Research and text by Brian Roote
One of three soldier sons of Daniel and Emily Jane who lived at ‘Copthorne’ Highfield Road, Caterham. His father was an ex Grenadier Guardsman. William enlisted into the regiment in 1905 aged just 15 and later became a Physical Trainer Instructor at the Guards Depot. On the declaration of war he went to France with the 11th Battalion. His health failed and he was sent home to Purfleet Camp, Essex, where he was Acting Company Quartermaster Sergeant.
On 2 May 1919 he was in charge of a party of men unloading a lorry. He had just given the order to move on when he suffered a fatal heart attack. The subsequent inquest returned a verdict of death by natural causes. As he was still part of the army, he was regarded as a war casualty and afforded a CWGC White Headstone.
He was brought home and buried from home on 8th May in Caterham Cemetery. The cortege was led by a firing party with reversed arms followed by the depot fifes and drums playing Chopin’s Funeral March. The gun carriage with the coffin was covered with the Union Jack and drawn by 6 Staff Sergeants from the depot.
His effects after the war amounted to £45.8s.0d plus Aar Gratuity £34.10s.0d to his father. He also left his father £199 6s.4d in his will.
He is on St John’s Church, Caterham, Memorial.
Note: The Guards Depot at Wellington Barracks in London was destroyed by a bomb in WW2. On a tablet on the south wall amongst the names was ‘ARQMS William George O’Connor. Died 1919.’