William Henry LINNELL was born on 23 February 1880 and his birth was registered in Q2, 1880 in Rugby. He was christened on 5 May 1880 at Holy Trinity church, Rugby. He was the son of William Henry Linnell (senior), who was born in about 1850 in Rugby, and Emily Mary, née Moulds, Linnell, who was born in about 1853 in Exeter, Devon. Their marriage was registered in Q3, 1877, in Nuneaton.
In 1891, the family were living at 1 Railway Terrace and William’s father was a builder. William Henry (junior) was 11 and had one older and two younger sisters. They also had a servant.
William attended Lawrence Sheriff School until 1894, and then entered Town House, at Rugby School until 1896.
In 1896, Henry (senior) was a Parish clerk to St. Andrew’s and the family were still living at 1 Railway Terrace, but in 1901, the family had ‘expanded’ to live in both 1 & 2 Railway Terrace. William (senior) was a ‘Builder and Contractor’ and William (junior) was working as a ‘Builder’s Manager’, with his father’s firm.
His father’s firm would become one of the larger of Rugby’s building companies, and his father also became a member of the town council and chairman of Rugby UDC from 1907 – 1909.
A photograph (left), said to be of a younger William Henry Linnell (junior) was posted on-line.
William (junior) married Margaret Elizabeth née Childs, who was born in Rugby on 30 August 1882. This was at some date after the third calling of banns on 21 May 1905 – they were both from the Parish of St. Andrew’s, Rugby. The marriage was registered in Q2, 1905 in Rugby.
Between 1906 and 1917, William Henry (junior) and Margaret had six children – one of whom died soon after her birth. Their births were registered as follows: Richard Henry, Q4, 1906 [b. 28 October 1906, d. May 1995, Northampton]; John Maxwell, Q1, 1910 [b. 9 January 1910 – d. 24 April 2009 in Canada]; Margaret B M, Q3, 1911 whose death was registered in Q4, 1911; Derek Childs, Q1, 1913 [b. 16 Dec 1912 – d. 24 March 1976, Midhurst, West Sussex]; Nancy Elizabeth, Q4, 1914 [b. 25 Aug 1914 – d. 12 February 2001, Hobart, Tasmania; and Pamela Marguerite ‘Peggy’, Q3, 1917 [d. 23 May 1989, New Norfolk, Tasmania].
In early 1911 William’s mother died and on the night of the 1911 census, his widowed father was visiting his married daughter, Amy Boot, William’s sister, in Llandudno cum Eglwys-Rhos, Wales. William (senior) lived until late 1928 when he died in Rugby, aged 78.
There is no obvious census return for William (junior) or his wife in 1911. Were they on holiday? Their second son, John ‘Max’, now 14 months old, was staying with his maternal grandmother, Susan Wilson at 8 Pennington Street, Rugby. Perhaps they went abroad and he was considered too young.
In 1912, one of the William Henry Linnells was listed at 7 Whitehall Road, Rugby. In October 1916, William Henry (junior) was still working with his father and was mentioned in an article in the Rugby Advertiser. In the 1916 William Henry Linnell was listed at 41 Clifton Road, Rugby, which would be William (junior’s) widow’s address after the war.
RUGBY FIRM COMMENDED.
Mr W H Linnell appeared in support of a claim for the exemption of Horace Walter Gilbert (23, single), electrician and wireman, 56 New Street, New Bilton. – He pointed out that the man had only been passed for “Labour at home.” Before the war they employed about 85 men, and now there were only about 20. This was the only man left in the electrical department, which would have to be closed down if he went. – The Military had appealed against the temporary exemption granted to Mr Linnell, jun, and the Tribunal was informed that he was going into the Army in the following week. – The Chairman: I take it you agree to the Military appeal being upheld? – Mr Linnell: That it so. – The Chairman: We will give this man to January 1st, as the other has gone. They have done very well, I think.
Unfortunately no Service Record exists for William, but there is information in the Obituary published in the ‘Memorials to Rugbeians’, which is quoted in full below. It seems that after joining up, in Rugby, in later October 1916, he was initially a private in the Motor Transport. He was transferred to ‘The Buffs’ (the Royal East Kent Regiment), and then upon his application, to the Royal Engineers. After training at Chatham, he was sent to France in September, 1917, and although in the Royal Engineers, he was then attached to and served as a Private No:87659, in the 11th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers) in the King’s (Liverpool Regiment). He may perhaps have been among the men of the R.E.s who were attached to the Battalion to give instruction in R.E. work, however, it seems that he was re-numbered when joining the King Liverpool Regiment.
The 11th Battalion had been formed in Seaforth, Liverpool in August 1914 as part of the First New Army (K1), and joined the Army Troops in the 14th Division and became a Pioneer Battalion on 11 January 1915 and on 30 May 1915 mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne, where they were engaged in various actions on the Western Front.
William would probably not have joined them until he went to France in September 1917, some time after he joined up and after the various training. His exact locations cannot be established.
During 1917, the 11th Battalion was in action during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the First and Third Battle of the Scarpe, the Battle of Langemark, and the First and Second Battles of Passchendaele.
In 1918 the 11th Battalion had returned to the Somme, and William would have continued to be involved in the routine engineering of trench warfare, indeed it seems that he had been able to devise a new system of trench construction and in recognition of his work he had been recommended for a commission. 1918 started ‘quietly’ and the 11th had suffered no casualties in March prior to 21 March 1918.
However, whilst an attack by the Germans was anticipated, when launched on 21 March 1918, it was a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.
This action starting on 21 March 1918 was known by the Allies as the Battle of St Quentin. During the first three days, when the 11th Battalion was at Clastres, significant numbers of ‘other ranks’ of the Battalion were killed and wounded. On 21 March, 65 Other Ranks [ORs] had been wounded; on 22 March, 5 ORs were wounded, and on 23 March, 44 ORs were wounded.
It seems that William was one of those seriously wounded on the first day, when he was in action near La Fère, some ten miles away from Clastres, and indeed even further from St. Quentin which was also mentioned as his location in one of the news articles below.
He would have been evacuated to a Battalion Aid Post, ‘Field Ambulance’ or Advanced Dressing Station, then back to a Casualty Clearing Station, before being transported back to one of the Base Hospitals – in William’s case, the No. 9 General Hospital, Rouen – some 200 kms. behind the lines. It was reported that William ‘Died of Wounds’ on 8 April 1918 – this was confirmed in his obituary – he was 38 years old.
Overall losses during Operation Michael were so severe that by 27 April 1918 the Division had suffered such severe casualties that it was reduced to cadre at Molingham and then moved back to England.
On 13 April a report in the War Notes of the Rugby Advertiser noted,
With deep regret we have to report the death (from wounds) of Mr. W H Linnell, junior partner of the firm of Linnll & Son, contractors, and only son of Councillor W H Linnell. He was attached to the 11th Pioneer Battalion of the King’s Liverpool regiment, and was wounded on 21st March in the neighbourhood of St. Quentin. He leaves a wife and five children.
The next week, a report in the Rugby Advertiser noted,
‘A BELATED COMMISSION. –
A letter found in the possession of Sapper W H Linnell, jun, Pioneer Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment, a partner in the firm of Messrs Linnell, Rugby, whose death from wounds received in action was recorded last week, has been forwarded to his [?father] by the matron of the hospital. This was evidently [?only] shortly before he was wounded, and that he [?had] on the previous day had been informed [?by his] Colonel that he was recommending him for a commission as his work had been so very satisfactory. Mr. Linnell, who was an Old Laurentian and Old Rugbian, [?was,] until he joined the Colours, mainly responsible for management of the business. He was vice-chairman of the Rugby Master Builders’ Association and [?was also a member] of the Rugby Building Society.’
During the First World War, camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen. Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war. They included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross and one labour hospital, and a convalescent depot.
After William died, like the great majority of those who died in the various Rouen Hospitals, his body was taken to the Rouen city cemetery of St. Sever. He was buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension in grave reference: P. IX. C. 3B.
St. Sever Cemetery and St. Sever Cemetery Extension are located within a large communal cemetery situated on the eastern edge of the southern Rouen suburbs of Le Grand Quevilly and Le Petit Quevilly. The Extension had been started in September 1916.
Later, when a permanent gravestone replaced his temporary cross, it included his family’s message, ‘Castissimus Homo Atque Integerrimus “Beati Mundo Corde”.’ – ‘A pure and upright man – “Blessed are the Peacemakers”.’
The Rugby Advertiser reporting on a subsequent Council Meeting wrote,
A Councillor’s Bereavement. The Chairman then alluded to the bereavement of their much-respected colleague who a few days previously received news that his son, Harry Linnell – as he was always known in the town – had died wounds received in action fighting for his country. In moving that a resolution recording their sympathy be inscribed on the minutes, he said he need hardly say how much they sympathised with Mr Linnell the loss of his good son, coming as it did at his time of life when he was getting on in years. It was indeed a most terrible blow. He whose death they were regretting was a young man of great promise, and there was no doubt he would have been of much service to his native town. He had great ability, a most kindly and charming disposition and great industry, and all they could do was to mourn with his widow and father in the great loss which had befallen them.
William Henry LINNELL is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque, which reads,
‘In Commemoration of our Brother Laurentians who Fell in The Great War, 1914-1918, Orando Laborando.’
He was also remembered in one of the Rugby School Memorial Volumes, which also includes a photograph of him in uniform and noted …
SAPPER W. H. LINNELL, ROYAL ENGINEERS
William Henry Linnell was the only son of William Henry Linnell of the firm of Linnell and Son, Builders and Contractors, Rugby, and Emily Mary his wife.
He entered the School in 1894 and left in 1896. He then joined his father’s firm, and was Managing Director at the outbreak of the War.
He volunteered for service and joined as a private in the Motor Transport in October, 1916. He was transferred to the Buffs, and, upon his application, to the Royal Engineers. After being trained at Chatham, he was sent to France in September, 1917, and was attached to the 11th (Service) Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment).
He was seriously wounded in action near La Fère, on March 21st and died of his wounds at No. 9 General Hospital, Rouen, on April 8th, Age 38.
Shortly before he was wounded, he received notification that he was to be recommended for a Commission in the Royal Engineers, in recognition of his work in planning a new system of trench construction.
He married in 1905, Margaret, daughter of John Childs, and left five children, three sons and two daughters.
His Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
His ‘widow & grantee, Margaret E’ received his monies owing of £11-0-7d on 1 August 1918, and his War Gratuity of £6 on 20 November 1919.
Having been helping run the family building business, he was subject to Probate which took place on 26 June 1918. He was described as a ‘‘Sapper’, His Majesty’s Army’ – which although he had been attached to a ‘Pioneer’ Battalion, was the correct rank for a soldier in the Royal Engineers. Probate at the London Registry was granted to his widow, Margaret Elizabeth Linnell, with his effects valued at £2539-16-0d. His widow was living at 41 Clifton Road Rugby. She died in 1953 in Bournemouth, Hampshire.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on William Henry LINNELL 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 RFHG, January and July 2018.
 Kelly, Directory of Warwickshire, 1896.
 Most of the more detailed dates have been obtained from Jennifer Maltman’s tree on www.ancestry.co.uk. Various family photographs can also be seen there. She is a descendant of William Henry’s youngest child, Pamela Marguerite ‘Peggy’ Linnell, who married Peter Maltman (b.1907 – d.1982). She now lives in Hobart, Tasmania.
 Kelly, Directory of Warwickshire, 1912.
 https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/14th-oct-1916-horses-for-the-army/ – also in Rugby Advertiser, 14 October 1916.
 Kelly, Directory of Warwickshire, 1916.
 Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War, Volume VI.
 Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919.
 Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War, Volume VI.
 Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 13 April 1918.
 Of which his father was Treasurer in 1915 – see: Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 3 July 1915.
 Rugby Advertiser, 20 April 1918, and https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/04/21/20th-apr-1918-low-flying-aeroplanes/. Some words could not be transcribed from the poor original, likely words have been suggested.
 Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 20 April 1918.
 Information from https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/lawrence-sheriff-school-plaques.
 Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War, Volume VI.