William Thomas Cleaver was born in late 1885 and baptised at St Andrews Church Rugby on 9th May 1886. His parents were Joseph and Fanny (nee Wright) who had married there on 4th Mar 1884. Joseph was a fireman/driver on the railway and the family lived at 23 East Street, Rugby.
In 1901 William was aged 15 and a billiard marker, but by 1911 he had joined his father working for L & NW railway as a railway servant.
He joined the 2nd/6th Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment, (Private no. 242260) in June 1916.
In April 1917 the Battalion was involved in the Second Battle of the Aisne, a Franco-British attempt to inflict a decisive defeat on the German armies in France. The objective of the attack was to capture the prominent 80-kilometre-long (50 mi), east–west ridge of the Chemin des Dames, 110 kilometres (68 mi) north-east of Paris, and then attack northwards to capture the city of Laon. When the French armies met the British advancing from the Arras front, the Germans would be pursued towards Belgium and the German frontier. The offensive met massed German machine-gun and artillery fire, which inflicted many casualties and repulsed the French infantry at many points. The French still achieved some substantial tactical successes and took c. 29,000 prisoners in their attacks on the Chemin des Dames and in Champagne but failed to achieve their strategic objective of a decisive defeat over the Germans.
On the 20th April, the 2nd/6th Bn RWR marched from Ugny to Savy.
War Diary of 2nd/6th RWR
SAVY 20.4.17 Battn marched to Savy and became reserve battn to 14th Inf Bde. 10. R. sent to Cooking(?) Class. CO & Company commanders reconnorted line.
21.4.17 Battn rested and CO and Company commanders visited line again.
22.4.17 Battn relieved 2nd Battn Manchester Regt taking over the line from S27 central to S15. d.1.5 (62 B SW) – 184th Inf Bde on our left.
BROWN Line S2 Section
23.4.17 Everything normal during the day – enemy shelled back areas. Battn relieved of part of the line – now holding line from S.21.b.5.0 to S.15.d.1.5 – 2/7th R WAR R relieved battn
24.4.17 Battn relieved 2/8th Bn R.WAR.R in outpost line taking over from S6 central to S23. b 9.5 French Army on our right and 184 Inf Bde on our left
The Battalion continued like this until the middle of May when they moved on to Beauvois. No mention is made of casualties, but a report in The Rugby Advertiser on 5th May 1917 states:
Mr Joseph Cleaver, of 17 East Street, Rugby, has received a letter from a chaplain informing him of the death of his eldest so, Pte William Thomas Cleaver, of the Royal Warwicks, which took place in a field ambulance in France on April 24th as the result of severe wounds caused by a shell the previous day. Pte Cleaver, who was 31 years of age, joined up in June last. He was employed on the L. & N-W Railway at Rugby for several years.
William Thomas Cleaver was buried at Foreste Communal Cemetery, situated approximately 14 kilometres west of St. Quentin and approximately 9 kilometres north of Ham. This cemetery was used by the 92nd Field Ambulance in April 1917. The village fell into German hands in the summer of 1918.
The cemetery contains 117 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 22 of the burials are unidentified and special memorials are erected to 23 casualties buried by the Germans whose grave cannot be traced.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM