William Somerville TELFORD
Rank: Corporal
Number: 706438
Unit: A Battery, 331st Brigade ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY
Date of Death: 16 October 1917
Age: 24 (based on 1901 Census information)
Cemetery: Brandhoek No.3 Military Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium

The 1901 Census records William as living with his parents, James and Harriet, at 8 Gatley Road, Cheadle. His older brothers and sister, James, Richard, Lily and Matthew were also living there.

In later life, William married Helen E Brown. The ceremony was in late 1915 at St Mary’s Church. Before the war,he was working as a designer for the Calico Printers Association in Manchester. He joined the artillery also in Manchester and left for France in June 1917. At the time, Helen was pregnant and he would never get to see his child.

“A” Battery will have been equipped with four 18 pounder guns and was commanded by a major. There would have been about 200 soldiers, few of whom would carry a weapon. The guns were used to shell enemy positions and, also, to break up groups of attacking soldiers. They were a fairly mobile force, using horses to move the guns to positions required.

On 8 October, the Brigade was ordered into action to support a planned attack. The War Diary records that “the weather conditions were appalling, raining in torrents, mud knee deep and the roads almost impassable owing to congestion of traffic particularly between Ypres and Frezenberg. In fact, the first battery did not arrive at the battery position until 4am on the morning of 9 October. C (battery) were in action by 7am, but the remaining batteries did not finally get into action for about 24 hours, consequently, the batteries were unable to take part in the bombardment for the attack by 66th Division on 9th Oct. The batteries went into action about 500 yards east of the Frezenberg cross roads.”

Frezenberg Ridge is north east of Ieper (Ypres) and the attack by 66th Division was as part of the Battle of Poelkappelle. From 12 to 20 October, the Brigade’s War Diary notes that “No operations of any importance took place. During the period, the batteries were shelled fairly consistently.”

On the day before he was killed, his officer recommended him for a Military Medal; for “gallant conduct in extinguishing a fire and carrying the wounded the safety” but the medal was not awarded.

On 17 October, the major commanding the Battery wrote to his wife “Corporal Telford has been commanding one of my guns in action for some time and was at his gun yesterday when he was hit by a bit of a stray shell. It may be of some consolation to you to know he was killed instantaneously, being hit in the head.”

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