Friday, July 29, 2016

William Whybrew - an update.

The Cemetery at Vis-en-Artois.
William Whybrew has no grave, his name is inscribed
on panel 5 of the curved memorial wall between
the two stone pillars.(image courtesy of wikimedia).
Back in March 2014 I wrote a couple of posts about the children of David and Susan Whybrew. At the time, much of what I wrote about their youngest son William (the youngest son to survive childhood at any rate) was speculative.

In the course of doing research for my book about Susan, I've been able to confirm many of the details for William and add a few new ones, though some create more mysteries than they solve. So here's an update.

William was born on 29 October 1884 while the family were living in Berry St, Sittingbourne, near Canterbury, Kent. At the time his father David was with the 3rd East Kent militia. Some time after William's birth David left the army without completing his five year contract, for reasons that are unclear, and the family moved to Colchester in Essex. Two sons, Alfred (1888) and James (1892) were born to Susan in Colchester but didn't survive infancy.

William was at home with David and Susan at the time of the 1901 census, working as an assistant gardener. In 1905, when he was 21,  he married Adelaide Williams, a woman from Ipswich, a coastal town in Suffolk, 30 km north east of Colchester.

At 38 Adelaide was considerably older than William. Their marriage certificate indicates that she was the daughter of Earle Henry Williams, deceased, a fish hawker of Ipswich. She seems to have spent some of her childhood in the Ipswich workhouse, and then disappears from the records until her marriage to William.

The couple moved to Canterbury, where William found work as a carman, driving a delivery cart for a mineral water company. They had a lodger living with them when the 1911 census was taken, an infirm elderly man named Abraham Langford, who was possibly cared for by Adelaide (or Annie as she was referred to on the census.)

In 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, William enlisted in the Army Veterinary Corp, which looked after the many horses, mules, dogs and other animals used by the army. He transferred to the Yorkshire regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wale's Own) and fought in the trenches in  France and then saw action in Italy before returning to France in September 1918. I've now confirmed that William died in action in France on 29 October 1918, just a few days before his 34th birthday and only three weeks before the war ended.

The Hundred Days Offensive, August-november 1918
Battle of Courtrai.
British and Belgian wounded waiting to be taken
back by light railway. Dadezeele, 15 October 1918.
It’s likely that William was involved in the decisive “Hundred Days” battle or "Advance to Victory" in Picardy and Artois, which broke the Germans' resolve and ultimately led to the Kaiser’s abdication and the signing of the armistice on November 11. It was a massively destructive battle. William had no grave, perhaps no identifiable remains. His name is inscribed on the memorial at Vis-en-Artois amongst the 9,847 men of the Allied forces with no known burial place, who fell between August 1918 and the end of the war.

The news of his death would have been sent first to his widow Adelaide. In 1919 she applied for his medals, his belongings and the money still owed to him by the army. She was listed as the sole legatee. Later his name was inscribed on the war memorial in Ipswich, but strangely not the one in Colchester where he grew up and enlisted.

William and Adelaide had no children. However, it seems that Adelaide had either a son or a stepson by a previous relationship. A young soldier named Henry Alan Lawrence, born in 1890, joined the army in 1908 and gave a 'Mrs Whybrew' as his mother and next of kin. Her address at the time was in Colchester. He also listed two brothers, Archer and George Lawrence, whose address was in Stanstead in Essex.

At the end of WW1, in which Henry Lawrence was badly injured and became a prisoner of war, his address was the same as that of Adelaide Whybrew on William Whybrew's records - 195 Bramford Rd Ipswich.

How Henry fits into Adelaide's story is something I still haven't worked out. In the 1891 census he and his brothers  appear  to be the sons of William and Martha Lawrence of Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire. Martha Lawrence (nee Archer) died in 1897 and the family were scattered. There's no record of William Lawrence ever marrying Adelaide Williams. Perhaps she became an unofficial step mother to young Henry.

(I'm grateful to Andrew Beal of the Ipswich War Memorial and Cenotaph page on Facebook for some of these details.)

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