William Henry Marrable was the son of career soldier in the Essex Regiment. He was in the army at the war’s outbreak as he landed in France within four weeks of that event. He was invalided home but returned in April 1915 and was killed in action the following month. His father was resident caretaker at the Territorial Offices in Market Road.
William was born in Holloway, Middlesex in 1886, the eldest son of William Marrable and Alice Rachael Marrable (nee Pratt). His parents had married at St. Andrew’s Church in Islington, Middlesex on 15th October the previous year. At the time William’s father was a 26 year-old musician of 50 Queen;s Army Buildings who had been born in Walworth. His mother, a year younger, and Chelmsford-born, also lived there. WIlliam’s father was to eventually serve in the army for 33 years.
William’s five siblings included Alice Elizabeth Marrable (born in 1888), twins Mary Evelyn Marrable (born 1890) and Frederick George Marrable (1890-1962), Annie Louisa Marrable (born in 1893) and Victor Charles Marrable (1896-1983). The elder two had been born in London, the remainder were born in Warley. By 1911 one of them had died.
The 1891 census found four year-old William living with his parents and three siblings at Cemetery Road, South Weald. William’s father was a musician with the 3rd Battalion of the Essex Regiment. Sister Mary was to die before the end of 1891. Ten years later the family were living at Warley Military Barracks. William’s father was a drummer in the infantry.
In 1911 the census recorded William’s mother and siblings Annie and Victor living in the married quarters at Warley Barracks. William’s father was also resident there, where he was a Private in the Essex Regiment. Meanwhile 24 year-old William was working as a potman in a public house at 637 Holloway Road in London.
At the time he enlisted at Warley William was living in Chelmsford. He served with the 2nd Essex Regiment and landed in France on 27th August 1914.
On 16th October 1914 the Essex County Chronicle included the following report:
“Writing under difficulties – Scraps of paper for letters – Chelmsford Pompadour overcomes difficulties – An illustration of the lack of writing materials for our soldiers at the front, and of the difficulties of sending letters home is afforded by a letter from W. Marrable, of the 2nd Essex Regiment, to his mother, Mrs. Marrable, whose husband in the respected caretaker of the Territorial Offices at Chelmsford. The envelope used is one that was posted from Walthamstow on September 14 to A E Houchin, of the same Regiment, and Marrable merely obliterated the old name and address and used the back of the envelope for his address! The letter itself is written on two pieces of oddly shaped packing paper, which he had evidently picked up from a rubbish heap. In his letter the Pompadour, who was formerly employed at the Hoffmann Works, and was called up with the Reserves says: -
‘I received your letters quite safe, and was pleased to hear from you, You say that if I want anything sent out you will send it. I ask of you to send me some woodbines, fag-papers, and some light shag, a piece of soap, and some writing paper and envelopes. I would have written to you before, only I had no writing paper. I am getting on all right at present, but it’s a bit hot around us. I can’t tell you anything about the war, as I am not allowed to. These letters are looked at. I have not seen Fred (a brother in the RAMC) or Lester (a brother-in-law in the Flying Corps) out here, as I am at the front. Now I have told you all I can. Nobody knows what it is like to be here until they have had a taste of it. I hope you are quite well at home. Remember me to all.’”
William was killed in action on 7th May 1915 at St. Jean while serving as Private 7468 in the 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment. He was aged 28.
His death was reported in the Essex County Chronicle of 4th June 1915:
“Mr. and Mrs. W. Marrable, the caretakers of the Essex County Territorial Offices at Chelmsford, have received notice from the War Office that their eldest son, Pt. W. H. Marrable, of the 2nd Essex Regt., was killed in action at St. Jean, France, on May 7. The deceased went to the Front with his regiment, and after being invalided home with an injured knee, returned to the fighting line in April. But for the war he would have completed his army course. Mr. Marrable has another son at the front with the R.A.M.C. and a son-in-law in the Royal Flying Corps.”
MARRABLE, WILLIAM HENRY,
Private, 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment
The day’s Essex Weekly News carried a similar report:
“Pte. W. H. Marrable, 2nd Essex, who was killed in action at St. Jean, France, on May 7, was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Marrable, caretakers of the Essex County Territorial Association offices, Chelmsford. The deceased went to the Front with his regiment, and after being invalided home with an injured knee returned to the fighting line in April. But for the war he would have completed his Army course. Mr. Marrable has another son at the Front with the R.A.M.C. and a son-in-law in the Royal Flying Corps.”
William has no known grave is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, and on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford. His name is next to that of Henry Minns, also commemorated at Chelmsford.
He was entitled to the Victory, British War and 1914 Star medals.
William’s brother Frederick was awarded the Military Medal during his wartime service with the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The 1918 register of electors listed William’s parents still resident at the Territorial Offices (Drill Hall) in Market Road.
William’s father died in 1930, aged 69; his mother died in 1944, aged 86.