Private 241723 William Edward Whitehouse

Killed in Action on Saturday, 13th April 1918, age 22.
Commemorated on Panel 2 and 3 of Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.

15th Bn., Royal Warwickshire Regiment. 13th Brigade of 5th Division.
Formerly 241723 1/7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Son of Alfred Whitehouse; husband of C. Whitehouse, of 2 Back, 19, Hanley St., Birmingham.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Birmingham, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: 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/867211/

Genealogical Data

William Edward Whitehouse was born 21st January 1895 in Brickkiln Street, Tipton. He was baptised on 17th February 1895 at Bell Street Primitive Methodist Chapel,Tipton.

1901 Census
57 Princip Street, Birmingham, Warks.
William Asson (51, Boatman, born Tipton), his wife Sarah (52, born Tipton), their 3 children: Phoebe, William, and Amy, aLSO William Whitehouse (6, Nephew, born Tipton). William's mother, Clara, was named Asson before her marriage.

1911 Census
36 Cecil Street, Birmingham, Warks.
Alfred Whitehouse (38, Boatman at Thomas Beasley, born Tipton), his wife Clara (32, born Tipton), and their 5 children: William Edward (16, Boatman for Corporation, born Tipton), Alfred (14, Boatman, born Birmingham), Thomas (10, School, born Birmingham), Florence (12, School, born Birmingham), and Leah (8, School, born Birmingham).

Marriage of William E. Whitehouse and Catherine Manning registered September quarter 1917 in Birmingham. The birth of their daughter, Clara E. Whitehouse, was registered in March quarter 1918 in Birmingham. It seems unlikley that father and daughter ever met.

Personal Data

William was born in Tipton, but by 1901 the family who appeared to be boatmen, were living in Birmingham. He is commemorated on the Birmingham Roll of Honour.

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances was paid in September 1918 to his widow Catherine; this amounted to just £0/4/6d (4 shillings and 6 pence). She also received his War Gratuity of £3/0/0d in November 1919, this value tells us that William had enlisted within the 12 months preceding his death.

Action resulting in his death

The 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (15/RW), were part of 5th Division who had fought a hard war. They fought extensively on the Somme during 1916, Arras in 1917, then 3rd Ypres later in 1917. In late 1917 they were 1 of the 5 British Divisions sent to northern Italy to give support to our Italian allies.

William had initially served with the 1st/7th Royal Warwicks, we cannot tell when he joined the 15/RW but we do know that he had only enlisted during the 12 months before his death. As the 1/7th Royal Warwicks were also sent to Italy, it is possible that this was the time he transferred; we cannot tell what prior action he may have seen.

The 5th Division were re-called to France when the Germans launched their Spring Offensive on March 21st 1918. They were in place and ready for action by April 9th when the Germans launched the second phase of The Spring Offensive - Operation Georgette, generally known as the Battle of the Lys.

A gap had opened in the British lines near Merville, and threatened the important transport hub of Hazebrouck. The 5th Divison was to take a 2000 yard front on the eastern edge of the Nieppe Forest, facing Merville which was in German hands. As day broke on April 13th they were shallowly entrenched facing Merville with the Nieppe Forest behind them. They had advanced ahead of artillery and transport, so had little protection provided by artillery and barbed wire, and ammunition was a concern.

At 10.00am on April 13th the Germans started a heavy artillery bombardment on the 5th Divison front; this was followed by numerous infantry attacks for the rest of the day. Despite the Warwicks having only machine guns and rifles, the Germans were repelled time after time and the line was unbroked on this, and subsequent, days until the German offensive died out in this area.

During this time the 15th Royal Warwicks had at least 25 men killed, including William Whitehouse on April 13th. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

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