Private William POWELL

Royal Fusiliers
(City of London Regiment)
21st (Service) Battalion
(4th Public Schools)
Service Number:
Date of Death:
26 February 1916 -
"Died of wounds" (MIC)
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
V. A. 34.

Personal History:

William was born in the March quarter 1895 in Wilmslow, Cheshire, the son of Thomas (Dry Goods Merchant) and Maria Powell. He had nine older brothers and sisters, Benjamin, Oswald, Stanley, Thomas, Sefton, Mabel (died as a child), Rufus (also died young) and Arnold, a younger sister, Mildred, and a younger brother, Randall.
By 1901 (Census RG 13/5290) the parents and younger children were recorded as living at "Nessaby", West Parade, Llandudno, Caernarvonshire, Wales. They may have been on holiday in 1901 as by 1911 (Census RG 14/) many of the family were back living at "Netherfield", Wilmslow, Cheshire. William was employed as an "Assistant Salesman", no doubt in the family business. At some stage before he enlisted James and his parents came to live at "Kilmorie," Marlborough Road, Buxton.

Military History:
William enlisted in the 21st Battalion the Royal Fusiliers at Buxton and although his Service Records do not appear to have survived, his Service Number suggests he joined up in the latter part of 1914. William's Medal Index Card gives his date for entry with the British Expeditionary Force, into France, as the 14th November 1915.

The 21st (Service) Battalion was formed at Epsom on the 11th September 1914 by the Public Schools and University Men's Force. On the 26th June 1915 it came under the command of the 98th Brigade, 33rd Division. The Division concentrated at Clipstone Camp near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in July 1915. In August they moved to Salisbury Plain for final training and firing practice and landed in France in November 1915. So it would appear that William was with his Battalion's initial contingent when they entered France.

By the 21st November the 33rd Division had concentrated near Morbecque, being strengthened by the exchange of 98th Brigade for the experienced 19th Brigade from 2nd Division. Oddly, perhaps, the day after William died, the 27th February 1916, the Battalion was transferred to GHQ, before being disbanded on the 24th April 1916 with many of the men being commissioned as Officers.

The War Diary recorded this event as follows:
"As the Battalion leaves the Brigade and moves out of the fighting line tomorrow, in order to supply some 400 men required for promotion to commissioned rank .. "

"The History" [see Sources below] said of this period: "They went out to France in November, 1915, and after a short acquaintance with trench warfare, the demand for officers still continuing, the 18th, 19th and 21st Battalions were disbanded in April, 1916, the bulk of the men going to various cadet forces."

William died of wounds on the 26th February 1916 and is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery. For much of the First World War, Bethune was comparatively free from bombardment and remained an important railway and hospital centre, as well as a corps and divisional headquarters. The 33rd Casualty Clearing Station was in the town until December 1917 and this is likely to be where William died of his wounds.

The Battalion War Diary for this time reads:

"Feb. 22nd 1916 - Annequin South:
The Battalion moved from Bethune to Annequin South, relieving the 1st Battn. Middlesex Regt. At 5.00 p.m.
Nothing unusual to record.
Feb. 23rd 1916 - Ditto and Z2 Subsectn Trenches:
The Bn. Relieved the 2nd A. & S. [Argyll and Sutherland] Highlanders in Z2 Subsection Trenches this evening. Relief carried out without casualty.
Feb. 24th 1916 - Z2 Subsection Trenches:
Nothing of moment to record.
One man of No. 2 Company killed.
Feb. 25th 1916 - Ditto:
One man of No. 2 Company wounded.
Nothing to record.
Weather intensely cold - with snow and hard frost.
Feb. 26th 1916 - Ditto:
One man killed and two wounded all of No. 3 Company."

In the first two months of 1916 William's 21st Battalion lost just 11 men, killed in action or died of wounds, almost entirely in single events, sniping and shell fire are, therefore, the most likely cause of William's wounds. It is not possible to be specifict where he was when he received his fatal injuries, although the casualty recorded on the 25th seems most likely.

Eight of the 11 are buried in one of the two Cemeteries at Cambrin, which was only about 800 metres from the front line trenches, including Pt. 8349 Cyril THOMASON, killed in action on the 24th - recorded in the Diary above. The man killed on the 26th was Pt. 6872 S. PIERCE, also buried in Cambrin Churchyard.

· "The History of the Royal Fusiliers (University and Public Schools) Brigade," published by The Times.
·  I am grateful to 'The War Graves Photographic Project' for the photo of William's grave
·  I am also grateful to Colin Taylor for the War Diary extract

Commemorated on:
Link to CWGC Record
William Powell's grave