and 9 pence) leaving the princely sum of 1/3d (1 shilling and 3 pence) to be paid to the guardian of their adopted and now orphaned daughter, Nellie.

Action resulting in his death

The 18th Battalion Middlesex (1st Public Works Pioneers) were the Pioneer Battalion for the 33rd Division. The Division moved to the Western Front in November 1915, but were not in any significant battle until the Battle of the Somme, so William's death on 7th December 1915 was just part of the relentless daily grind of the Western Front.

In late November 1915 the Battalion marched to Gorre, a hamlet about 2.5 miles east of Bethune, and went into billets. From here they provided labour to improve the trenches 3 miles to the east near Givenchy-lez-la-Bassée which were in a bad state, and in close proximity to the front line. The trenches had been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that it was thought necessary to work day and night, using two shifts, to improve them. Water was drained, the trenches re-boarded at the bottom, and some revetting carried out.

All that the War Diary says for December 7th is that 2 men were wounded, and 2 men killed. The two men killed were William Whale and Private A. E. Young, both men are buried in Plot II Row H, at Guards Cemetery, Cuinchy.

Newspaper Cuttings