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William John Pearce

14538 Private William Pearce, 8th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment

 

William Pearce was born in late 1892, the eldest child of William and Emily. At the the time of the 1901 and 1911 censuses the family are living at Thornford, a farmstead on the Hampshire border, south of Greenham Common where William sen was employed as a farm worker. By 1911 William was working, along with two younger brothers, George and Arthur as 'waggoners on farm'. Presumably they had found employment on Thornford Farm though William became a groom at Chamberhouse Farm, on the north side of Greenham Common, before he signed up with the Royal Berks during the early days of the war.

 

He was assigned to the 8th Battalion, a new unit, one of several formed from the wave of volunteers who rushed to enlist in the patriotic fervour at the start of the war.

 

By October 1915 the Battalion was in France and had already seen heavy action the previous month at the start of the Battle of Loos, the so-called 'big push'. On the 25th September the Battalion suffered appalling loses (17 officers and 500 other ranks) during the opening attack of the Battle, despite these losses the Battalion was back in the line on the 12th October, with fresh troops drafted from the 9th Battalion to help make up the numbers.

 

The Battalion war diary tells the story:

Oct 12 1915

The Battalion assumed its battle position at 11:30pm on the night of the 12/13th instant, with the Black Watch Regiment on its left and the London Scottish on its right flank. The Battalion occupied a frontage of two hundred yards, with two companies in the front line and two companies in support, its objective being the German trench on the east side of the main road not more than two hundred yards from our own trench.

Oct 13 1915

Precisely at 1:00pm the Chlorine gas discharge began and was continued at intervals until 1:50pm. During this time smoke bombs were thrown out by our men from the front line trench. The wind seemed very favourable and carried the gas and smoke towards the enemy's trench. 1:50pm. The gas discharge ceased, the artillery lifted and the Battalion wire-cutters accompanied by men carrying smoke bombs went forward under cover of the smoke. During the whole time of the smoke discharge hostile machine gun fire from our right flank could be heard. 2:00pm. The remainder of the two companies in the front line went over. From reports I have since received it appears than only about six of these men reached the Estimate across the road owing to heavy machine-gun fire from the right flank which seemed to come from the direction of the chalk pits. These men remained at the Estimate until dark and then crawled back. 2:10PM. At 2:10PM a report reached me that our first lines had attained the road but were being enfiladed; I then ordered two platoons of the supporting companies to go over. As these men crossed our first line, the Machine Gun Officer, with his team, joined them. This Officer reports that by this time the smoke was beginning to thin and that his team only got about 75 yards beyond our parapet when they came under machine-gun fire and were cut down. From inquiries I have made from NCOs it appears that about fifteen men of this line reached the road but did not cross it. They report that there was little rifle fire from the German trench. Hand grenades were thrown at them from the enemy's trench, but these fell short by about ten yards. 2:20PM. The remainder of the Battalion went over, but were no more successful that the others in reaching their objective. During the night those men who had escaped crawled back to out front-line trench. I Attribute the failure of the attack to the inability of our artillery to silence the German machine-guns, and to the complete absence of support.

 

Newbury Weekly News, 6 June 1916

 


William Pearce's name on Loos Memorial
William Pearce's name

on the Loos Memorial.

Mr and Mrs W Pearce, of Crookham, have been officially informed that their son William, who has been missing since October 13th, 1915, must be considered as killed in action on that date. He was a private in the 8th Batt Royal Berks Regiment, and was 23 years of age. Before joining the Army he was groom at Chamberhouse Farm.

 

William's body was never identified, he is commemorated on Panel 95 on the walls of the Loos Memorial at Dud Corner just outside the small town of Loos.

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 Died this day:
26 November 1914
G Armstrong
Burghfield

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