Lance Corporal William LUFF

Norfolk Regiment
12th (Norfolk Yeomanry) Battalion
Service Number:
Date of Death:
8 December 1917 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
Y. 30

Personal History:
William (known as 'Willie') was born in the September quarter 1895, the son of William Henry (Coal carter) and Annie Martha (née Prime) Luff of 27 Byron Street, Buxton. He had an older brother, Arthur, and older sister, Victoria May, a younger brother, Charles Horace, and a younger sister, Emily Freda. (1901 Census RG 13/3269).

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21242) the family had moved to 12 Heath Grove, Buxton, and William had three more younger siblings, Annie, Doris and John. However, William was not living at home at that time, but was living with his uncle and aunt, Ralph (Grocer - 4 shops) and Emily Robinson, and their three children, at 165 Barton Road, Stretford, Manchester, employed, not surprisingly, as a "Grocers Assistant". (Census RG 14/23632).

Military History:

William enlisted at Buxton on the 28th October 1915, although his Service Records do not appear to have survived. However, it is known that he had a problem with the sight in his right eye so was not eligible for service with an infantry Battalion. Undaunted, he joined the Army Ordnance Corps and saw service in France for some months.
He persevered in his quest to see action, and taught himself to use a rifle firing from the left shoulder, and was eventually successful in volunteering for the 12th (Norfolk Yeomanry) Battalion, which had been formed in Egypt on 11th February 1917 from the dismounted 1/1st Norfolk Yeomanry and attached to 230th Brigade, 74th Division.

The 74th (Yeomanry) Division was formed under the orders of General Allenby on 14th January 1917. Following its formation the Division was engaged in The Second Battle of Gaza (17th - 19th April 1917); The Third Battle of Gaza (27th October - 7th November 1917), including the Capture of Beersheba on 31st October, and the capture of the Sheria Position on 6 November) and the capture of Jerusalem (8th - 9th December 1917).

By the 21st November 1917 the Egyptian Expeditionary Force has reached a line 5 kms. West of Jerusalem, but did not attack the City by bombardment, probably to spare it from destruction. William's last letter home, dated the 30th November, said that he was 14 miles [22.5 kms.] north of Jerusalem. Severe fighting followed, lasting until the evening of the 8th December, by which time the 53rd (Welsh) Division and the 60th (London) Division had captured all the Turkish defensive lines. The following morning (9th) the Turkish Governor of the City surrended, after the Turkish troops had left overnight.

However, during the fighting William lost his life. The Regimental History, p. 316, gives the following account of the Battalion action on the 8th December 1917:

"On the evening of November 30th the Battalion was up in second line about eight or nine miles west of Jerusalem facing north-east. Here it remained road-making till December 6th.

The attack which was to end in the capture of Jerusalem was fixed for December 8th. The 74th division was to advance eastwards towards the Jerusalem-Nablus road. In the front line of the 230th brigade the 12th Norfolk Battalion was to lead on the left, with the 10th Buffs on the right, and the 15th Suffolk in reserve.

The advance began up a stony slope, on which little opposition was encountered, the Turks retreating from the first objective, a line of trenches which was occupied by 5 a.m. Just over the crest of the hill the enemy were found lined up behind rocks and walls on the reverse slope. The whole country was very rough and rocky, and it took the Battalion 1¼ miles of fighting inch by inch to reach the gardens and village of Beit Iksa, from which it was intended to assault the second objective, Khirbet El Burj. The whole advance had been under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire in front, supported by enfilade fire from Nebi Samwil on the left, which was supposed to be in British hands. This, and the fact that the 60th division was held up on the right,, caused considerable delay, so that it was afternoon when Beit Iksa was reached.

There the machine-gun and artillery fire was still severe, and there was enfilade fire from both flanks. Moreover, it was found that there was still another deep gully to be passed between Beit Iksa and Ei Burj. Under the circumstances it was decided to hold on to the gains so far made for the night, and to attack El Burj next morning."

The History goes on to say that ".. the night passed quietly and in the morning the Turks had
evacuated El Burj".  It was during this action that William was killed in action and is buried in the
Jerusalem War Cemetery. He is also commemorated on his parents' grave in Buxton Cemetery.

Eleven other men of his Battalion were killed in action on the 8th and 9th December 1917.
Those who died with William on the 8th lie together in Graves 24 - 30, Row Y, of the Cemetery.

· I am grateful to The War Graves Photographic Project for the photo of William's Grave
· I am grateful to Martin McNeela for the extract from "History of the Norfolk Regiment" - 
  F. Loraine Petre (ISBN: 9781843426011)
· "Buxton, Burbage, Chelmorton, Harpur Hill, Peak Dale, King Sterndale and Wormhill
  REMEMBERED" - Keith Taylor [ISBN 978-1-906789-99-2] p. 234-5

Link to CWGC Record
L/Cpl Sydney Keeling's Grave
William Luff's Grave
Willie's commemoration on his father's grave
Willie is commemorated on his father's grave in Buxton Cemetery
L/Cpl William Luff