William Henry Groves ANGELL was born in Deptford, Kent, in late 1889. He was the second son of John Groves Beasley Angell, who was born in ‘Bow Road’, London City, in about 1862, and Mary, née Sullivan, Angell, who was born in Deptford, Kent and who was also born in about 1862.
In 1891, the family had just moved to live in Clump Meadow, Queen’s Road, Thames Ditton, Kent. William was one year old and had an elder brother, John, who was five, and an elder sister. He would later have another sister, Amy, and a much younger brother, Fred born in 1898. William’s father was a ‘moulder’. It seems that both William’s father, and his uncle, had moved to Queen’s Road, Thames Ditton, before the 1891 census, and both must have worked for the Willans Company, as both families moved to Rugby when the Willans Company expanded and moved there in 1897.
So before 1901 the family had moved to live at 43 Victoria Avenue, Bilton, Rugby, and then before 1911, William’s parents and the family had moved to 166 Lawford Road, New Bilton, Rugby. His father was still an Iron Moulder. His sister, Katherine, had married, Rugby born, Alfred Glenn, who was a Groom and they were also living with the family. William was not at home on census night, and has not been found elsewhere at present, unless he was the ‘core maker’ – a somewhat similar trade to that of his father – who was a boarder at 425 Shields Road, East Heaton, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
There are no surviving military Service Records for William. He joined up in Bristol, initially as a Sapper, No:2168, in the Royal Engineers. His Medal Card states that he went ‘overseas’ to France/Belgium on 6 June 1915. He was latterly a Sapper No: 494519 in the 477th South Midlands Field Company, Royal Engineers (R.E.s).
The 2/1st South Midland Field Company, R.E.s was formed in September 1914, and later moved independently to France as the renamed 477th Field Company, R.E.s, and joined 48th Division in June 1915. William would have gone to France with his Field Company.
A War Diary exists for their period in France/Belgium. They had entrained for Portsmouth on 6 June and crossed to Le Havre arriving on 7 June and then spent several months with Sections working on different projects in different areas and also training – including the use of pontoons and bridging.
As an example of their work, on 18 May 1916, 9.30am, they started to supervise the digging of trenches,
‘… 915 yds of trench in all & including [two] traverses, 1220 yds of digging. Trench dug 5ft wide at top & 3 ft at bottom, 3ft 6in deep = 14 sq ft. Strength of digging party 650 & 1 section of Sappers supervising approx 80 cu.ft per man. 19 May – 2pm – Digging complete.’
In November 1916, their Field Company typically had a strength of 10 officers and about 220 other ranks. They would have been working on a variety of construction projects, trenches and strong-points, supporting the 48th Division during the rest of 1916 and for most of 1917.
In May 1915, the Italians had entered the war on the Allied side, declaring war on Austria. Commonwealth forces were later transferred to the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918. 48th Division HQ received orders on 10 November 1917 for a move to Italy. Entrainment began on 21 November and all units had detrained around Legnano (Adige) by 1 December. The Division then moved north to the area allotted to XI Corps.
In March 1918, XIV Corps (the 7th, 23rd and 48th Divisions) relieved Italian troops on the front line between Asiago and Canove, the front being held by two Divisions, with one Division in reserve on the plain.
The 48th Division relieved 7th Division to hold the front line sector at the Montello between 1 and 16 March. It then moved west, to the Asiago sector. The front had been comparatively quiet until the Austrians attacked in force from Grappa to Canove in the Battle of Asiago (15-16 June 1918). The Division took part in the fighting on the Asiago Plateau. The Allied line was penetrated to a depth of about 1,000 metres on 15 June, but the lost ground was retaken the next day and the line re-established.
It is likely that William was wounded either just prior to, or during, the Battle of Asiago, and died of wounds during the day at one of the South Midlands Field Ambulances, which were attached to the 48th (South Midland) Division. Mount Cavalletto was the site of an Advanced Operating Station where urgent cases from the front were treated, as the journey from the mountains to the main hospitals on the plain was long and difficult.
William Henry Angell ‘died of wounds’ on 15 June 1918, and was buried in the nearby Cavalletto British Cemetery, in grave reference: Plot 1. Row E. Grave 11. His family later had the inscription ‘A Noble Sacrifice for his Country’s Honour’ added to his memorial stone. The contact for the inscription was ‘Mrs F R Angell, 714 Fishponds Road, Bristol’. This would appear to be William’s cousin, Florence R Angell, who had married in 1913 and whose husband died in 1918. She seems to have used her unmarried name for correspondence with the CWGC. She later re-married.
Cavalletto British Cemetery is one of five Commonwealth cemeteries on the Asiago Plateau containing burials relating to this period. It contains 100 First World War burials. It is 12 kilometres south of Asiago (in the province of Vicenza, Veneto region), … and 45 kilometres from Vicenza in the commune of Calven.
In October, the 7th and 23rd Divisions were sent to the Treviso area of the River Piave front. The 48th Division, which remained in the mountains as part of the Italian Sixth Army, later played an important part in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto (24 October-4 November 1918) in which the Austrians were finally defeated.
William Henry Angell was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and the 1914-1915 Star. He is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on William Henry ANGELL was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, March 2018.
 His brother John was mentioned in the Rugby Advertiser, on 5 May 1917. See Rugby Remembers. ‘2nd Lieut. J P Angell, R.F.C, eldest son of Mr and Mrs J Angell, 166 Lawford Road, has been awarded the French Military Medal for Distinguished Service while he was Sergt. Major, and has received congratulations from His Majesty the King. Mr Angell has two other sons serving with the Colours.’
 WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Engineers, 48th Division, TNA Ref: Piece 2751/3: 477 South Midland Field Company Royal Engineers (1915 Jun – 1917 Oct).