William Arthur Lissamer was born in 1893, and his birth was registered in the third quarter of 1893 in Rugby. He was the son of Thomas and Emily Lissamer.
In 1901, the family were living at 36 Winfield Street, Rugby. William’s father, Thomas, was a railway signalman, and William’s elder brother was 14 and already at work. William also had an elder sister Emily and a twin brother, Albert Edward.
In 1911, William, now 18, and was a shop assistant at the Co-op, single and living at home, now at 105 Claremont Road, Rugby. His father was now a ‘railway, brakesman’ with the London and North Western Railway. His sister, and his brother, now a ‘clerk, engineers’, presumably at BTH, were also still at home. It seems that William also later went to work at BTH, in Rugby. Indeed three Lissamers from BTH served in WWI: Lissamer A E (William’s brother); Lissamer A J (not traced); and Lissamer W A. Only William A Lissamer lost his life and is listed on the BTH War Memorial.
As was the case for a number of local men, including Walter Davis (see Rugby Remembers – 17 October 1915), William joined up in the 5th (Service) Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox. and Bucks.). He became Private, No:10750.
With the number 10750, it is likely that William joined up on or before 2 September 1914, on which date Smith, No.11874 was ‘attested’ in Rugby. The ‘UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919’ confirmed that William enlisted at Rugby. The approximate date is further confirmed by a list of those who had joined up from the BTH workforce between 27 August up to and including 2 September, entitled ‘Rugby’s Magnificent Response’ and published in the Rugby Advertiser dated 5 September 1914.
In summary, the 5th Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox. and Bucks.) was formed at Oxford in August 1914 as part of First New Army [K1] of Kitchener’s new army. The surviving Service Records for the ‘Ox. and Bucks.’ suggest that there was a rapid response to the recruitment drive. They soon moved to Aldershot where they were placed under the orders of the 42nd Brigade in the 14th (Light) Division and then moved to Cranleigh, Guildford. In February 1915, they moved to Salamanca Barracks, Aldershot.
They landed in Boulogne on 21 May 1915, and William’s ‘Medal Card’ shows that he went into the French Theatre of War on 20 May 1915, so he would have been with the main battalion landing, after which they were engaged in various actions on the Western Front. These would have included the action at Bellewaarde Farm on 25 September 1915 (see: Rugby Remembers for that date), during which the Battalion had very heavy losses, after which it was withdrawn to regroup and retrain, as mentioned in the Battalion Diary.
The Battalion returned to a ‘Camp near Poperinge’ by 1 October 1915, ‘… 46 other ranks were killed, six died of wounds, 249 were wounded and 136 were missing’. Two days later a draft of 200 NCOs and men, a ‘… very good looking lot of men’ arrived from 9th Bn. to provide replacements.
However, less than two weeks later they were in the trenches, as extracts from the Battalion Diary indicated, and in 1916, the Battalion was in action during the Battle of the Somme, at the Battle of Delville Wood, from 15 July to 3 September 1916; and the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, from 15 to 22 September 1916.
It would seem therefore that William was probably killed during the start of the latter action. The Regimental Diary provided a summary of the operation orders issued from 14 September for the 42nd Brigade in the 14th Division.
What the Battalion went through must be remembered:
‘On the 14th all day preparations for the operations, equipping and marching to the rendezvous, with at the most four hours’ sleep. On the 15th advancing some 2½ miles over heavily shelled ground, fighting, and digging in’.
The ‘Objective of 4th Army’ ….
‘… to attack enemy’s defences between Morval and Martinpuich, with object of seizing Morval, Lesboeufs, Guedecourt, and Flers, and thus breaking through enemy’s system of defence. (The capture of … Guedecourt to the 14th Division; and Flers and beyond to the 41st Division and New Zealand Division). … 42nd Infantry Brigade, the remainder, … and the final objective being allotted to 9th K.R.R.C. and 5th Oxford and Bucks.
