Rifleman S/1931 William Wordsworth

Wordsworth William 96 425x600

Died of Wounds on Sunday, 1st October 1916, age 23.
Buried in Grave B. 22. 21. at St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France.

8th Bn., Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own). 41st Brigade of 14th Division.

Son of Alfred and Charlotte Wordsworth, of 189 Horseley Heath, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: West Bromwich, Enlisted: West Bromwich, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 21st July 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/172940/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
41 Great Bridge, Gold's Hill, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Alfred W. Wordsworth (28, Fish Monger, born Tipton), his wife Charlotte M. (28, born West Bromwich), and their 3 children: William F. (7, born West Bromwich), Beatrice (5, born Tipton), and Annie (3, born Tipton).

1911 Census
189 Horseley Heath, Tipton, Staffs.
Alfred William Wordsworth (38, Hawker of Fish, born Tipton), his wife Maria (38, born West Bromwich), and 2 of their 4 surviving children of 5: William (17, Socket Heater at Tube Works, born West Bromwich), and Emily (9, School, born West Bromwich).

Personal Data

William attested in West Bromwich on 4th September 1914 when he was 20 years and 11 months of age, and employed as a Striker. He was 5 feet 4½ inches tall with a 34-inch chest, fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair, and was a Wesleyan.

Initial training was with the 9th, then 12th Battalions of the Rifle Brigade, and he landed in France on 21st July 1915 with the 12th Battalion. This was only after William committed an unspecified offence on 1st June 1915 in England, leading to the forfeit of 7 days pay and receiving 14 days Field Punishment No. 2.

On 25th September 1915 William received a head injury, possibly a bullet wound to the face. He was treated at the 60th Field Ambulance, 2nd London Casualty Clearing Station at Merville, and the 13th General Hospital at Boulogne, before being evacuated back to the UK on Hospital Ship St David on 4th October 1915.

William appeared to be hospitalised in the UK until 25th January 1916 when he was posted to the 15th Battalion in the UK to complete his recovery. William possibly thought he deserved some leave as on the 25th January he was absent without leave for 4 days until apprehended by civil police. He was punished with 20 days Confined to Barracks, which came to an end on the 11th February when he returned to France, this time with the 8th Battalion.

William's final brush with authority came on the 12th April 1916 when he forfeited 6 days pay for "losing his canteen". In May 1916 William contracted Enteritis, and was hospitalised for about two weeks at the 75th and 76th Field Ambulances, then at the 42nd Casualty Clearing Station at Licheux.

Action resulting in his death

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette began on the 15th September 1916 continuing until the 22nd September, the third phase of the Battle of the Somme. The aim was for a massed infantry breakthrough of the German lines, allowing the Cavalry to then sweep through towards Bapaume. The strategic aim of a breakthrough was not achieved, but there were tactical gains with the capture of Flers, Courcelette and Martinpuich.

The 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade was part of 14th (Light) Division. The Division was deployed from the fields north of Delville Wood, east to the Longueval-Ginchy road. This area was called 'The Brewery' because of the thematic trench names such as Beer, Ale and Pint. The 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade and the 8th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps were to lead the advance.

At 5.30am the very first tank came into action here at 'The Brewery'. Tank D1 'Daredevil', commanded by Captain Harold Mortimore, advanced along the eastern edge of Delville Wood clearing 'The Brewery' of any lingering enemy. 'Daredevil' was hit by a shell, most likely from the British barrage, putting it out of action within 100 yards of the William waiting to advance.

At 6.20am they were to advance from Brown Trench, at the north east corner of Delville Wood, north easterly towards Flers under the cover of a protective barrage. Initially casualties were reasonably light, but as the Germans brought their machine guns into action the casualties increased dramatically. This was mainly due to unsuppressed heavy fire from Pint Trench due to problems with tank C24. The Battalion continued and by around 7.00 am had captured its objective, Switch Trench where it was relieved.

At some stage in this attack William received a gunshot wound to the buttock, most probably from a machine gun. He was evacuated through the Casualty Clearing chain, ending up at the 6th General Hospital at Rouen where he died on 1st October 1916. He is buried at St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen.

Newspaper Cuttings

Birmingham Daily Gazette 28th October 1916
Midlands names in the Roll of Honour:
Rifle Brigade- Wordsworth, 1931, W.F., (Tipton).