yeovil at War

William James Warren

Died in France of his wounds


William James P Warren was born in Yeovil in 1897, the son of china warehouseman Edward Warren (1869-1924) and Charlotte Ann née Hurlestone (b1871). In the 1901 census Edward and Charlotte were listed living at 3 South Street with their children; Florence (b1896), three-year old William, Ewart (b1899) and Gertrude (b1900) together with Charlotte's widower father, Stephen Hurlestone (1837-1903). Edward gave his occupation as 'Warehouse Man (China)'. Just a couple of years later, on 22 February 1906, the family home in South Street, just behind the Three Choughs Hotel, was burnt to the ground (see Gallery).

By the time of the 1911 census the family were living at 145 Huish at which time the family had grown with another daughter, Ellen (b1906). Edward was working in a china shop as an assistant and 14-year old William was 'Learning for Reporter in a News Paper Office'. He was, in fact, working at the Western Gazette at their new offices on the corner of Newton Road. William was also a member of the Yeovil Volunteers and, by the time he enlisted, was a Section Commander.

William enlisted at Yeovil, joining the 15th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (the Prince of Wales' Own Civil Service Rifles) as a Rifleman. His Service Number 533214 suggests that he enlisted around May 1916. 

He was most likely sent to France in October 1916 at which time his Battalion were fighting in the Battle of Le Transloy Ridges (1 to 18 October 1916) in France.

The Battle of Le Transloy began in good weather and Le Sars was captured on 7 October. Pauses were made from 8–11 October due to rain and 13–18 October to allow time for a methodical bombardment, when it became clear that the German defence had recovered from earlier defeats.

 Haig consulted with the army commanders and on 17 October reduced the scope of operations by cancelling the Third Army plans and reducing the Reserve Army and Fourth Army attacks to limited operations in co-operation with the French Sixth Army.

Another pause followed before operations resumed on 23 October on the northern flank of the Fourth Army, with a delay during more bad weather on the right flank of the Fourth Army and on the French Sixth Army front, until 5 November. Next day the Fourth Army ceased offensive operations except for small attacks intended to improve positions and divert German attention from attacks being made by the Reserve / Fifth Army.

On 5 February 1917 William was wounded in the day-to-day fighting in the trenches and hospitalised at Boulogne, where he died from his wounds on 10 March. He was 20 years old.

On 16 March 1917 the Western Gazette reported "Mr and Mrs Warren, of 32 King Street has been informed that their son, Private WJ Warren, London Regiment, died on Saturday at a base hospital from wounds received in action on February 5th. This news will be received with utmost regret by Private Warren’s many friends in the town, particularly in the Yeovil Volunteers, in which at the time of joining up, he had attained the rank of Section Commander. He was a popular and valued member of the Western Gazette Reporting Staff, and although only in his 21st year, by his conscientious and painstaking work was regarded as having a promising career ahead of him. He volunteered for service when he became of military age and joined a well-known unit of the London Regiment, which had seen much service in France. He had been in France about six months and had some very narrow escapes in the Somme battles. The utmost sympathy has been extended to Priv. Warren’s parents at the loss they have sustained. At the Wednesday night parade of the Yeovil Volunteers, the detachment stood at “the present” whilst the “Last Post” was sounded as a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased."

William was interred in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery - Grave VIII.A.188 and his name is inscribed on the roll within the memorial to the Prince Of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles (see Gallery) and is also on the War Memorial in the Borough.


Other Yeovil men buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery include - Albert Bowden, Henry Hardy and Horace Heard.




From my collection

The ruins of two cottages destroyed by fire, on 22 February 1906; these were numbers 2 and 3 South Street. The two firemen are standing in the ruins of No 3, which was the home of the Warren family. This photograph is by William Ross and was produced as a postcard. The site of the burnt cottages is now the rear access yard of Argos.


An early photograph of men of the the 15th (County of London) 'Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles' battalion, of the London Regiment, based at Somerset House, London. The man in the pale coloured uniform seated in the front row is wearing their pre-war, grey, full dress uniform. The soldier sat adjacent to the central officer in the same row, is the battalion's Quarter Master Sergeant, as denoted by the four inverted chevrons surmounted by stars on his cuffs. He was responsible, under the Quartermaster, for the unit's stores. The officer is Captain Parish the Battalion Adjutant. He was known as Gasper because his middle name was Woodbine. He was wounded in the head on the Somme but later commanded the Battalion briefly in 1917. He died in 1921.


British soldiers moving a 60-pounder gun into position during the Battle of Le Transloy Ridges.


Carting water by trolley rail during the Battle of the Transloy Ridges.


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of William Warren.


William's grave marker in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.


The little-known memorial to the 1,240 members of the Prince Of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles who fell in the First World War. The memorial, at Somerset House, on the Strand, is mainly of Portland stone and unique in its form - an urn sitting on top of a column that contains a scroll with the names of the dead. The monument originally stood in the centre of Somerset House’s courtyard, which was the regiment’s parade and drill ground - appropriately enough, as the house had originally been built for the Civil Service. The memorial was unveiled by the then Prince of Wales, the regiment’s Honorary Colonel, in January 1924. It was moved to the Riverside Terrace in 2002. Its protective listing is Grade II* which means it is considered particularly important, of more than special interest, and qualifies for greater protection. Only 5.5% of listed buildings are Grade II*.


Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

Boulogne, was one of the three base ports most extensively used by the Commonwealth armies on the Western Front throughout the First World War. It was closed and cleared on the 27 August 1914 when the Allies were forced to fall back ahead of the German advance, but was opened again in October and from that month to the end of the war, Boulogne and Wimereux formed one of the chief hospital areas.

Until June 1918, the dead from the hospitals at Boulogne itself were buried in the Cimetiere de L'Est, one of the town cemeteries, the Commonwealth graves forming a long, narrow strip along the right hand edge of the cemetery. In the spring of 1918, it was found that space was running short in the Eastern Cemetery in spite of repeated extensions to the south, and the site of the new cemetery at Terlincthun was chosen. Boulogne Eastern Cemetery contains 5,577 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 224 from the Second World War. The Commonwealth plots were designed by Charles Holden.