William George Warner was brought up in Springfield and became a professional soldier, joining the army by 1911. He landed in France three weeks after the outbreak of war in August 1914. He was killed in action near Ypres in May 1915. His home was in Arbour Lane.
was the first child of Edward George Warner and Ellen Warner (nee Boatman) and was born in Springfield on 6th June 1888. He was baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 12th August 1888. His father had been born in Springfield in 1858 and his mother in High Easter or Good Easter in 1863.
William’s parents had married on 14th April 1888 at All Saints’ Church in Springfield. At the time William’s father was aged 29, lived in Springfield and was a carriage painter. William’s mother was aged 24 and also lived in Springfield.
William’s four siblings were Maud Ellen Warner (born on 26th August 1889 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 20th October 1889), Lilian Warner (born on 17th September 1894 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 7th October 1894), Harry Warner (born on 22nd November 1896), and Frederick Warner (born in 1899). All the children were Springfield-born.
When the 1891 census took place two year-old William was recorded living with his parents and 18 month-old sister at Arbour Lane, Springfield. His father was employed as a coach painter. Ten years later the next census listed 12 year-old William living in Arbour Lane, Springfield with his parents and four siblings. His father was a carriage painter.
The 1908-09, register of electors and recorded William’s father 26 Arbour Lane. His father was listed still in Arbour Lane in the 1911 census, accompanied by his wife, his widowed father, and five children. His 49 year-old father was a bricklayer, while his brother Charles was a carman for a removers and sister Emily was a general domestic servant. William’s 74 year-old widowed grandfather, John Bullen, was a cowman on a farm.
The 1911 census recorded 24 year-old William, by then serving as a Private soldier in the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment then stationed thousands of miles away at Quetta, Baluchistan in India.
William later served in 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment and landed in France on 27th August 1914.
He was killed in action on 13th May 1915 near Ypres while serving as Private 8294. Two other men from the 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment and commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford died the same day – Frederick James Ruffell and John Couzens.
A post-war history of the battalion recorded the day’s events:
“The Germans had made some progress on the right between May 5th and 13th, and on the last-named day they delivered a particularly heavy attack upon the Ypres Salient, The line had to he readjusted some distance in the rear, though in front of Wieltje the 4th Division held firm and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy, retaking such portions of the line as the Germans had temporarily captured.
Shelltrap Farm lies between the Poelcappelle and Langemarck roads at the point where they begin to run together ere entering Ypres as one main thoroughfare. In the rear to the right is Wieltje and had the troops given way in this quarter there was only the Yser Canal, in line with Ypres, to bar the enemy's advance. Fortunately, though this vital point in the line of the 4th Division was obstinately contested all day long, it remained in British hands at the end, and the left flank of the Salient was safe- Now for the part played by the 2nd Essex.
At 4 a.m., on a day of cold north winds and dismal rain, the Germans started battering the front line from Shelltrap Farm southwards, and at 5,30 dismounted cavalry were noticed retiring on the right, where the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions had suffered terribly.
There was a lull in the bombardment for a quarter of an hour and then it commenced again. Shelltrap, or Mousetrap Farm was held by an infantry company and, situated upon a slight elevation, was easily visible from Wieltje. It was a substantial structure, surrounded by a moat, and its retention was important because it afforded excellent observation to the north, the green fields far into the distance being dotted with the red roofs of farmhouses.
Just before 7 a.m. a body of men was seen retiring from the ridge about 100 yards south— evidence that the Farm itself had probably fallen to the enemy. Lt.-Col. L. 0. W. Jones, observing this, on his own initiative ordered Lieut. J. V. Atkinson, commanding " C" Company, to push on to the Farm and reinforce it or, if it were in German hands, to retake it, " A " Company taking the place of " C " Company in the support trench.
Five minutes later (7.5 a.m.) the latter Company moved off, but when the leading sections reached the ridge the Farm was found to be held by the Germans. The Company attacked in good order under heavy artillery and rifle fire, but were held up for a short time by a moat round the farm buildings into which several men fell. A machine gun was ably handled by Sergeant Couzens and, aided by its fire, the Company drove the enemy out, Lieut. Atkinson being wounded. Thus Shelltrap Farm was regained.
WARNER, WILLIAM GEORGE,
Private, 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment (formerly of the 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment)
At 8.20 a.m. G.O.C. 11th Brigade, to which the Essex had been temporarily attached, issued the following order to the Essex: "Retake at once front line from Shelltrap Farm to Fortuin-Wieltje road, a frontage of 1,000 yards." Units of 1st Cavalry Division had been driven in.
The farmhouse being already in the hands of “C” Company, the three remaining Companies were disposed for the counter-attack as follows: “A” Company (Lieut. Irwin) to retake trenches between Fortuin-Wieltje and St. Julien-Wieltje roads, with its left on road junction 500 yards north-east of the point where they joined, "B“ Company (Captain Pechel!) were ordered to prolong the line to the left with their right on the road junction just mentioned.
“D" Company (Lieut. Smith-Masters) had to sideslip up the sup >ort trench to the position vacated by "B" Company, and follow them \ip as reserve, the intention being that when "B" and "A" Companies had retaken the trenches "D" should turn half-left and secure the remainder of the trench to the left of "B" Company, having the assistance of that Company on the right and of "C" Company on the left at Shelltrap Farm.
Within ten minutes (8.30 a.m.) "A" and " B " Companies moved forward, the attack being splendidly carried out in quick time and marked by great dash and determination. Subjected to shrapnel and high explosive shell-fire, they reached the ridge, when heavy machine gun fire swept them, but they never faltered. Within 300 yards of the objective the men charged at the double. When they arrived the trench was found to be almost, obliterated by shell-fire and only capable of use in places.
"B" Company included a large draft, newly arrived, and they suffered considerable casualties through bunching. Whilst leading his men Captain Pechell went down with a piece of high explosive shell through the arm, and acting C.S.M. Cumbers was killed by a similar missile.
Later in the day. when the company commander crawled back, he had the satisfaction of hearing that Lieut. N. B. Bavin and 60 men of the Company had accomplished their mission.
The counter-attack of the Essex was carried out in full view of the London Rifle Brigade, who stood up in their trenches to cheer as the Pompadours swept forward. Touch was obtained with the East Lancashires holding the ridge on the left of "B" Company, and "D" Company, coming up in support of their comrades, dug-in at their rear, making expert use of numerous shell holes.
In less than two hours from the delivery of the attack the Battalion had settled down and was busily engaged in clearing the portions which had been blocked.
The battalion was relieved by the King's Own on the right and the reserve company of the East Lancashires at Shelltrap Farm and then withdrew to its original position, the divisional support trench, where companies and sections were reorganised after having been mixed up in the attack. Arriving wet and cold the men found their packs and great coats ransacked and many articles taken.
The casualties were 37 killed, 84 wounded and 49 missing, a total of 180.”
The Essex County Chronicle of 28th May 1915 carried a pitifully short report on his death:
“Mr. Warner, of Arbour Lane, Springfield, has received notification that his son, Pt. Warner, 2nd Essex Regt., has been killed in action.”
William has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford and on the Springfield Parish Memorial at All Saints’ Church. William was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal.
The 1918 register of electors listed William’s father still at 26 Arbour Lane (later renumbered as 52). The property was demolished in the early 1960s.
William’s mother died in 1926, aged 64. His father died in 1934, aged 75.