Gunner William VOLANS


Regiment/Service:
Royal Garrison Artillery
Unit:
115th Siege Battery
Service Number:
66950
Date of Death:
7 November 1916 - Killed in Action
Age:
24
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
I. E. 19.


Personal History:

William was born on the 23rd March 1892, the son of Samuel (Railway Good Guard) and Annie (née Johnson) Volans of 'Ivydene', Hogshaw, and later 13 Queen's Road, Fairfield, Buxton. (1901 Census RG 13/3270). William had an older sister, Margaret, and three young siblings, Samuel Noel [See Footnote below], Gertrude and Alice.
William's father, Samuel, died in the September quarter 1902 and in 1911 (Census RG 14/21233) the family had moved to 18 Windsor Park, Fairfield. The 1911 Census (RG 14/22774) also shows that William was lodging with the Jones family at 69 Hardshaw Street, St Helens, Lancashire, employed as a "Shop Assistant". Reporting his death, "The Buxton Advertiser" stated that he had been in the Manchester City Police for 4½ years. It also stated that he ".. always wrote home the most cheerful letters .. " and that ".. he went to the front in a brave heart in the best of spirits".

The full text reads:
"Sergt. N. Volans, & Pte. W. Volans two of the son’s of Mrs Volans of Queens Road, Fairfield, and well known in Buxton. Noel the Sergeant, is the younger one and was prior to the war, employed at Messers. Hulley’s and Wright’s. In August 1914, he went with the Ambulance Brigade, and was attached to the R.A.M.C. at Aldershot; he was one of the few who stuck to soldiering when he started and is now Sergeant Instructor and stationed at —–. William Volans joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in November last. He was in the Manchester City Police force for 4 ½ years. During that time he was missed by a good many friends in Buxton. He has been stationed at ——, and is now training with the 115th Siege battery at —–. These two brothers are a fine example to shirkers and “Conscientious” objectors, and we wish them both the best of luck and a safe return to Buxton when duty is done."

Military History:
When reporting his death, "The Buxton Advertiser" stated that William ".. was buried exactly a year to the day of his enlistment", suggesting that he had joined the Royal Garrison Artillery on 7th/8th November 1915. This would tie in with his Service Number, which suggests he arrived at Fort Burgoyne, Dover, No. 1 Depot, about that date. His Medal Index Card gives no date for when he was posted to France, which would have been, therefore, after 1915, but records suggest that his 115th Siege Battery arrived in France on the 27th June 1916.

The same source, "The Buxton Advertiser", provided information of his death, in that: "He was asleep in his dugout when a shell pierced it and he was killed instantly."  Without William's Service papers it is impossible to tell where he was killed, although, bearing in mind the date and where he is buried it is possible it was during the Battle of the Ancre Heights, (1st October - 11th November, 1916), one of the phases in The Battle of The Somme.

Major Robertson wrote to William's mother confirming that he had been buried in a nearby cemetery, as did Major A.L. Burch, Canadian Chaplain. His letter, printed in the "Advertiser", said, in part:

"It is little comfort one can offer to a mother at a time like this. Death is expected and in ever increasing proportions, and yet when it strikes an individual its reality is as deep as human emotions. (sic) .... My purpose of writing is to apprise you of the fact that your son was buried in one of the regularly appointed military cemeteries in this area, and that I, a clergyman, committed his body to the resting place of a real soldier. Unfortunately, I am not permitted at present to name the cemetery, but you can obtain the information from the 'Director of Graves Registration Commission, War Office, St James' Square, London'. A cross erected by your son's companions will mark the grave."

2/Lieutenant Baynes also wrote to Mrs Volans to confirm that William was killed by a shell, in his dugout, at night, whilst sleeping. He added: "He was in my section and layer of my gun, a responsible post which he always carried out as well as could be desired. He was very popular in the battery and made many friends. We will miss him very much. …..I know that the whole Battery will wish me to send you on their behalf a message of sincere sympathy in your loss"

Footnote:
· William's younger brother served as Sgt. 9559 Samuel Noel VOLANS, Royal Army Medical Corps. (pictured right)
   In the March quarter 1914 he married Elizabeth A. Collier in Macclesfield, Cheshire, and they had one daughter, Lily.
   Samuel died in Buxton in 1967.

Sources:
· I am grateful to John McCann for the photo of William's grave
· I am also grateful to "The Fallen of Fairfield" for the photos of the Volans brothers
· "The Buxton Advertiser" - 18 November 1916

Link to CWGC Record
William Volan's Grave
poppy
Sgt. Samuel Noel Volans
Gnr. William Volans