yeovil at War
Killed in the build-up to the Second Battle of Ypres
In truth there is some little confusion concerning William Blake. He is referred to in military records as William Blake, son of George Blake. However civil records only refer to William in the 1911 census. There was also a John William Blake of Yeovil, son of George Blake. As far as I can ascertain there was no other George Blake in Yeovil during this period.
To further complicate matters there was a contemporary, William George Blake of Yeovil, son of Elias Blake. This William, known as George, was killed in the Great War and his name is on the War Memorial in the Borough.
This page therefore assumes that William Blake, son of George, was neither John William Blake nor William George Blake.
William Blake, was born in Yeovil in 1882, probably the son of labourer George Blake (b1844) and his wife Mary (b1846) but I found no other information.
William was a career soldier, which probably accounts for his lack of presence in civilian records. The first census he appears in was in 1911 when he was listed as a 29-year old Gunner of 7th Battery, Royal Field Artillery. His Service Number was 18705. At this time he was stationed in India, but it is not known where he was stationed or when he returned to England.
In August 1914 William was a Gunner and part of 99th Battery, 24th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. It was mobilised and on 10 September was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force, landing at St Nazaire.
The 24th Brigade moved at once to the Aisne to reinforce the hard-pressed BEF. They moved north to Flanders and were in action at Hooge in 1915.
For much of the war, the region around Hooge belonged to one of the eastern-most sectors of the Ypres Salient, being almost constantly exposed to enemy attacks from three sides. From 1914 the front line of the salient ran through the Hooge area and there was almost constant fighting in the region over the next three years, during which the village of Hooge was totally destroyed. Around Hooge, the opposing front lines were almost within whispering distance of each other. With its ruined village and a maze of battered and confusing trench lines, the area was regarded as a very hazardous and heavily contested area for the infantry, where snipers abounded and trench raids were frequent. Both sides saw Hooge as a particularly important area and a key target for heavy artillery bombardment.
William was wounded in the build-up to the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May 1915) and evacuated to the No 4 British Expeditionary Hospital, housed in the Trianon Palace Hotel, in Versailles, France. William Blake died from his wounds in the hospital on 29 March 1915. He was aged 33.
The remains of the totally destroyed village of Hooge - where William fought. Photographed in 1919.
Recuperating British troops at the Trianon Palace Hotel, Versailles, commandeered as the No 4 British Military Hospital, where William Blake died on 29 March 1915.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate commemorating William Blake.
William Blake's headstone at Les Gonards Cemetery, Versailles, Yvelines, France.
Les Gonards Cemetery, Versailles, Yvelines, France.
There are now over 150, 1914-18 and 10, 1939-45 Commonwealth war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these from the 1914-18 War, the great majority died in 1914-1915 in No.4 General Hospital - including William Blake.