‘At zero hour (6.20 a.m.) the Battalion moved off in a N.N.E. direction. Before reaching Delville Wood the battalion had to split to avoid several batteries of field guns, and joined up again when the wood was reached. Just inside the wood the leading man of A Company was shot dead by a German who had previously surrendered. The German was shot.
‘The Battalion in the same formation, almost without a halt, continued its march up to the Switch Line [see map above] between about T.1.c.25 and T.l.d.13, … The Battalion extended and continued its advance, with Colonel Webbin the centre of the second line still directing, until Gap Trench was passed between about T.1.a.43 and T.l.b.51, and a line about 300 yards short of Bulls Road, N.31.b.50 to N.32.c.65, was reached about 9.10a.m., when the Battalion halted. … At about 3 a.m. (16th instant) we were relieved by the 43rd Brigade, and went to Montauban. At the time when the Battalion was relieved it had destroyed in Bulls Road, one mitrailleuse, and had control of eight 7.7 mm. guns in the same place.
‘I mention these points to show how the 14th Division became isolated, and I may add that, in spite of its isolation, it succeeded in holding on to all the ground gained. It received special congratulations because it went farther than any other Division; it cleared the north east corner of Delville Wood which had been reoccupied by Germans while we were in rest; and, by capturing Switch and Gap Trenches, opened the way for the attack which took place ten days later. …
‘Night of 15th/16th no rest possible, and on relief a march back of about 3½ miles over bad ground. On 16th could not settle down until 9 a.m., and turned out between 3 and 4 p.m.’ … Then came the counting of the casualties, which included Colonel Webb, Captain Maude, 2nd Lieuts. Atkins, Beaver, Brooks and Turner wounded; other ranks, about 30 killed and 120 wounded.
The remainder of 1916 was uneventful for us, as we did nothing beyond holding quiet trenches in front of Arras, furnishing working parties, training, etc., most of the time being spent at Dainville, Agny, Gouy-en-Artois, Dernier, Sars-le-Bois, and Arras.
Sadly it was not ‘uneventful’ for William. He was ‘Killed in Action’ on 15 September 1916. He was 23 years old. Normally it is virtually impossible to know where and when a soldier was killed. However, in William’s case, his body was recovered long after the battle, during the concentration of cemeteries, individual graves and recovered bodies. The ‘Burial Return’ (below) showed that he was found – he was probably never buried as he still had his equipment – at map reference: 57c. T.1. b.2.2., (near Gap Trench – see map above) which was probably where he was killed.
His body was recovered, and the records were dated 1925, although he may have been found earlier. He was originally ‘unknown’, but was later identified by: ‘Khaki, boots and titles (in pocket)’. There were also named and numbered identifiable effects’ which were ‘forwarded to base’: ‘Piece of W/proof ‘FF’ sheet ‘W. Lissamer’, 10150(?), piece of Equipt. ‘4/13’’.
He was reburied in Grave Reference: III. C. 5., in the Cerisy-Gailly Military Cemetery at map reference: 62d. Q.2. d.5.3., some 20 miles to the South-East of where he fell. His gravestone was inscribed, ‘He died that others may live’, and his next of kin, in 1925, was recorded as his mother Mrs. Emily Lissamer, of 105 Claremont Road, Rugby. Possibly his father was unwell, as he died soon afterwards in 1927.
Cerisy is a village 10 kilometres south-west of Albert. Gailly was the site of the 39th and 13th Casualty Clearing Stations during the early part of 1917, and of the 41st Stationary Hospital from May 1917 to March 1918. … Cerisy-Gailly Military Cemetery (originally called the New French Military Cemetery) was begun in February 1917 and used by medical units until March 1918. … The cemetery was increased after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields of the Somme and several smaller cemeteries – however, the dates and backgrounds of these suggest that William was brought in as an individual from the Somme battlefield and as shown above, the map reference where he was found suggested that his body was found close to where his battalion had been in action – on the Gap Trench.
William was awarded the British and Victory Medals and the 1915 Star. He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and the BTH War Memorial and list of those who served.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
 Rugby Advertiser, 5 September 1914.