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William Travis was the youngest of the two sons born to painter John Travis and Ann Jane Bentham in Preston. John and Ann Jane were married in Preston on the 18th June 1881 at All Saints Church. William`s brother Peter was born in 1883 and William was born five years later in the March quarter of 1888. Sadly, aged just 33 years old William`s father passed away in the same year that he was born.

In 1891 widow Ann Jane Travis and sons Peter and William were living at 15 Salter Street in Preston where Ann Jane was providing for herself and the boys by working in a mill as a throstle spinner. Alice Bickerstaffe, an unmarried lady of a similar age to Ann Jane was lodging with the family at the time and was also employed in mill work.

Ann Jane, Peter and William lived in Salter Street for a number of years and they were still there in 1911 but by now William`s mother had stopped working and both William and his brother were working in an iron foundry as moulders. A four year old girl named Rose Cadwallader, described as a niece was also living with the family at the time. On the 12th August 1911 William married spinster Mary Elizabeth Higginson in St. Thomas`s Church in Preston and at the time of their marriage Mary already had two children, a son William Edward (1906) and a daughter Doris (1910).

William enlisted on the 1st September 1914 at Preston and was given the service number 3556 and was originally posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion LNL but by the following day he had joined the 7th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. His medical inspection record states that William was five feet eight and a quarter inches tall and he weighed 126lbs, he had grey eyes and brown hair.

While he was with the 7th Battalion in training he absented himself for four days 26/10/14 – 30/10/14 and for this he received 168 hours field imprisonment and was made to forfeit 7 day`s pay.

In the early morning of the 16th July 1915 three Officers and 110 non-commissioned Officers and men left for Southampton with the transport, embarking at that port for Le Havre. William and the remainder of the Battalion did not leave Tidworth until the afternoon of the 17th, when it proceeded in two trains to Folkestone and from there crossed to Boulogne. The total strength of the 7th Battalion was 30 Officers and 900 other ranks coming under the Command of the 56th Brigade in the 19th (Western) Division. According to his service papers William was appointed Lance Corporal (paid) on the 10th February 1916.

Four months later on the 18th of June 1916 William`s papers also reveal that he was tried by Field General Court Martial for “drunkenness – when on active service”. Unusually the Battalion war diary also mentions that William was tried although the date recorded was the 20th June.

Extract from Battalion War Diary – 20th June 1916 at Rainneville

“A FGCM assembled at Rainneville at 10am for trial of 3556 Private (Acting Corporal) Travis W. President Major R M Phillips 7/ R Lancs Rgt, Members; Captain Hamill 7/ S Lancs Regt., Captain House 7/E Lancs Regt.”

William`s punishment was severe; he was sentenced to 56 days Field Punishment No.1, however, this was later remitted to 26 days by Major-General Bridges of the 19th Division.

The 7th Battalion played their part in the Battle of the Somme and on the 20th July 1916 they marched from Henencourt Wood to Bazentin-le-Petit. It was here that they held an extended line of over 1000 yards in length. At 19:00 hrs that night they managed to shoot down a German aeroplane with a Lewis gun, the plane bursting into flames just in front of their line.

On the morning of the 23rd July 1916 the Battalion was ordered to attack the switch line with the intention of taking High Wood (there had been several attempts to take High Wood in the past week by other Divisions). Now it was the turn of the 19th Division (including the 7th Bn LNL) and the 1st Division. It was during this day`s action that sadly William Travis was posted as missing.

William`s family provided the following information and photograph for publication in the local paper asking for any information as to his whereabouts.3556 Lance Corporal William Travis 7th Battalion

As with many other men who perished on the Somme William`s body was never recovered for burial and so his name was recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

There is no information in William`s papers to say whether his widow Mary Elizabeth ever received any of her late husband`s personal effects.

It wasn`t until the 4th April 1917 that William was for official purposes confirmed to have died on the 23rd July 1916. Mary Elizabeth was eventually awarded a pension for herself and her two children of 18s/6d per week. However, this was only awarded after she had made a declaration to a local Justice of the Peace in Preston confirming that William was the father of William Edward and Doris.3556 Lance Corporal William Travis 7th Battalion 1

After the war William was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service and sacrifice for his country.

Rank: Private
Service No: 3556
Date of Death: 23/07/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 7th Bn.

Janet Davis
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