Sergeant William BROOMHEAD

Gordon Highlanders
8th/10th Battalion
(Formerly: 11th Battalion)
Service Number:
Date of Death:
17 September 1916 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Pier and Face 15 B and 15 C.

Personal History:

William (Billie) was born in Coventry, Warwickshire in November 1892, the son of Joseph (Plumber) and Helen Rachel (née Taylor) Broomhead. Helen was originally from Coventry,  but the family moved to live at Darwin Avenue, Buxton, which was Joseph's home town  (1901 Census RG 13/3269). By 1811 they had moved agin to "Ingleside", 6 Hardwick Square, Buxton, (1911 Census RG 14/21240). Billie had two younger sisters, Mary Letitia and Gladys Amelia.

At the time of his enlistment he was working as a "Plumber". He was 5' 3½" (1.61 m) tall, and weighed 119 lbs. (8 stone 7 lbs). He gave his next of kin as his father, Joseph, 8 Hardwick Square, Buxton.

Military History:
According to the SDGW database William originally enlisted into the 11th (Reserve) Battalion at Buxton on the 12th
January 1915, aged 22 years 2 months, and was immediately posted to Aberdeen, arriving on the 14th. This Battalion
was formed in Aberdeen on the 28th October 1914 as a K4 (Kitchener's Fourth New Army) Service Battalion.  On the
10th April 1915 it became a Reserve Battalion and moved in Dornoch then on to Catterick in October 1915, going on
to Bridge of Allan in June 1916. ('The Buxton Advertiser' published a photo of Billie in his Gordon Highlanders uniform.)

William was appointed Lance Corporal on 6th July 1915, Corporal on 8th August 1915, Lance Sergeant 28th October
1915 and Sergeant on 3rd February 1916. He was also a qualified "PT Instructor". William embarked for France from
Folkestone on 25th August 1916 to join the 8/10th Battalion and on 9th September joined "C" Company of his Battalion.
This Battalion was formed on the 11th May 1916 with the amalgamation of the 8th and 10th Service Battalions. He was
killed in action just 8 days later, during The Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15th - 22nd September 1916) in which The 15th
(Scottish) Division captured Martinpuich, and the British 41st Division, with 15 tanks, captured Fler.

After 6.20 a.m. - zero hour - on Friday, 15th September, the advancing troops were met by heavy artillery fire as the
Germans counter-attacked. Heavy fighting continued throughout that night and on into the next day.

The Battalion History for the time William was killed reads as follows:

"Overnight the 8/10th Gordons had marched to Contalmaison. On September 16th they were detached to the 46th Bde and moved up to Gunpit Road, a sunken road running NW from Martinpuich, and to the village itself. On the following day an artillery officer visiting the front line reported that some trenches which lay outside the objective were neither wired nor occupied. Patrols from the Gordons and the 10/11th HLI of the 46th Bde went forward, but came under heavy fire. Whether wired or not the trenches were occupied. Further loss was caused by a German bombardment in retaliation for the reconnaissance.

The Gordons were angry with the 46th Bde as troops are when things go wrong under a strange command, but it is probable that divisional headquarters was responsible for the order. The Brigadier of the 46th wrote: 'I am under the impression that the artillery officer had not read his map correctly.' That night the Gordons were relieved, but moved in the first instance only to reserve trenches where they had no shelter from shell-fire."

The "Buxton Advertiser" of 7th October 1916, reporting his death, said that it had come as "a great shock, for he was a young man whom to know was to respect." A letter from his C.O. was printed, saying, among other personal sentiments:

"It was during the 16th September that we were subject to a very heavy bombardment by the Germans during which your son was killed. William was a non-commissioned Officer in my platoon, and I greatly regret his death. Although he was only with us for so short a time he created a good impression, for he was a soldier with a good record and influence. I am sure that he will be remembered with respect and affection by his comrades who knew him; along with myself they offer you their kind and heartfelt sympathy in your sad bereavement.

I am able to inform you that William suffered no pain as death was instantaneous. He fell in the forefront of the battle and gave his life in a cause that can only be defended and vindicated by sacrifice."

There is no mention of the cause of death, i.e. sniper or shell fire, although the mention of a 'bombardment' might suggest the latter, nor is there any mention of his burial. William and eight others of his Battalion were killed on the 17th September 1916 and seven more the following day. All but four now have no known grave and are commemorated with him on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 7 October 1916
· I am grateful to Colin Taylor for the extract from the Battalion History
· 'The Gordon Highlanders: A Concise History' by Trevor Royle (ISBN-10: 1845962702)

Commemorated on:
Link to CWGC Record
Sgt. William Broomhead
Sgt Broomhead's name on The Thiepval Memorial
The Thiepval Memorial