Rifleman William Stephen Williams

Date of Birth 15 July 1896
Age at Death 21
Date of Death 30 November 1917
Service Number R/2852
Military Service 11th Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps
Merton Address Winscote, Robinson Road, Colliers Wood
Local Memorial Christ Church, Colliers Wood

Additional Information

William was born on 15 July 1896 and was baptised two years later at Holy Trinity and St Peter Church, South Wimbledon on 5 October 1898. William’s father, William Milton Williams, an Engineer, and his mother Emma Elizabeth were living at 17 Florence Road, Wimbledon. Little is known about William’s early years, but records show that he had at least two elder sisters, Maud, born around 1884 and Mabel, born around 1888, in East Dulwich. The 1891 Census shows that the family were living at 42 Amott Road, Camberwell.

At some point, William’s family moved to the Merton area, and appear to have been living in Florence Road, Wimbledon from 1898 until at least 1908, first at No. 17 and then at No. 23 Florence Road. The 1911 Census for William Snr records that he was a visitor at his brother’s house in Streatham, and also records that of his seven children, unfortunately five of the children had died. There are no Census records for William or the rest of his family.

At the beginning of World War 1, William enlisted at St. Paul’s Churchyard, Middlesex, as a Private with the 11th Battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. On 21 July 1915, the battalion mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne. They were involved in various actions on the Western Front including The Battle of Mount Sorrel, The Battle of Le Transloy, and the Battle of Polygon Wood.

In 1917, the battalion took part in The Battle of Cambrai (20 Nov – 4 Dec 1917). This battle was launched against the Hindenburg Line, and was the first battle in which tanks were used en masse. By the end of the Battle of Cambrai, in early December 1917, more than 80,000 servicemen on both sides were wounded, missing, or killed. The Battalion’s War Diary records that on 29 November 1917, the Battalion had moved up to the front line to Gouzcaucourt, to relieve another company, and were involved in heavy fighting. By 30 November, the diary records that many Officers had been killed or wounded, and that at least 296 other ranks were missing, including William.

William was entitled to the three main medals, known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, namely the 1914-15 Star Medal, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. The medals' nicknames come from a popular comic strip of the time from the Daily Mirror newspaper. Pip was a dog, Squeak was a penguin and Wilfred was a baby rabbit. William’s mother Emma, as sole heir, received the medals, plus money owing from his pay of £9.4.3 and £14.10 War Gratuity, while living at Robinson Road, Colliers Wood.

William has no known grave, so is commemorated at the Cambrai Memorial, in France. He is also commemorated locally at Christ Church, Colliers Wood.


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