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kellet1William Kellett was born in Farington near Lostock Hall on the 9th June, 1895 and was the youngest of five children born to Thomas and Martha Elizabeth Kellett (nee Stirzaker).

Thomas and Martha were married in St. Paul`s Church, Farington on Valentine`s Day in 1888. They had three daughters Mary (1888), Alice (1890), Maud (1891) and another son Henry (1893).

In 1901 the family were living at Charnock Moss off School Lane in Farington. William`s father was employed on the local railway as a platelayer and his eldest sister Mary was working `half time` as a cotton weaver.

By the time of the 1911 Census William and his family had moved to 64 Ward Street in Lostock Hall. Thomas Kellett was now working as a labourer and Alice, Maud, Henry and William were all employed in a cotton mill as weavers. Also living with the family at the time was five year old `adopted` son Arthur Rawcliffe from Walton le Dale.

On the 14 December 1914 aged 19 years and 6 months William went to Preston to enlist. He had his medical examination and was described as being five feet eight and half inches tall with good physical development. William confirmed that he had been working as a weaver prior to his enlistment and had no previous military experience.

He was allocated the number 3438 and initially posted to “D” Coy of the 2/4th Battalion. On the 26 March 1915 William was transferred over to the 1/4th Battalion.

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On the 2nd May 1915 an advance party consisting of 3 Officers and 104 other ranks of the 1/4th Battalion left Bedford by train for Southampton. It was here they boarded the SS Rossetti with the whole of the Battalion transport and sailed for Le Havre.

The following evening William left Bedford by train with the remainder of his Battalion bound for Folkestone. They boarded the SS Onward and sailed for Boulogne very early on the morning of the 4th May.

The total strength of the Battalion at this time was 31 Officers and 1003 non-commissioned Officers and men. A week after landing in France the formation became the 154th Brigade in the 51st (Highland Division).

The 1/4th was soon to see their first major action of the war just about a month after they landed in France. On the evening of 15 June, 1915 at 6pm they were to take part in what became known back home as “The Historic Charge of the 4th LNL” or “The great bayonet charge at Festubert”. The events of that night were reported extensively in local newspapers and very often contained detailed first-hand accounts from some of the men who survived. A typical headline is shown below;

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Extract from the Regimental History

“At 6pm on the 15th June the attack was launched by the 4th Loyal North Lancashire and the 6th Scottish Rifles. The attack was at first successful; the west end of the German salient was carried, and the attack pushed on to the main German line near the Rue d`Overt, and for a time the third German trench was occupied and held. Unfortunately the attack by the Division on the right of the 51st made little or no progress, and when night fell the 154th Brigade had penetrated the German line on a narrow front, but had both its flanks in the air. The attack consequently failed, but as stated in the Divisional History “great praise is due to the 154th Infantry Brigade for their advance in the face of heavy artillery and close range rifle and machine gun fire. There is little or no doubt that had the operations on the flanks been successful, they would have had every prospect of holding their gains”

The casualties from the action totalled 431 men either killed, wounded or missing. William Kellett was one of the men wounded after sustaining gunshot wounds to his knee and shoulder probably as a result of machine gun fire.

William was not admitted to a Field Ambulance until the following day (16th) so like many of the wounded men he may have been laying out in the open all night waiting for the stretcher bearers to find him.

Sadly, William did not survive and he died from his wounds on 23 June, 1915.

The only personal possession that seems to have been returned to William`s family was a purse.  William`s parents later received his 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service and sacrifice for his country.

William was buried in Etretat Churchyard Cemetery which was close to the No.1 General Hospital where he died.

He is also remembered on the Lostock Hall War Memorial (below) and the Memorial in St. James` Church, Lostock Hall.

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Rank: Private
Service No: 3438
Date of Death: 23/06/1915
Age: 20
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Cemetery: ETRETAT CHURCHYARD

Author`s note: The two photographs of William were originally sent to Heather Crook by William`s Great Niece K. Hayes for inclusion in the booklet “The History of the Lostock Hall War Memorial”. Many thanks to Heather for allowing us to use the photographs of William in this article.

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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