Gunner William Henry FINNEY


Regiment/Service:
Royal Field Artillery
Unit:
8th Division Ammunition Column.
Service Number:
35907
Date of Death:
17 August 1918 - Died (Home)
Age:
47
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
3325


Personal History:

William was born on 19th November 1870 in Stone, Staffordshire and the 1881 Census (RG 11/2692) has him (possibly) in the Union Workhouse, Stone, along with Harriett and Mary Finney, who may have been his siblings.

There is no obvious record of William on either the 1891 or 1901 Census, although as he served in the Boer War he could have been in South Africa in 1901.
On the 12th December 1910 William married Sarah Blackwell and the following year they were living at 39 Windsor Road, Fairfield, Buxton, with Sarah's daughter, Bernice, aged 13, and a 1 month old son, born 19th February 1911, William Henry, surname 'Blackwell'. (Census RG 14/21233) On the 2nd July 1912 their daughter, Dorothy, was  born. (Sarah had been married to Frank Blackwell, a "Cab Driver" and living in Fairfield. There is no apparent record of is death c. 1910.) After the War Sarah lived at 10 Ash Cottages, Lightwood  Road, Buxton.

In 1911 William was working as a "Vegetable Cook, Buxton Hydes Ltd."  When he re-enlisted in 1914, at the age of 43 years 10 months, William's Service Records states that he was employed as a "Quarryman". At that time he stood 5 ft. 6 ins. (1.69 m.), weighed 9 st. 8 lbs. (60.8 kgs.) and had grey eyes and brown hair. He gave his religion as 'Church of England'.

Military History:
William had served in the South African Campaign (Boer War) with Royal Horse Artillery. His Regimental Number was 72280, and he served until his discharge on the 18th February 1910, having completed his service. At the start of the War, therefore, he was a Reservist, and re-enlisted at Buxton on the 23rd September 1914.

His 8th Division had been formed in October 1914 by bringing together a number of regular army units. William was posted to France with the Division in November, part of much needed reinforcement to the British Expeditionary Force after its retreat following the Battle of Mons. William's Medal Index Card confirms his the date for entering the War as 6th November 1914. The 8th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA formed part of the Divisional Artillery attachment. The Division Ammunition Column was mainly employed moving ammunition up to batteries - dangerous work.

Initially, William was posted to the 1st Division R.F.R.A. and a month later, 11th October 1914, was posted to 8th Division, "A" Column. He remained in France with the 8th Division until the 5th December 1917 and saw action in 1915 at Neuve Chappelle and Loos; in 1916 at The Battle of Albert (a phase of the Battles of the Somme). In 1917 the 8th Division were in action in The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31st July - 2nd August, and The Battle of Langemarck, 16th - 18th August, phases of The Third Battle of Ypres, (31st July - 10th November 1917)



William first reported sick at Ypres on the 1st December 1917 and was posted back to England four days later - probably to Woolwich. After being admitted to Northumberland War Hospital on the 6th December, suffering from Nephritis (see below), he was medically examined on the 17th April 1918 and his report stated:

".. complaining of shortness of breath, headaches, pain in the back - swelling in the face and ankles, vomiting. Admitted here Dec. 6 1917 when the symptoms persisted - oedema only slight. Urine contained a large quantity of albumen. Has been under treatment since that time with very little improvement in his condition." William was "... recommended for discharge as permanently unfit."  [N.B. A healthy kidney does not let albumen pass into the urine.]

In addition he had " an ulcer about the size of a sixpence on left cheek close to the nose where he was slightly wounded by a splinter - Dec. 1914. It is suspiciously like an early rodent ulcer." - for which he received 6 month's worth of X-ray treatment.

William was still in the same Hospital on the 2nd May 1918 and finally discharged as "... physically unfit, Para. 392, [XVI] ..." on the 23rd May 1918. He had served an additional 3 years 247 days with the Colours. He had been diagnosed as 100% unfit, still suffering from "nephritis" [Nephritis refers to inflammation of one or both kidneys. It can be caused by infection, but is most commonly caused by autoimmune disorders that affect the major organs.]

It was deemed that his illness had been caused by " ... Hardship and exposure ... attributable to service during the current War." Clearly, William did not recover and after his discharge in May 1918 he returned home to his family in Fairfield, where he died shortly afterwards on 17th August.

William is buried in Buxton Cemetery, and as can be seen from the photo above his grave is in dire need of renovation. This is a shame as even after serving his Country for many years prior to his discharge in 1910, William answered the call again early in the Great War, even though aged nearly 44 at the time, and served virtually for the whole of the War. His memory deserves a better memorial.


Sources:
· "The Eighth Division in War 1914-1918" - J.H. Boraston and Cyril E.O. Bax (ISBN-10: 1897632673)

Link to CWGC Record
William Finney's Grave
poppy
  ... about the history of 8th Division