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William Henry Wrigley was born in Habergham Eaves near Burnley on the 11th December 1878 to James and Jane Wrigley (nee Walker). The details of James and Jane`s marriage are unknown. William had just two siblings, a brother Abraham was born in 1881 and a sister Hannah born in 1886, sadly both Hannah and her mother Jane died within months of each other in 1887. In 1891 William Henry and his brother Abraham were both living at 34 Cog Lane in Burnley with their father who was a labourer in an iron foundry. Also in the household was a domestic servant Ann Walker and her three children, Isabella 10, William 6, and Sarah aged 11.

William enlisted into the Militia at Burnley on the 20th February 1898 joining the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment. On the 24th January 1900 he was called up for full time service (embodied) and went to join the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment in South Africa. On the 12th October 1900 he left full time service (disembodied) and was later awarded the Queen`s South Africa Medal for his service in the war.

On the 26th January 1901 William Henry Wrigley married Virginia Smith in St. Margaret`s Church in Burnley. Virginia already had a one year old son named Joseph when she married William and after their marriage William, Virginia and Joseph moved into number 57 Hebrew Street in Burnley. At the time William was labouring in a local foundry and he was also continuing to attend his annual camps with the East Lancashire Regiment.

In the December quarter of 1901 William and Virginia had a son and they named him James Edmund.

In June 1902 an article about William appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post;

11th June 1902 – Lancashire Evening Post


“This morning, at Burnley, William Henry Wrigley, Greenhalgh Street, who has served in South Africa with the 3rd East Lancashire Regiment, was charged with attempting to commit suicide. Accused`s brother stated that on Tuesday afternoon, he received a note, in consequence of which he hurried home. He found a pot on the table, which gave off an odour of ammonia, and a bottle of ammonia in the kitchen. He then went in search of his brother, and found him in Bridge Street. Witness asked him if what was in the note was correct, and prisoner replied “Yes”. Prisoner gave him a penny to go home on the tram, and, “tell Walter they would not see him again”, adding that when he got up the lane he would take some more ammonia and then drown himself. Witness however, followed him and in Bank Parade he gave information to the Police. – The Chief Constable applied that prisoner should be remanded for a week – the request was granted”.

A couple of weeks later a follow up article regarding William`s attempted suicide appeared in the Burnley Express and it would appear that not all was well within William and Virginia`s marriage either;

 21st June 1902 – The Burnley Express


“William Henry Wrigley, a labourer, was charged on remand with attempting to commit suicide – the evidence of the previous week was repeated – prisoners Aunt promised to look after her nephew, and on his promising not to repeat the offence, he was discharged – Wrigley alleged he had had some trouble with his wife. He would try and get work. Alderman Burrows: You want to pull yourself together. You have nothing to trouble about – surely? Prisoner was also summoned by his wife Virginia Wrigley, for persistent cruelty – Mr. Steele represented the Complainant, and said that the latter had asked for a separation order. The parties were married in 1901. Shortly after their marriage defendant assaulted complainant, and since that time he had habitually ill-treated her. Complainant stated that a month after their marriage her husband struck her in the face and knocked her against the fireplace. He had also turned her out of the house and locked the door. She had been under the Doctor in consequence of his conduct. He had threatened to cut her throat. On the 6th inst. he assaulted her and put her out of the door. He had since sold up the home and pawned the bedclothes, and spent the money in drink. Several witnesses spoke of defendant`s ill-treatment of his wife – Defendant said he had never lifted a foot to his wife. He had only struck her about six times. – A separation order was granted, defendant to pay 5s per week towards the maintenance of his wife”.

Whether William`s state of mind and his behaviour towards his wife was as a result of his war service we shall never know but at least it appears to have been short lived. It seems as though he took the advice of Alderman Burrows and somehow managed to `pull himself together` and by the time the 1911 Census had been recorded William and Virginia had had another four children, although one son died at the age of one; William Henry (1904-1905), Emily (1905), John Henry (1906) and Edward (1909).

