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13383 Private William Gill 7th Battalion

William was born in Preston and was baptised at St. James` Church in the town on the 12th January 1896. He was the son of George Henry and Sarah Hannah Gill (nee Butcher) who had married at St. James` on the 5th April 1890, the marriage details revealing that his father was a widower. George Henry Gill had married Margaret Connor in 1887 and they had a son James William whose birth was registered in the December quarter of that year but sadly Margaret died in 1889 aged 26 years.

George Henry and his second wife Sarah went on to have seven children together including William, of those only William and his sister Margaret (1894) survived, the others being; Mary (1890-1890), John (1891-1891), Agnes (1892-1900), George Henry (1898-1898) and George (1899-1899). In 1901 the family home was at 28 Pleasant Street in Preston, William`s father was a clog iron maker and his mother was going out to work as a cotton weaver.

By 1911 the family had moved to 64 Berry Street in Preston. William`s father was still a clog iron maker, his sister Margaret was a weaver and William was now an errand boy working for a local grocer. His half-brother James William, a labourer, had married in 1910 and he was also living with the family with his wife Elizabeth Ellen. The family also had two children `boarding`, nine year old Jane Sanderson and eight month old Mary Butcher who had both been born in Preston.

On the 2nd September 1914 William enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was posted to the 7th Battalion with the service number 13383. At his medical inspection it was noted that he was taller than average standing at 5`9”, his weight was measured at 130lbs and he had a 33” chest and had blue eyes and `light` hair. His only distinguishing feature was said to be a scar on his left shin. William also confirmed that his religion was `Wesleyan` and his father George Henry Gill was recorded as being as his official next of kin.

After several months of training in England, William sailed to France with the main body of the 7th Battalion on the 17th July 1915, the Battalion coming under the command of the 56th Brigade in the 19th (Western) Division.

During late September 1915 the Battalion became involved in the ongoing Battle of Loos but by October the Battalion was to the north of the Loos battle area, either up in forward positions between Richebourg l`Avoue and Festubert or in the rear in billets and though this period may be described as comparatively peaceful, casualties were by no means few in number.

During November the Battalion War History notes that the German artillery was very active and the weather had become particularly trying, constant rain being followed by intense cold, the trenches were full of mud and men sometimes had to be `hauled out`, many cases of `trench feet` were also reported.

Extract from the Battalion War Diary 9th – 10th November 1915

9th Nov – The Battalion left Les Lobes and had relieved the 10th Royal Warwickshire by 9.30pm. This relief had to be carried out overland as the communication trenches were almost impassable. It poured with rain during the relief thus increasing the difficulties of the men. The rain continued during the night and the following day.

10th Nov – The enemy remained very quiet. The water and mud in the trenches was about 3 feet deep. Large working parties for the R.E. were provided. Stores, including pumps, dug-out frames and gum boots were carried up to the front line. Two men were hit by snipers.

Sadly, it would appear that one of the two men hit by snipers was William Gill, his death later confirmed as 10th November 1915.

The Preston Guardian in reporting on his death published two separate articles, the second one noting that his brother (James William) was by his side when he passed away. Also note that both articles state William`s date of death as being the 11th November, the CWGC and his records all state that he died on the 10th November 1915.

William was later laid to rest in Brown`s Road Military Cemetery, Festubert. After the war his family took receipt of his 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and they would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Rank: Private
Service No: 13383
Date of Death: 10/11/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 7th Bn.

3553 Corporal James William Gill “C” Coy 7th Battalion

James William, the son of George Henry Gill and his first wife Margaret Connor, was born in Preston in 1887 and he was two years old when his mother passed away. After his father remarried to Sarah Hannah Butcher in 1890 James William remained living with the family and later also followed his father`s trade as a clog iron maker.

He married Elizabeth Ellen Derbyshire on the 23rd January 1910 in St. James` Church in Preston and the Census of the following year shows the couple still living with his father, stepmother and two half siblings, William and Margaret in Berry Street. Later that year in October 1911 Elizabeth Ellen gave birth to a daughter and they named her Agnes.

James` service papers show that he enlisted on the 1st September 1914, the day before his half- brother William had signed up. He confirmed his age as 26 years and 9 months and also that he had previously served with the 1st Volunteer Bn. LNL (time expired). His medical inspection noted that he was five feet three and a half inches tall and he weighed 118lbs. James had brown eyes and black hair and had a chest measurement of 36”. For official purposes he named his wife Elizabeth Ellen as his next of kin and confirmed his home was still in Berry Street. He was issued with the service number 3553 and initially posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion before being posted into the 7th Battalion LNL on the 1st October 1914.

He embarked for France as a member of “C” Coy of the 7th Battalion LNL along with his brother and the main body of the Battalion on the 17th July 1915. Three months later he would receive the news that his wife Elizabeth Ellen had given birth to a second daughter, Hannah. Sadly, newspaper reports note that he witnessed the death of his half-brother William who died as a result of a sniper`s bullet on the 10th November 1915.

In the middle of February 1916 the 56th Brigade was sent to take over the trenches around Neuve Chapelle, the billeting area when out of the line being at Croix Barbee. Still in the same area in March 1916 it seems that James was wounded, his record states this occurred on the 10th March 1916. The Battalion War Diary makes no mention of any casualties but records that 2 Officers, 3 N.C.O.`s and 150 men were provided for the R.E. to work on the trenches in the Neuve Chapelle sector and in addition to that 1 Officer and 60 men were sent to continue wiring the N.E. sides of the Rue de Bois.

After being wounded James was admitted to No.7 CCS, his injury described as `gun-shot wound to neck`. Sadly, James never recovered and he passed away at the casualty clearing station on the 14th March 1916.

The Preston Guardian later published the news of his death;

James was later buried with honour in Merville Communal Cemetery which at the time was where No.7 CCS was situated.

A number of James` personal effects were returned to his widow, these included; letters, cards, a metal cigarette case, 2 chevrons, 1 metal watch, 5 metal rings, 1 comb, 1 numeral, 9 buttons, 1 bag, 1 whistle and also his cap badge.

Elizabeth Ellen was awarded a pension for herself and their two children amounting to 18s/6d per with effect from 2nd October 1916.

After the war Elizabeth Ellen took receipt of her husband`s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals that he was entitled to and she would also receive his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Rank: Private
Service No: 3553
Date of Death: 14/03/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 7th Bn.

Both brothers were later commemorated on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in their hometown of Preston (pictured below with the original submission slips obviously completed by the same hand);

Janet Davis
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