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William Durham was born in June 1870.  His father was Solomon Durham (b. 1845 in Preston), a master mariner working on merchant vessels in the Irish Sea who died in Waterford, Ireland in 1885.  His mother was Ellen Norris (b. 1847 in Leyland).  The family lived in Preston and there were 6 children in all:  William was the oldest, he had one brother Robert b. 1877 who seems to have died in the 1890s; and four sisters: Johanna b. 1872, Sarah b. 1880, Ellen b. 1882, and Agnes May b. 1886.

A report in the Preston Guardian from January 1915 tells part of his story:

PRESTON BOMB VICTIM

An official intimation has been received by his mother who resides at 7 Clarence Street, Preston, that Private W. Durham 3rd Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was killed by a bomb on the 6th (December) whilst serving with the Expeditionary Force.

Deceased had served 22 years with the Loyal North Lancashires, and during the South African Campaign became attached to the mounted infantry, in which he attained the rank of sergeant.

At the time of the outbreak of the present war, he was employed at the Electric Car Works in Strand Road. He was called up in September, and offered the post of drill instructor, but preferred to join the ranks as a private. Deceased, who was 44 years of age, was unmarried, but leaves a dependant in his widowed mother, with whom he lived.

His military record has survived from which we learn that at Attestation on 28 September 1914 he was 44 years 6 months old, he was 5’ 3¾” tall, weighed 134lbs and had a 36½” chest, and had ‘good’ physical development. Although he signed up to 3Bn, for service abroad he transferred on 29 November 1914 to 1Bn, which is when he joined the Battalion in France. The Battalion had been involved in very heavy fighting near Gheluvelt in the first half of November, but William joined them after they had been withdrawn to billets at Hazebrouk.

The War Diary explains the incident in which William was killed (just a week after he arrived and having seen no front-line service):

War Diary. 6th December 1914; Hazebrouck

At about 09:00AM three bombs were dropped from a German aeroplane, hitting a house within C Company’s billets and wounded 9 men and killed 9 men. Pte Devine died of wounds in hospital later – making total casualties 8 men wounded 10 killed. Several civilians were also wounded and eight killed including two children. The Prince of Wales who was visiting the battalion billets that day expressed his sympathy with the Regiment.

A local newspaper reported his death;

4404 PTE WILLIAM DURHAM 1ST BN

He left effects to the total value of £1 1s 7d, to be divided among this mother and four sisters – just 4s 4d each – and his mother received the War Gratuity of £3.

Rank: Private
Service No: 4404
Date of Death: 06/12/1914
Regiment: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.
Grave Reference: II. G. 34.
Cemetery: HAZEBROUCK COMMUNAL CEMETERY

The other men from C Company that died on this day were

8600 Private GEORGE DEVINE
4404 Private WILLIAM DURHAM
10932 Private JOHN FOY
4601 Private THOMAS HACKING
10917 Private THOMAS KELLEHER
1730 Private THOMAS McCANN
1373 Private JAMES PARKINSON
4379 Private MATTHEW PARTINGTON
4599 Private HENRY PEMBERTON
3462 Private WILLIAM ROTHWELL

Bill Brierley

Before taking early retirement in 2007 and returning to his native Lancashire in 2009, Bill Brierley was head of the School of Languages and Area Studies at the University of Portsmouth.Bill has researched his own family history and has developed a further interest in World War 1 especially as it impacted on the villages of Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge, where his family originates from.Bill has also displayed his work at Lostock Hall library and contributed to other displays at Leyland Library and South Ribble Museum.
Bill Brierley

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2 Responses to 4404 PTE. W. DURHAM. L.N.LAN.R

  1. Alison says:

    Great report, thank you. It is my great uncle William. Alison

  2. Alison says:

    Hi, his brother Robert actually died just before ww1 when he was stationed at the Clyde defences in Scotland. He had been stationed there for 2 years. We have a photo of him and his wife taken in Malta, so assume he was stationed out there for some time. His wife may have been Maltese as I can find no record of uk marriage for them.

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