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L/Cpl William Paul Meadows was one of the soldiers of the L.N.L. who were brought back to the British lines after he was killed in action in the trench raid on 10th January 1917 at Wieltje north east of Ypres. He now lies buried in the Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery grave marker V.D.11.

William Paul Meadows was born in the Southport area of Lancashire, and in the census records of 1901 his family are living at 110 Lawn Street Bolton a mid-terraced red brick house with a brick walled back yard.

Authors Note: The view from the back yard gate was a view most common to later Lancashire folk in that this view was used for some time in the opening sequences of the TV soap ‘Coronation Street’ looking down the backstreet towards the dome and clock tower of Bolton Town Hall.

His father was a plumber named Thomas then aged 30 with his wife Isabella also 30, the mother in law Margaret Rimmer a laundress aged 67 also lived at the home with the young Paul as he is shown, aged just 3 years old.

Ten years on to the next census return and the family have moved just across the road to 105 Lawn Street this was an end terraced house so typical of the houses of industrial Lancashire at that time, and both houses are still inhabited today.

There is a change in the offspring order of children at this time with the inclusion of an older brother not recorded on the previous census return for their address: James 14 a grocer’s errand boy, William Paul now a 13yr old iron founder, Mary 9, Wilfred 6, Harold 5, and Norman 2. Only James and William Paul were born in Southport by the time of birth of Mary the family had moved to Bolton. William had changed occupations and prior to the war worked just around the corner from his home at the Mortfield Bleachworks.

The parents are shown to have been married for the past 14 years and having a total of seven children only six of whom survived. The next documentary evidence of William Paul Meadows are his Military Service Papers, these show that he enlisted as Pte 3522 into the 5th bn L.N.L. Regt on 29th December 1914 stating he was 19 years and 2 months of age.

The enlistment document does not contain a birthdate however his birth is recorded in the December quarter of 1897 in Ormskirk, making him exactly 17 years old on enlistment. He is shown as 5’7” tall and his next of kin is his mother Isabella Meadows of 105 Lawn Street, Bolton.

From enlistment date until 17th June 1915 he is on home service with the 5th battalion and with the 42nd Provisional batt (18 June 15 – 4 Oct 15) prior to moving into the 3/5th L.N.L. on 5th October 1915.

He embarked for France from Southampton on 9th March 1916 and two days later is sent forward to Rouen, on the 26th March was sent to the front joining ‘C’ company on the 31st March. On the 14th May 1916 he was at the Field Ambulance and on the 19th was admitted for appendicitis. He re-joined his battalion on 16th June and twelve days later found himself at the 55th Division H/Q joining the 55th Div Co.

After a fortnight he then joined the 1/5 LNL on 2nd July 1916 for duty.

The battalion was in the action at Guillemont 8th – 9th August 1916 when they suffered 131 killed wounded and missing they had also taken numerous casualties from enemy fire throughout September whilst being used for salvage work and burial parties on the edges of Delville Wood after the major battle at that place.
With the change to the new army numbering system in 1917 his army number became 246452.

This soldier was one of those 140 men who on the 9th January 1917 marched to spare land near to Ypres prison and in front of the Divisional Commander practiced their actions that would be put into effect the day later, he afterwards expressed his approval of their display, the area today is close by the site of the CWGC Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

On the 10th January 1917 the men divided into two groups, left and right parties both had Bangalore torpedoes to cut any obstructing enemy wire. The left party under the command of Lt Robert Keith Makant MC would assemble at 15.00hrs at Lone Farm and the right party under 2nd Lt John Cecil Frankland at Prowse Farm. They moved onto to their jump off point a ditch running S.E from Argyle Farm and at 17.15hrs they left their trenches and approached the enemy defences. The right party was immediately met by a heavy machine gun fire and artillery, a single shell accounted for both Bangalore parties of this group as they moved together and all became casualties.

2nd Lt Frankland had been killed and the reserve officer 2nd Lt Charles Warburton Whitaker who had also been wounded gave the order to retire as the wire they encountered had not been cut and they no longer had the means to destroy it. The left party gained their objective and was successful in their attempts in the enemy trenches though the raid had been costly.

Of the officers 1 had been killed and 2 wounded and of the other ranks 7 had been killed and 49 wounded with 4 missing presumed dead, of the wounded some would later die of their wounds.

His effects consisting of his ID disc, bible, wallet, photographs and his wrist watch were returned to his family and his mother acknowledged receipt on 6th June 1917.

He is buried alongside two of his comrades also killed in the raid, his details on the C.W.G.C. site confirm his age at death as just 19yrs, his headstone includes the epitaph ‘worthy of everlasting love’ which was requested by his mother for inclusion.

For his wartime service he gained the British War and Victory Medals which were received by his mother on 10th December 1921. The medals stayed within the family for many years until October 2018 when they appeared for sale on an internet auction site.

For the Weiltje Trench Raid main index please CLICK HERE.

Garry Farmer
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