William John Withers

Memorial: Olveston

Regiment: Lancashire Fusiliers

Medals: British War Medal, Next of Kin Memorial Plaque 1914 - 1921, Victory Medal

Rank and number: Private 49185

Date of birth: 1894

Date of death: 09/09/1918

Buried/Commemorated at: Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery, Cambrai, France

Age: 24

Further information:

Although christened William John, this member of the Withers family was generally known and sometimes recorded as John Withers. At least this had the merit of avoiding daily confusion with another and slightly younger William Withers who lived at the same time in Olveston parish and who returned from the Great War

It would appear that the prospect of labouring did not appeal to this youngest member of the family and in 1913, at the age of nineteen, William John joined the Northamptonshire Regiment. It is known that he was admitted to hospital in 1915 and after many months of treatment and convalescence was sent to a retraining unit at Barry Docks in South Wales

On completion of this he was transferred to the 4th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers and by 1916 was in the 10th Battalion. At this time the Regiment was receiving, as all units were, reinforcements to replace losses, in the case of the Lancashire Fusiliers, incurred during the Battles of Ypres and the early months of fighting on the Somme. The 10th Battalion was constantly on the move and by the latter part of 1916 was still in action in the Somme and there they stayed until being moved up to the fighting near Arras in the Spring of 1917. Later that year they moved south towards Bapaume and were involved in the major fighting withdrawal of allied forces in March 1918, when the German army made territorial gains towards Albert. In August 1918, William John Withers was involved in the action when the 10th Battalion captured Martinpuich and the ensuing German counter-attack was held up during which Sergeant H. J. Colley M.M. of the Battalion won his V.C.

By September, the Battalion alternated between being held in reserve at Morval, Rocquigny and Le Transloy and being in the front line. On the 9th of September, having cleared Dessert Wood, they were in the early morning attack on Gouzeaucourt, part of the formidable Hindenburg Line and were tasked with the successful capture of Heather Trench. The Germans counter-attacked with high explosive, machine gun and gas shells, and it was on this day that Private Withers was Killed in Action, as were eleven others with fourteen missing and sixty-two wounded. He lies buried at Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery ten miles south-west of Cambrai in France

By kind permission, this information is based on the following source(s):

Forces War Records