11112 Private William Henry White, Royal Fusiliers,
91895, 15th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
Born in November 1880 in Frithsden
Killed in Action 9th September 1918 in France
William Henry White was born in Frithsden, the third of the six children of Samuel White and Elizabeth Mary, née Wallbridge. His father was a Gamekeeper.
William’s siblings were: Reginald Fred Wallbridge White, b. 1877; Ellen Elizabeth, b. 1st Mar. 1879; Lydia, b. 13th May 1882; Wesley George, b. 1884 and Mary Ann, b. 27th Aug.1886. The family lived at 8 Frithsden in 1881 but had moved to Covetous Corner by June 1885.
William White started at Little Gaddesden School on 1st June 1885 in the term before his fifth birthday. His family lived at 2 Covetous Corner – a long way for a little boy to walk.
“A sad account reached us last night from St Margaret’s Lane” 4
The Little Gaddesden School Log Book entry for 15th January 1889 reads as follows: “A sad account reached us last night from St Margaret’s Lane. Mrs White in bed gradually sickening from Consumption, and her six children ill, all supposed to be sickening with measles. I am glad to know that Lady Brownlow has been to the cottage.” As the result of “measles spreading all over the place”, the school was then closed from 17th January to 25th February. The Log Book entry for 25th February 1889 includes the paragraph “Reginald and Lydia White have left the school. About a fortnight ago their mother died and the poor children have been scattered.” William’s mother was only 35 years old and left six children aged between 2 and 11. William remained living with his father and continued to attend Little Gaddesden School.
William’s father remarries 5
William’s father married Emma Smith at St Mary the Virgin, Edlesborough on 29th June 1890. Annie, William’s half-sister, was born in 1891.
The family in 1891 6
In the 1891 Census, 10 year old William was a school boy living at home at Covetous Corner, Hudnall, with his father, his step mother and siblings Ellen, Wesley and Mary Ann. His sister Lydia was with their grandparents Samuel and Mary White at Frampton near Dorchester and his brother Reginald with their Uncle and Aunt, Fred and Ada Wallbridge, at Toller Porcorum, Dorset.
In 1901, 20 year old William was a Farm Carter living at home with his father, step-mother, his brother Wesley and his half-sister Annie. By April 1905 he had become a Gamekeeper on the Ashridge Estate.
On 29th April 1905 William Henry White, 24, Bachelor, a Gamekeeper of Little Gaddesden and son of Samuel White, Gamekeeper married Elizabeth Ann Woodhams, 28, a Spinster of Burgh Heath, Banstead and daughter of George Woodhams, Carpenter (deceased). The service took place at All Saints, Banstead, Surrey.
William and Elizabeth had five children. Their first son Wesley Allen was born on 10th May 1906 and their first daughter Grace Mary on 6th December 1907. Their third child William Samuel George was born 1st December 1909, followed by Florence Elizabeth on 23rd August 1911 and Francis Wallbridge on 24th August 1914.
By April 1911, William’s family address was Ringshall Coppice, the Keeper’s House at Ringshall.
William attested at Berkhamsted on 6th December 1915. His British Army Service Record shows that he was 5’ 10” tall with a 39” chest. The date and his initial service in the Army Reserve make it likely that he attested under Lord Derby’s Scheme (the Group Scheme), whereby he would be called up in a group defined by age and marital status. As a 35 year old married man, he may have hoped that his call up would be deferred for some time, but it came on 29th May 1916.
On 6th June 1916, William was posted as Private (service no. 11112) to the 28th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. On 1st September 1916 this became the 104th Battalion, Training Reserve, in which he served as Private with service no. 60586.
On 9th September he was posted to 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers and, on 26th September re-posted to the 11th Battalion, with which he embarked for France. His Medal and Award Roll entry records his service number in these battalions as 73592.
Another move followed on 13th October 1916, this time to the 32nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He served in the field with D Company from 15th October 1916 until 21st September 1917. Medical records for this period give his service number as 11112.
On 21st September 1917, William suffered gunshot wounds to the neck, chest and legs. He was treated at No 37 Casualty Clearing Station at Godewaersvelde before admission to the 18th General Hospital, Camiers, where he remained until 13th October 1917. He returned to England for further treatment at the 2nd Birmingham War Hospital, where it was noted that he had a rifle bullet wound to the left side of the chest and shrapnel wounds to the neck (right side), right thigh and left knee. He remained in hospital until 16th November 1917, by which date all his wounds were reported to have healed. His next posting cannot be read on his ‘Burnt Documents’ record, but he remained with the Royal Fusiliers in the UK.
Back to France 9
On 30th March 1918 William re-joined the B.E.F, embarking at Folkestone, disembarking at Boulogne and joining J Infantry Base Depot. The following day, he was transferred to the 15th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.
Death in France 13
On 9th September 1918, 38 year old 91895 Private William Henry White, 15th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, was killed in action on the front line at Gouzeaucourt, France during the 100 Days Offensive. He left a widow and five children aged 4 to 12. Elizabeth was awarded a Pension of 38s. 6d. per week until 6th April 1919 and 37s. per week thereafter for herself and her family; the amount reduced as each child reached the age of 16.
William was initially buried at British Army Trench Map reference 57c.W.17.c.1.2. about 5km SSW of Gouzeaucourt.
Here is the same location today, in the centre of this interactive Google map:
He was subsequently reburied in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery, Nord, France. His grave reference is I. F. 8.
Beneath the badge of the Durham Light Infantry, the inscription on his headstone reads:
W. H. White
Durham Light Infantry
9th September 1918 Age 38
William’s Grave Registration Report, compiled in the mid-1920s, records him as the
…son of Samuel and Mary White, of Little Gaddesden, Berkhamsted, Herts.; husband of Elizabeth Ann White, of Thunderdell Lodge, Ashridge Park, Aldbury, Tring, Herts.
His family moved to No 4 Little Gaddesden after his death and, by 1921, to Thunderdell Lodge.
We will remember them 14.
William Henry White is commemorated on the War Memorials on the village green and in St Peter & St Paul’s Church Little Gaddesden. He is also named on the Roll of Honour in the church. However, his regiment is recorded as the Royal Fusiliers, in which most of his service was completed, rather than the Durham Light Infantry, into which he had been transferred in 1918.
William was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1872 – 1886 and 1887 – 1906
12. The ‘burnt documents’ were First World War documents that survived a fire in a War Office store caused by an incendiary bomb in Setember 1940. Charred and water-damaged, they were unfit for consultation until microfilmed in a large programme started in 1996. See https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14567.
Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson