Private William James Carpenter

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte W J Carpenter
3/6th & 1/6th Battalions, East Surrey Regiment
3554 & T/241187
Died, 31.10.1918
Age, 24

William James Carpenter was born in Weybridge on 25 March 1894 but died far from home in India after 2 years and 358 days of military service. His parents, James William Hyam and Mary were not natives of Weybridge; he was born in Balingdon, Essex c. 1869 and she in Bamsbury, Berkshire c.1865. By 1901 they had settled in Weybridge at 5, Railway Terrace, Heath Road where they still lived ten years later. James Carpenter was a domestic coachman throughout this time. William was the eldest of three children and the only son. He was followed by Violet and Elizabeth. In 1911, William, a former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), had started work as a printer’s apprentice, perhaps with Rawlings & Walsh Ltd. located in the High Street. There were also three printers in Chertsey at the time.

He attested at Kingston on 9 November 1915 when he was 21 years and 8 months old. He stood five feet eight and a half inches tall and had perfect vision. He was initially assigned to the 3/6th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, a depot/training unit which moved to Cambridge in January 1916. William remained with them until he was posted to 1/6th Battalion on 26 March 1916 but as the 1/6th was in India he did not join them until 2 May. They had already been in India for nearly 18 months and since October 1915 had been part of the Jhelum Brigade in the 2nd Rawalapindi Division, a regular army division of the British Indian Army. They were ordered to Aden, arriving there on 7 February 1917.

Aden was not a desirable posting; garrison duty there was limited to one year because of the difficult environment. It was of vast strategic importance to British communications lying as it did on the route from Europe to India. William’s time there would have been largely taken up fighting Turkish guerrillas from Yemen. The 1/6th returned to Bombay on 15 January 1918. They then joined the Dehra Dun Brigade in the 7th (Meerut) Division and moved to the Punjab, close to the north-west frontier.

William was hospitalised between 24 April and 9 May 1918 at Chakrala (now in Pakistan). He was once again admitted to hospital in Agra on 22 October and died of influenza a week later. William’s Commanding Officer wrote that he was buried in the evening of 31 October, the day on which he died ‘…..with full military honours…..He was carried on a gun carriage covered with the Union Jack, and as he was laid to rest three shots were fired and the bugle sounded the Last Post over him…..’ He then went on to pay tribute to William: ‘I have lost a comrade, a good, honest, true Britisher from my company, a man who was popular with his fellows, true to his officers and faithful to Him Who has taken him to rest.’

He is commemorated on the Madras 1914-1918 War Memorial, (Face 15) at Chennai and is buried in Agra Cantonment Cemetery. The Memorial was created to remember nearly 1000 servicemen who are buried in many civil and cantonment cemeteries which it was once believed could not be preserved in perpetuity. However, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is now working to reinstate the graves of many of the men on the Memorial. When this is achieved their names will be removed. William’s parents still lived in Weybridge in 1939.

Sources:

British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
Kelly’s Directory 1913, UK, City and County Directories, 1766-1946, www.ancestry.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War of 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long Long Trail – East Surrey Regiment, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.findmypast.co.uk

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