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imageWilliam Bamber was born in 1894 in the little village of Elswick near Preston to Jane Bamber a single lady from St. Michael`s on Wyre. By the time William was born his mother had already given birth to another child, a daughter Margaret Alice was born in 1886.

Prior to William`s birth Jane Bamber had been living with her parents and daughter Margaret in Great Eccleston. The Census taken in 1901 shows seven year old William with his mother who was a servant and they were living in Elswick in the home of Ann Whitehead a widow.

In 1907 William`s sister Margaret married John Preston and the couple went to live in Little Eccleston with Larbreck. By 1911 William had left home and was working as a cowman on William and Ann Swarbrick`s farm in Great Eccleston. His mother Jane had moved nearer to her daughter Margaret in Little Eccleston and was living alone in a two roomed property working as a charwoman.

Prior to his enlistment William had been working on Mr. Salthouse’s farm in Thistleton as a labourer. He appears to have joined the Army in late 1916 and would have sailed to France with a batch of reinforcements. According to the Medal Rolls he was originally with the 1st Battalion but at some point he was transferred to the 1/5th Battalion.

The information in the newspaper cutting below mentions that in August 1917 he received a slight head wound which was caused by a piece of shrapnel.

In the part of the Cambrai battle fought on the 20th November 1917, only one brigade, the 164th, was engaged, but in the fighting on the 30th November, the remaining units, and especially the 1/5th Battalion took their fair share.

Cambrai, 30th November 1917 – 8:30hrs
That morning a heavy fog hung in the air over the 55th Divisional front line, a line that had been heavily bombarded for the past 90 minutes.

The enemy penetrated the 1/5th sector at Holts Bank, having advanced at a staggering rate, with overwhelming numbers into Pigeon Quarry, they had succeeded in seriously outflanking our men.

Massively outnumbered, and with the help of the Liverpool Scottish, the Loyals gallantly stood firm and inflicted serious damage on the German soldiers, succeeding in holding Adelphi and Gloucester Roads until such time as they became so few in number they were forced to withdraw.

Prior to the withdrawal, an element of Loyal North Lancs had already been cut off from the rest of the Battalion and were completely surrounded at Limerick Post. Somehow they succeeded in defending their encircled position, managing to reach their own line by 5:00hrs the next morning.
In this action the Battalion paid a heavy price, 2 men had been killed, 3 Officers and 27 other ranks wounded, 2 Officers were wounded and missing, while 16 Officers and 384 non-commissioned Officers and men were missing.

Unfortunately Private William Bamber was one of those posted as missing.
William`s mother passed away in 1917 and after her death his married sister Margaret Alice Preston became his official next of kin. A number of weeks passed before Margaret eventually received word from William to say that he had been taken prisoner and was being held at Munster in the Westphalia area of Germany. Margaret posted the following information in the Preston Guardian.image

After spending some time in a prisoner of war camp in Munster William was moved to another camp at Altdamm in February 1918. Three months later in May of 1918 he was moved again, this time to Schneidemuhl POW Camp.

This camp was in Germany at the time but after the war ended the area was returned to Poland and is now known as Pila.

Sadly, on the 31st July 1918 William died as a prisoner of war in hospital of phthisis (tuberculosis). William`s final resting place is in Berlin South-Western Cemetery.

Information courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission states that in 1922-23 the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died all over Germany would be brought together into four permanent cemeteries. Berlin South Western was one of those chosen and in 1924-25, graves were brought into the cemetery from 146 burial grounds in eastern Germany, one of which was Schneidemuhl Prisoner of War Cemetery.

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

His sister Margaret Alice Preston had the following words inscribed on his headstone;

“Too far away thy grave to see but not too far to think of thee”

Janet Davis
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