315437 Gunner William Edgar Pratt, Royal Garrison Artillery
Born on 6th August 1892 in St Margaret’s, Great Gaddesden
Died on 5th December 1957 in Potten End
William Edgar Pratt was born in St Margaret’s, then in the Parish of Ivinghoe. He was the youngest of the 3 sons of Charles Pratt and Mary Emma née Waterton.
His older brothers were Mark Charles Pratt, born on 29th October 1886 and George William Pratt on 6th May 1889. Their father was a Farm Labourer.
The family lived at 10 St Margaret’s Lane, which is now part of Great Gaddesden.
In the 3rd Quarter of 1894, William’s mother Mary Emma died aged 39, leaving 3 young sons: Mark, 7, George Pratt, 5 and William, about 2 years old.
However, in 1897 William’s father Charles married Ann Eliza Wallace, who is named in the family’s 1901 and 1911 Census returns. By 1901, the family lived at 6 St Margaret’s.
The 1911 Census shows William as an 18 year old Farm Labourer, living at 6 St Margaret’s with his father, step-mother and 23 year old brother George Pratt, an Insurance Agent.
William’s brother George Pratt, was a pre-War member of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards. He was still in the Reserve at the outbreak of War and was, therefore, mobilised immediately. Then, on 5th October 1914 his Battalion left for the Western Front, arriving at Zeebrugge two days later. He then served in the field from 20th October, during the 1st Battle of Ypres. However, only a week later, on 27th October 1914, George was reported missing. Nearly 3 months later, on 21st January 1915, his wife was informed that he was a Prisoner of War. He had been taken at Ypres and was interned at Munster and at Kriegegefangenen-Lager Gottingen. George remained a prisoner throughout the War. He was finally released and returned to England on 2nd December 1918 after 4 years and 60 days in captivity.
The only records of William’s War Service are his Absent Voters’ list entries and his medal records. Absent Voters’ lists for Autumn 1918 and Spring 1919 show Gunner William Edgar Pratt, Royal Garrison Artillery, Service Number 315437 as an Absent Voter of Home Farm Cottages, Little Gaddesden. Electoral Register entries show his father Charles and step-mother Ann Eliza resident there.
William’s Medal and Award Roll entry shows that he served in the Wessex (Hants) Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery (Territorial Force). We do not know when William joined this Battery but it went to France on 22nd April 1916. It was then assigned to 41st Heavy Artillery Group in the 2nd Army. At that time, each Royal Garrison Artillery Territorial Force heavy battery was equipped with four Boer War era 4.7 inch guns and its own ammunition column.
It was policy to move batteries between Heavy Artillery Group as required. The 1/1st Wessex Heavy Battery therefore moved to the 13th Heavy Artillery Group on 5 October 1916. Then, on 19th November it moved to the 33rd Heavy Artillery Group and, on 11th January 1917, to the 71st Heavy Artillery Group. Early in 1917 the battery was made up to 6 guns and issued with modern 60 pounder heavy field guns, which replaced their original Boer War era 4.7 inch guns.
Similar movements continued throughout 1917. Between 7th July and 3rd September 1917 the Battery served with the 28th Heavy Artillery Group around Ypres. However, the policy changed early in 1918. Batteries were then kept in the same Heavy Artillery Groups, which were re-designated as Brigades. Therefore, from then on, the 1/1st Wessex Heavy Battery remained in the 86th (Mobile) Brigade, RGA for the rest of the War.
During 1918, the 86th Brigade was involved in the 100 Days’ Offensive, starting with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918. 86th Brigade then took part in the 5th Battle of Ypres on 28th September and the Battle of Cambrai between 8th and 10th October 1918. There the brigade was pushed as far forwards as possible to cover the advancing troops. It then supported the 34th Division’s attack during the Second Army’s crossing of the River Schelde on 31st October. It also helped ensure the success of XVII Corps of the Third Army at the Battle of the Sambre on 4th November 1918.
For his War Service, William was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper” 8
Walter Pratt, Royal Garrison Artillery, is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. No local evidence of a Walter Pratt can be found but William Edgar Pratt, Royal Garrison Artillery is named on the Autumn 1918 Little Gaddesden Absent Voters’ List. Evidence indicates that he was wrongly listed on the original Roll as Walter. On the basis of evidence found, he is therefore listed as William Pratt, Royal Garrison Artillery on the Centenary Revision of the Roll. William’s brother George Pratt, 1st Bn. Grenadier Guards, is listed on both Rolls.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
William was demobilised during 1919. Then, in the 2nd Quarter of that year he married Barbara McDonald Davidson; the marriage was registered in Berkhamsted.
By Autumn 1919, William and Barbara lived at Covetous Corner, where they remained until at least 1927. Their son Charles Robert Pratt was then born on 23rd April 1920 and their daughter Millicent Georgina D Pratt on 7th October 1926.
The 1929 Electoral Register shows the family living at the Bungalow, Pheasantries, Potten End. However, in 1930, their address was Great Farm, Little Heath, Potten End.
In the 1939 Register, William and his family lived at No 1 Little Heath, Potten End. William was a Game Keeper, Barbara had “Home Duties Unpaid” and Charles was a Plumber. Millicent’s entry is still closed. William’s earlier (1929) address of Bungalow, Pheasantries, Potten End suggests that he had been a Game Keeper for at least 10 years.
65 year old William Edgar Pratt of 1 Little Heath Cottages, Potten End died on 5th December 1957. His widow Barbara lived until 1972; she then died in Hill End Hospital, St Albans on 23rd June 1972.
8. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden
11. For an explanation of why the Royal Garrison Artillery is so called, see https://gregswar.com/setting-scene-background-articles/siege-batteries-of-the-royal-garrison-artillery/
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson