Swingler, William James. Died 30th Apr 1917

William James SWINGLER, was born in Welford, Northants on 5 November 1885, the son of James Samuel Swingler of Welford, Rugby, where he was born in about early 1852

In 1881, James Samuel seems to be either a ‘widower’ or ‘single’ (the record is confused!), when he was enumerated as an ‘innkeeper and carrier’, with his widowed sister as his housekeeper. In 1891, he was enumerated more specifically at the Crown Inn, High Street, Welford as a ‘publican and farmer’ with his ‘wife’, Sarah, who was born in about 1849 in Rothersthorpe, Northants, and their six year old son, William James Swingler.

There is no ‘obvious’ record of James Samuel Swingler’s marriage with Sarah, before 1891, nor is there any record of her death between 1881 and 1900, however James Samuel later [?re]-married on 12 June 1900, with his ‘second’ wife, Mary Ellen née Simons, who was born in Denbigh, North Wales.

In 1901 the family were still in Welford living at West End and James Samuel was now a ‘farmer’, with William as a ‘farmer’s son’. By 1911 William was 25 and recorded as a ‘farmer’s son labourer’, and there were three younger half-siblings.

William was attested at Welford on 19 November 1915 when he was 31, 5ft 8in tall, and now working as a postman. He had been medically examined on 17 November 1915 when he was aged ‘31 years and 14 days’. He seems to have been re-measured as 5ft 9¼ inches tall! He weighed 128lbs.   ‘Slight defects’ included ‘subject to dental treatment’ and ‘slight eczema feet’.

He then ‘enlisted’ in Northampton – when he was 32 – and was ‘mobilised’ on 18 March 1916, and posted on 19 March as Private, No.6653 in the 8th Battalion of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment. Many of the detailed dates for his life and military career are found in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour and particularly in his Service Record which survives.[1]

Assuming the 8th Battalion was the 1/8th Battalion, then from March 1916 to March 1917, the 1/8th Battalion was in 70th Brigade in the 8th Division in France, and then on 9 February 1916 it was transferred to 167th Brigade in 56th (London) Division.   If it were the 2/8th Battalion, its record was the same as 1/7th Battalion which was combined with the 1/8th by February 1916.[2]

William presumably had leave, and married Charlotte Maria Howe in Rugby on 11 November 1916 and their home was at 101 Grosvenor Road, Rugby. She then replaced his father as his next of kin.

William had his TAB[3] vaccinations on 23 March and 11 April 1916, and in ?January 1917 received ‘part upper and part lower dentures’ fitted at Tunbridge Wells.

He remained on Home Service until 7 March 1917 when he was posted to the British Expeditionary Force in France, embarking at Folkestone and disembarking at Boulogne on 8 March 1917.   He was transferred to the 16th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment on 26 March 1917, as No.205192.

The 16th (Service) Battalion (Public Schools) had been formed in London on 1 September 1914 by Lt-Col. J.J.Mackay. It moved to Kempton Park racecourse, going on in December to Warlingham. In July 1915 it moved to Clipstone Camp and came under command of 100th Brigade in 33rd Division and moved in August to Perham Down. On 17 November 1915 the Battalion landed at Boulogne and on 25 February 1916 left the Division and transferred to GHQ Troops. On 25 April 1916 the Battalion transferred to 86th Brigade in 29th Division.

So when William arrived the 16th Battalion would have been in the 86th Brigade in the 29th Division. Between 1 to 12 April, the Regimental Diary noted that the Battalion marched from Halloy-l-Pernois to Gezancourt; then back to Halloy, then to Sus St. Leger, then Bavincourt; Simencourt and arrived in Arras on 12 April, three days after the start of the Battle of Arras.

13 April    – 6am          – Battalion to original German first line trenches near Tilloy-lez-Mofflaines.

                – 8pm         – Battalion to original German third line trenches.

14 April   – 1pm         – Battalion to Orange Hill. Casualties, Other Ranks K.7. W.10.

                – 8pm         – Battalion moved to take over front line from 2nd Hants. Regt. in Monchy

15-18 April                – Battalion engaged in making new defences of Monchy.

     Casualties. Officers, K.1. W.1. others, K.7. W.59. M.3.

18-19 April                – Battalion is relieved …

Just five or so weeks after he had arrived in France, William’s Service Record showed that he was wounded on 16 April 1917. He was probably one of those 59 men who were wounded whilst engaged in ‘making new defences of Monchy’.

He was moved to the 87th Field Ambulance[4] and then to No.8 Casualty Clearing Station, which was based at Agnez-les-Duisans about 10 miles west of Arras, where he died of his wounds, aged 32, on 30 April 1917.[5]

William was buried in Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun, in Grave Ref: II. O. 23. His headstone confirms the ‘official’ date of death of 30 April 1917, however the schedules for any inscription appear to be missing.

Duisans is a village in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, about 9 kilometres west of Arras. The Cemetery takes its name from the village although it technically lies in the Commune of Etrun.

The area around Duisans was occupied by Commonwealth forces from March 1916, but it was not until February 1917 that the site of this cemetery was selected for the 8th Casualty Clearing Station. The first burials took place in March and from the beginning of April the cemetery grew very quickly, with most of the graves relating to the Battles of Arras in 1917, and the trench warfare that followed.[6]

William had served for 1 year and 44 days and on 22 May 1917 he was formally ‘Discharged in consequence of death from wounds received in action. The discharge of the above named man is hereby approved.’[7]

William was awarded the Victory and British medals. He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and a memorial notice was published in the Rugby Advertiser.[8]

After the war, his widow, Charlotte Maria Swingler, was recorded as living at 101 Grosvenor Road, Rugby.   It seems his medals had been ‘returned’ and his Medal Card indicates that they were re-issued in August 1922.

Charlotte received William’s outstanding pay of £3-0-1d on 22 September 1917, and his War Gratuity of £4-0-0d on 11 December 1919. She was also awarded a pension of 13 shillings and 9 pence per week from 12 November 1917.



– – – – – –


This article on William James SWINGLER was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, April 2017.

[1]       De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, 1914-1919, Volume 4, and British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920, from The National Archives (TNA), Kew, both available at www.ancestry.co.uk.

[2]       Based on data from: http://www.1914-1918.net/msex.htm.

[3]       A combined vaccine used to produce immunity against the diseases typhoid, paratyphoid A, and paratyphoid B; the “paratyphoid” components would later prove ineffective

[4]       87th (1st West Lancashire) Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps served with 29th Division.

[5]       One earlier grave registration report gives the date of his death as the next day, 1 May 1917.

[6]       From; http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/4300/DUISANS%20BRITISH%20CEMETERY,%20ETRUN

[7]       From William’s Service Record, British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920, from The National Archives (TNA), Kew, available at www.ancestry.co.uk.


[8]       Rugby Advertiser, 5 May 1917.

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