Private 22403 Mark Ernest Woolley

Woolley Mark 96 393x600Woolley Mark head

Killed in Action France & Flanders on Saturday, 13th April 1918, age 21.
Commemorated on Panel 1 of Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.

3rd Bn., Coldstream Guards. 4th (Gds) Brigade of 31st Division.

Son of Mr and Mrs T. Woolley, of 10, Church Yard Rd., Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, 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.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/867578/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Mark Ernest Woolley registered March quarter 1897 in Dudley.

1901 Census
10 Churchyard Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Thomas Wooley (25, Brickyard Labourer, born Tipton), his wife Elizabeth (23, born Tipton), and their 2 children: Ernest (4, born Tipton), and Maud (5 months, born Tipton). Also Elizabeth's mother Hannah Hickinbottom (48, born Tipton) and her son William (17, Brickyard Labourer, born Tipton).

1911 Census
10 Churchyard Road, off Church Lane, Tipton, Staffs. (3 Rooms).
Thomas Woolley (34, Stoker, born Tipton), his wife Elizabeth (33, born Tipton), and their 6 surviving children of 8: Mark Earnest (14, Messenger Boy, born Tipton), Maud (10, School, born Tipton), Minnie Bertha (8, School, born Tipton), Joseph Thomas (5, School, born Tipton), William John (3, School, born Tipton), and Frank (1, born Tipton). Also Elizabeth's mother Hannah Hickinbottom (58, Nurse, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Mark Woolley is commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial with his surname misspelt as Wooley.

After Mark's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £0/18/2d (18 shillings and 2 pence); this was paid to his father, Thomas, in December 1919. His War Gratuity was £5/0/0d (5 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in December 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Mark had enlisted in approximately January 1917.

Action resulting in his death

On 9th April 1918, the Germans launched the third phase of their 'Spring Offensive', known as 'Operation Georgette', now termed the Battle of the Lys. The aim was to break the Allied lines around Armentieres (about 10 miles south of Ypres), and to force their way to the coast and hence enveloping the British forces in Flanders. The first phase on the 9th April was the Battle of Estaires, where the Germans broke through on a 9-mile front and advanced up to 5 miles until halted just in front of Estaires.

On the 12th April 1918 the Germans launched what became known as the 'Battle of Hazebrouck', attempting once again to break the Allied line and capture Hazebrouck which was an important supply centre. They had some success and captured Merville but once again the British line held, although sorely tested suffering huge casualties. On 11th April Field-Commander Haig gave his famous 'backs to the wall' order: "There is no other course open to us but to fight it out! Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end."

The 4th Guards Brigade was deployed just in front of the Nieppe Forest (Bois d'Aval) to prevent the German break through to Hazebrouck, 5 miles to the north west. It was attacked repeatedly on the 12th and 13th April by strong German forces, but despite horrendous casualties (1450 from 2200 men), the Germans were finally repulsed. The 3rd Coldstream Guards were in the thick of this action and had 135 men killed on the 12th and 13th April, amongst them Private Mark Woooley.

Mark was missing after the action on the 13th April. The Birmingham Daily Gazette of 27th June had an appeal from his mother for any information about Mark's absence, none was forthcoming and he was officially recorded as 'Presumed Killed'. Like most of his comrades here, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings

Birmingham Daily Gazette 27th June 1918
No. 22403, Private M.E. Woolley, Coldstream Guards, has been reported missing since 13 April, and his mother who lives at 10 Churchyard Road, Tipton, will be grateful for any news concerning him.