Edward Ratcliffe WILLIAMS
Rank: Gunner
Number: 112060
Date of Death: 3 October 1917
Age: 34
Cemetery: Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery, St Omer, Pas de Calais, France

When the census was taken in 1901, Edward and his older brother Ernest were living at the family home at 95 Reddish Road with their parents, Edward and Sarah. Edward, senior, was an insurance agent and his namesake was apprenticed to a cabinet maker.

The Siege Batteries of the Royal Garrison Artillery operated the heaviest weapons in the arsenal of the British Army. 39th Battery was equipped with a number of 8” howitzers, capable of throwing a shell weighing 132kg over a range of just over nine kilometres. Each gun weighed over 15 tons.

The Battery’s War Diary is held at the National Archives and contains brief details of 1 October 1917. It does not give the unit’s location but it is likely to have been somewhere behind the front line near the Belgian town of Ypres as there was a major battle there throughout the summer and autumn of 1917.

Because of the size of the guns, they were not very mobile and would tend to stay in prepared emplacements for some considerable time. In consequence, their location could be spotted by enemy aircraft and the batteries  would themselves become targets for the German long-range artillery. The Diary records that on the 1st, they fired nearly three hundred rounds, probably in preparation for an attack scheduled for the 4th on German positions at Broodseinde. It notes “Gunners Williams E R and Harrison A J burnt through enemy action.”

Edward was evacuated first to a field hospital nearby where his condition was stabilised sufficiently for him to be transferred to the full facilities at one of the military hospitals near St Omer. However, his burns were too extensive and he died. Gunner Johnson appears to have survived.

After the War, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, Mrs Williams was living at 76 Fox Street, Edgeley.

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