2nd Lieutenant William Edward BRUNT


Regiment/Service:
Manchester Regiment
Unit:
22nd Battalion
(7th Manchester 'Pals' Battalion)
Service Number:
n/a
Date of Death:
1 July 1916 - Killed in Action
(1st Day Battle of The Somme)
Age:
22
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
10


Personal History:

William was born in the December quarter 1893, the eldest son of Joseph (Baker) and Mary Alice Brunt at 6 Leek Road, Buxton, Derbyshire (1901 Census RG 13/3270), later of 4 Dale Terrace, Buxton. (1911 Census RG 14/2121).
He had two younger brothers, Harry and Clifford Beswick, and two younger sisters, Nellie May and Alice. The 1911 Census gave William's occupation as 'Reporter'. His Obituary, 'Buxton Advertiser' 15th July 1916, confirms that he worked for the 'Buxton Herald'.

The 'Buxton Advertiser' of the 9th September 1916 reported on the death of another former 'Advertiser' employee - Corporal 14932 Frank Stanbridge - calling them: " bosom friends, in peace and in war the reflection that two such fine young men, who had the world before them, and a world of promise too, have been so ruthlessly laid low, is grievous indeed." Company Q.M.S. Kennerley, another member of the newspaper staff: " well remembers the day on which [they] went to the recruiting office and did their duty." [see Footnote below]

Military History:
William originally enlisted in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry in September 1914 and attained the rank of Sergeant. His Medal Index Card indicates that he entered France on 22nd July 1915. On 20th June 1916 he was promoted to 2/Lieutenant and transferred to the Manchester Regiment. (London Gazette 18th August 1916)  Even by the time his promotion was announced the Gazette published the fact that he was "Since killed in action".

William's Battalion, the 22nd crossed from Folkestone on 11th November 1915, and landed at Boulogne the following day. On the 20th December 1915 the 91st Brigade transferred to the 7th Division. In February 1916 they arrived at the Somme, opposite the German held fortified village of Mametz, east of Fricourt.

On the 1st July, the Battle of the Somme commenced, just 11 days after William joined the Battalion. The 22nd would be attacking Fricourt in a pincer movement from a position on the right of 91st Brigade. The Battalion formed up at 7.30 a.m. and moved forward in 4 lines, 'B' and 'D' Companies in the first two lines, and 'C' and 'A' behind them.

William's Battalion achieved their first objective of Bucket Trench with heavy casualties and moved towards its second objective - Fritz Trench. Owing to even more severe losses it failed to reach this objective and were driven back as German soldiers emerged unscathed from their underground bunkers in the Danzig Alley Trench. Reinforced by the elements of the South Staffords, the Battalion finally took Danzig Trench. The brigade pushed forward and Mametz was taken.

A Map of the Battle for Mametz shows that the 22nd Battalion, Manchester Regiment attacked the German lines to the east of the town.

However, the Battalion paid a terrible price for its successes, of the 796 men that started the day,  William was one of the 472 casualties suffered that day, including 200 Officers and men who were killed in action. William was one of these - "instantly killed by a machine-gun" - and is buried close to where he fell with 50 of his comrades in Dantzig Alley Cemetery. 139 others have no known grave and are commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial.



                                                                                   

William's promotion to 2nd Lieutenant and transfer to the 22nd Manchester Regiment had been reported in the local Buxton press on 1st July 1916. Just two weeks later, the 'Buxton Advertiser' (15th July 1916) was writing his obituary. It said that his friends had greeted his promotion "with pleasure ... gained by merit alone". "When on Saturday morning a telegram was received ... very great sorrow was felt by all who knew him and the deepest sympathy went out to his greatly bereaved parents."

Lieutenant Colonel P Whitham, Commanding Officer of William's Regiment, wrote to his parents:

"Dear Mr Brunt - It has been willed that your son was not spared to serve any great length of time in the Battalion which he had only just joined. Will you please accept our heartfelt sympathies at your great loss.

Your son gallantly fell in action leading his men in front of Mametz on the morning of the 1st July. His death was instantaneous and he did not suffer. His body was found and reverently buried with our deepest sympathies. - P. Whitham"

The paper continued to stress that William: " ...was only 21 years of age and to have gained Commissioned rank entirely by his own ability and conduct is something to be proud and everyone does feel proud that a Buxtonian should have achieved such distinction."

In his diaries, Captain Charles Campbell May, who like William died on the 1st July 1916, and was commander of 'B' Company, wrote on  the 20th June 1916:  ''I have two more new officers now, Jones and Brunt. They seem two good fellows and the latter has seen previous service as a platoon sergeant. I think I have struck two very likely men.''   [Jones was 2nd Lieutenant F.N. Jones.]

In "The Attack", an article written by Sergeant Richard Tawney, who became a distinguished Professor at the London School of Economics after the war, but continually refused a commission, he wrote: ''Our company was to attack in two lines, my platoon and another in front, followed by another two at a distance of about a hundred yards.   So, of course, we had to pack two lines of men into the same fire-trench.  It was what the lads called a 'box-up'.   And when it was done, it was only by main force that one could push along to see that everyone was in his right place and understood what he was to do.  Luckily there was plenty of time, and my platoon officer, a charming boy who had been an N.C.O. himself and joined us only a week or two before, had enough sense not to come fussing around. He was killed beside me an hour or two later.''   ["The Attack" was published in the Westminster Gazette in August 1916.  Tawney's platoon was No. 5 of 'B' Company, to which presumably William Brunt was allocated.]


                                   

Footnote:
· L/Cpl. Harold Brookes DAWSON, of the same Battalion, also commemorated on the Buxton Memorial, died of his wounds on the 2 June 1916.
· Private Archie Leslie VICKERS also of the same Battalion, also commemorated on the Buxton Memorial, died of wounds on the
  7 December 1916
· William was said to be 'bosom pals' with another Buxton casualty - Cpl. Frank STANDBRIDGE, k.i.a. 31 August 1916

Sources:
· I am grateful to Grant Tobin for the photo of Wiliam's Grave
· William's photo and supplementary notes are from 'The Buxton Advertiser', 15th July 1916 and 9th August 1916
· I am also grateful to Gerry Harrison for the quotes from Captain May and Sergeant Tawney
· "Slaughter on The Somme - 1 July 1916" - Martin Mace & John Grehan [ISBN 978-1-84884-770-5] p. 395




Link to CWGC Record
2/Lt W E Brunt's Grave
2/Lt W E Brunt
poppy
..... for the full account of Richard Tawney's article
about the 22nd Manchester 'Pals' Battalion
about the capture of Mametz, 1 - 5 July 1916