By 1911 William, Virginia and their family had also left Burnley and had moved to nearby Nelson to live at 10 Newport Street. William had a job labouring in one of the local mills. The only child missing from the home at the time was their daughter Emily who had stayed in Burnley with her maternal grandparents, William and Margaret Smith.

A week after war was declared William was mobilised enlisting into the East Lancashire Regiment at Nelson and was issued with the service number 11348. At his medical inspection it was noted that he was 5`5” tall and weighed 156lbs and had blue eyes and brown hair. He declared his age as being 35 years and 221 days old. On the 6th November 1914 he was discharged as a consequence of “not being likely to become an efficient soldier” in the regular army. On the 21st December 1914 he joined the Territorial Force enlisting into the 2nd (Reserve) Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment and was allotted the number 3292.

In March 1915 William joined the newly raised 3/5th Battalion E.L.R. and was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 29th of that month. He embarked at Devonport on the 8th October 1915 setting sail for Egypt on the 10th. By the 22nd October 1915 he had joined the 1/5th Battalion at Gallipoli and the following day he was promoted to Lance Sergeant.

Just a few weeks later on the 30th November 1915 he reported to a field hospital suffering from sickness (debility). William`s sickness was enough to see him shipped back to hospital in Malta and then on to England, arriving at the Victoria Hospital in Chelsea on the 5th January 1916 where he was diagnosed with `debility` V.D.H. (valvular disease of the heart). He remained in hospital until the 20th January 1916 then discharged and was given ten days home leave to 10 Newport Street in Nelson.

Unfortunately for William his debility did not spell the end of his military service. On the 7th August 1916 he was sent overseas again, this time to France with a batch of reinforcements. By the 17th August he had joined the 1/4th Battalion LNL in the field.

Extract from 1/4th Battalion War Diary

17th August 1916 at Mericourt

Coy and platoon training. All transport was brigaded and proceeded to new area. 1 Officer and 119 other ranks, reinforcements, arrived from 1/5th East Lancs. Regiment.

William`s papers confirm that he was later officially transferred to the 1/4th Battalion LNL and his service number became 6201.

Sadly, less than a month later William was killed in action during the course of the Battle of the Somme, apparently having died of shock after being buried by a shell on the 9th September 1916.

His family notified the press and the following article was printed in the Preston Guardian;

6201 Lance Sergeant William Henry Wrigley 1-4th Battalion

There is no information to say whether any of William`s personal effects were ever returned.

William has no known grave and so his name was later recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.

In 1917 Virginia Wrigley remarried to Edwin Jones in Burnley.

After the war Virginia Jones took receipt of William`s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled.

The name of William Henry Wrigley is also remembered on the new War Memorial in Nelson.

War Memorial in Nelson 1War Memorial in Nelson 2

Rank: Lance Serjeant
Service No: 8201
Date of Death: 09/09/1916
Age: 37
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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2 Responses to 8201 LSJT. W. H. WRIGLEY. L.N.LAN.R.

  1. Susan Avery says:

    My name is Susan Avery (nee Wrigley) and William Henry is my Great Grandfather. My Father was the son of William Henry’s 2nd child with Virginia Smith, James Edmund who unfortunately died from a sudden heart attack whilst at work and only in his early 50’s. I am so grateful to have found this site as I have been trying to research my Great Grandfather for a number of years. My dad who died in 2008 remembers Virginia and was close to some of the sons’ she had when she married Mr Jones. One who was named Eddie had a widow Emma who unfortunately died only last week at the age of 94 years. My Father and his sister Doreen were brought up in the Salvation Army and James Edmund played the big drum.

  2. Nicola Stewart says:

    Finding this article has been a revelation for me, and I’m sure will be for my family when I show them. Virginia Smith was my grandad’s mother. He was Joseph Smith (b. 1899) mentioned in the article.
    We have never known very much about Virginia as my grandad wasn’t brought up by her after she married William. We didn’t even know her parents’ names.
    Thank you so much for this information.
    Nicola Stewart (née Smith) b. Nelson, Lancs. 1964.

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