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58 Sergeant Robert William Woods B Coy 1-4th BattalionRobert William Woods was born in Kirkham in 1869, his father was James George Woods who was born in Poulton le Fylde and a tailor by trade and his mother was Jane Burton a native of Kirkham. Robert`s parents married in the parish church of St. Michaels in Kirkham in 1864 and they had at least six children including Robert but not all of their children survived infancy.

By 1881 Jane Woods had passed away and widower James had moved to 3 Tomlinson’s Court in Preston with his daughter Nancy Elizabeth (1868) and sons` Robert William (1869)* and George (1872). James was still working as a tailor and Robert was working alongside him as his assistant. Nancy was employed as a weaver in a cotton mill and George was at school.

On the 29th January 1889 Robert joined the Border Regiment, signing on for 12 years (7 years with the Colours and 5 years in the Reserve). His medical inspection record notes that he was five feet five and a half inches tall and weighed 125lbs. He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and sandy hair. Robert was single and living at home with his father James George Woods in Preston. He also named a brother George, sisters Amelia and Nancy Elizabeth and a married sister Mary Ellen Maudsley (Barrow in Furness) as his nearest kin.

He went to the East Indies to serve with the Regiment on the 8th March 1890 returning on the 18th March 1897. Five months after he arrived back in Preston Robert married a widow Isabella Whiteside (nee Turner) in St. Luke`s Church in the town on the 23rd August 1897. Isabella`s first marriage was to John Alfred Whiteside on the 25th January 1890 and they had a son Thomas born in February 1890. John Alfred Whiteside died in the September quarter of 1890 at the age of 21 years.

In 1898 Robert and Isabella had a daughter and they named her Florence and the following year a second daughter Ellen was born. Robert, still a Reservist at the time of the 2nd Boer War was recalled to the colours and went to serve with the Border Regiment in South Africa 31/1/00 – 9/6/02. When Robert was overseas the 1901 Census shows Isabella residing at 1 Sussex Street in Preston with her son Thomas Whiteside and two daughters, Florence and Ellen. Isabella`s sister Alice Turner was also living at the same address.

On the 3rd April 1908 Robert enlisted again, this time he joined the 4th (Territorial) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment as a Private and was allocated the service number 58. Robert continued his service with the Territorials and attended his annual camps and by August 1909 he had advanced to the rank of Sergeant.

In the Census of 1911 Robert, Isabella, Thomas, Florence and Ellen were all living at 16 Goldfinch Street in Preston and Robert was employed as a painter at Dick Kerr`s Works on Strand Road. Thomas (Whiteside) who was now 21 years old was working as a moulder and thirteen year old Florence was a weaver. Isabella`s sister Alice Turner was still living with the family at the time.

Robert was still with the Territorial Force in April 1912 when he re-engaged for a further two years of service and when that came to an end in April 1914 he signed his papers again agreeing to serve for another year. He was 45 years old by now but his papers seem to suggest that each time he re-enlisted his age had been reduced by a year or two.

At Preston on the 7th August 1914 Robert signed his agreement to serve abroad in the event of a national emergency.

Sergeant Robert William Woods sailed to France with the 1/4th Battalion on the 4th May 1915 and was a member of “B” Company. Sadly, just a few weeks later Robert was killed during the Battalion`s famous bayonet charge at Festubert on the evening of the 15th June 1915, he was 46 years old.

Isabella informed the Preston Guardian of the death of her husband and they printed the following information later.

“Official intimation has been received by Mrs. Woods, 16 Goldfinch Street, Deepdale, Preston, of the death in action of her husband Sergeant R.W. Woods, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Deceased was well known in Preston. Prior to the war he was band sergeant in the local Territorials. He served throughout the South African War. Sergeant Woods was formerly employed at Messrs. Dick Kerr & Co`s works.”

Isabella was awarded a pension of 21/- per week for herself and one child with effect from 31st January 1916. Sadly, Isabella passed away at her home in Preston in 1916 and was buried in Preston Cemetery on the 11th September 1916.

The body of Sergeant Robert William Woods was never recovered from the battlefield where he fell and so his name was later inscribed on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing. His name is also remembered on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in Preston.

After the war Robert’s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals were signed for by his daughter Ellen.

Rank: Serjeant
Service No: 58
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Age: 46
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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