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William John (Jack) Himmons

Private 7990 W J Himmons, 1st Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment

Adey's Buildings

Adey's buildings viewed from Stroud Green.

William John Himmons was born in Thatcham in 1887, the son of John Himmons and his wife Ellen (née Dennis). By the time of the 1891 census his parents had moved into Newbury, where 4 year old John is listed at the family home in Northcroft Lane. By 1901 the family had moved again, to 11 Adey’s Buildings (off York Road); his father, by this time working as a coal porter, was to stay at this address until he died in 1913.  14 year old, William J Himmons, was working as a Gordon Boy messenger.

At the age of 19 years and 6 months  he went to Winchester and enlisted in the Dorsetshire Regiment. His attestation papers show that he was 5ft 10ins tall, had a dark complexion with blue eyes and dark hair. On enlistment he was 10st 4lbs, beefing up to 11st 2lb following six months of army food and lots of exercise during his basic training. His military career was not a great story of success: minor transgressions (such as overstaying his leave and ‘improper conduct in town’) perhaps indicate why the army were content to let him go before he had completed the full term of nine years service that he had signed up for. On 30th June 1911 he returned to civvy street, though he remained a member of the regiment’s reserve.

Waterloo Place

Waterloo Place in the 1947 flood -

similar flooding occured in January 1915.

On the 5th October 1912 he married Florence Gore; they set up home at 13 Waterloo Place, off West Street - now demolished the site is in use as a car park. They had one child, Frederick John, born 1st April 1914. On 4th August war was declared and the following day Jack was called back to the colours.


Ten days later he was in France with the 1st Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment, which formed part the British Expeditionary Force.


The BEF advanced to confront the Germans who were attacking through Belgium. After days of marching the British reached Mons in Belgium where they hastily prepared to meet the German advance. On 23rd August the two armies met and the heavily outnumbered BEF managed to temporarily halt the German advance. On the 24th August, as the famous retreat from Mons began, Jack was reported missing. Wounded in the fighting he was taken by the Germans to hospital in Mons, where he died on the 3rd September. He was the first Newburian to die in the Great War.


His death was announced in the local paper:


Newbury Weekly News, 24 September 1914 – Death on Active Service

HIMMONS - William Himmons, Private, 1st Dorset Regiment, died of wounds received at the Battle of Mons on August 24th, Son of the late John Himmons, of 11, Adey's-buildings, Newbury, and dearly loved husband of Florence Himmons, of 13, Waterloo-place, West-street, Newbury, aged 27.


However, His death did not really make the local news until July 1915 after his widow received a letter from Belgium:


Dorsetshire Regiment badge

The regimental badge of the Dorsetshire Regiment, as used on CWGC headstones.

Newbury Weekly News, 29 July 1915 – Local War Notes
It will be recollected that the first notification of the death of a Newbury man as the result of wounds received in action  was that of William Himmons, of 13, Waterloo-terrace, a Reservist who had been recalled to his regiment, the 1st Dorsets, which took part in the battle of Mons on August 24th. At the same time Lord Kitchener forwarded the widow an expression of sympathy from the King and Queen. However, official confirmation could not be obtained. The widow has during the last few days received a letter from a Belgian lady, who was in attendance on Pte Himmons in his last hours. The Mayor has translated the letter as follows:-

“On the 24th August your husband was brought to my ambulance*, very badly wounded in the legs. Unfortunately, in spite of all our efforts, his wounds became infected with tetanus (lock-jaw), and he passed away on 3rd September. In his last moments he was visited by a Protestant minister, who at the time of his burial, conducted the service. If it can be any slight consolation to you I should like you to know that your husband was buried in the Cemetery at Wasmes in a private grave, and in a coffin such as his relatives would have chosen. You can comfort yourself with the thought that your husband died bravely for his country.�?

The writer promises to forward a lock of Pte Himmons’ hair, and other personal belongings.


* In this context an 'ambulance' was a form of hospital, not a vehicle.


Jack Himmons' name on Newbury War Memorial

Jack Himmons' name on Newbury War Memorial (upper left)

Almost a year after his death the news must have been a shock, it can only be hoped that the knowledge of how he died was of some comfort to his widow.


His body lies in Hautrage Military Cemetery, Belgium in grave 1 A 10.


Locally he is remembered on Panel 1 of the Newbury Town War Memorial both the memorial board and the memorial board and roll of honour in St Nicolas’ Church, Newbury.



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 Died this day:
30 May 1940
Rupert Edward Mills

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