William Harry PACKWOOD was born in 1897, in Rugby. His birth was registered in Q3, 1897, in Rugby and he was baptised, on 3 December 1897, at St Matthew’s, Rugby, when his father was a ‘Post Office Clerk’.
He was the son of Charles John Packwood, born in about 1859 [-1933] in Rugby, and Alice Ruth née Davies Packwood who was born in about 1862 [-34] in Shrewsbury. They were married on 17 January 1882 at St. Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury.
For the 1901 census, the family were living at 10 St. Matthew’s Street, Rugby. William Harry was aged three, then the second youngest child of nine siblings, all born in Rugby. His father was now a ‘Chief Clerk, Post Office’.
In 1911, the family were still in the same house, which had 12 rooms, which were probably needed as there were now two more children. William’s father was now a ‘Post Office Superintendant – Civil Service’. William was 13 years old and still at school. He would attend Lawrence Sheriff School.
It is uncertain exactly when William joined up, but a report in the Rugby Advertiser in December 1915, noted.
‘The third son (William Harry) of Mr Chas Packwood, of, Warwick Street, Rugby, has joined the 2nd Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry). Mr Packwood now has three sons serving with the Colours.’
This enabled the correct William Harry Packwood’s Medal Card to be located, which shows him initially as a Private in the Honourable Artillery Company (infantry), Number: 5777, and later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Territorial Force).
His Medal Card also gave two dates when he went to France: 3 October 1916 and 6 December 1917. The former is probably when he went with his HAC Battalion.
2nd Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company (Infantry) was raised at Finsbury on 2 September 1914. It moved to Belhus Park, going on in November to Blackheath, in February 1915 to the Tower of London, in August to Richmond Park, in November to Wimbledon, in January 1916 to Orpington, in July to Tadworth (Surrey), and it returned to the Tower in September 1916. On 3 October 1916, the Battalion landed at Le Havre and was placed under command of 22nd Brigade in the 7th Division. After William had left it later went to Italy.
William thus went to France with his Battalion on 3 October 1916 and by 12 October they were in trenches and being ‘mortared’. Later in December they were in trenches at Beaumont Hamel where some trenches were ‘obliterated’. During the earlier part of 1917 the Battalion was much involved with training – however in April 1917 William was granted leave prior to training for a commission. A further news report in April 1917, gave information on his progress,
A SON OF MR C J PACKWOOD RECEIVES A COMMISSION.
W H Packwood, fourth son of Mr C J Packwood, of St Matthew’s Street, Rugby, has been granted a month’s leave. Since September he had been out in France with a trench mortar battery of the H.A.C, and has had varied experiences. On the recommendation of his Captain – although still under twenty years of age – he has been offered a Commission, and after his furlough will go into training for his new duties as an officer.
In October 1917, a further report advised,
‘Cadet W H Packwood, H.A.C (Infantry), son of Mr J C Packwood, has been given a commission and posted to the 6th Royal Warwicks.’
His Officer’s Military Service Record is held at The National Archives, but has not been consulted at present, as a sufficient outline of his military career is available from the local paper.
There were two 6th Battalions – 1st/6th and 2nd/6th – however as the 1st/6th were in Italy, it seems he must have been commissioned into the ‘2nd/6th Battalion (Territorial)’ of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR).
2nd/6th Battalion RWR was formed in Coventry in October 1914 as a second line Battalion. It became part of the 2nd Warwickshire Brigade, 2nd South Midland Division and then in August 1915 it was re-designated as part of the 182nd Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. The Battalion had landed in France on 21 May 1916, but William would have joined the Battalion later, going to France for a second time on 6 December 1917, and missing the disastrous attack at Fromelles in 1916 and the various actions of 1917..
The Battalion War Diary gives brief details of the Battalion’s activities throughout the war, but the following information has been abstracted for the period before William’s death.
During February 1918, the Battalion was much involved in improving defences and burying signal cables and the like. During the first week in March, the Battalion was in the front line near St. Quentin. They were then relieved and after a week’s training, returned to relieve the 2nd/8th Worcesters, west of Holnon in the Battle Zone. The Battalion then comprised 21 Officers and 700 Other Ranks.
On the night of 20/21 March, two companies raided the enemy trenches at Cepy Farm and took 12 [or 15] prisoners and a machine gun. The prisoners were from ‘… three different infantry divisions on a front usually held by one regiment, lending little doubt to the certainty that the offensive was imminent.’ They lost one killed and four wounded.
The anticipated attack by the Germans, Operation Michael, was launched on 21 March 1918, 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.
William and the 2nd/6th Battalion were bombarded on 21 March from 4.45am to 11.30am, and then over the next two days were subject to various attacks, and because of the overwhelming strength of the attacks, were then ordered to retire to preserve the line and were almost surrounded.
Thus commenced the Battle of St Quentin and the Actions at the Somme Crossings. The 61st (2nd South Midland) Division was holding the forward zone of defences in the area northwest of Saint Quentin in the area of Ham and lost many men as it fought a chaotic, but ultimately successful, withdrawal back over the Somme crossings over the next ten days.
In the initial clash, the South Midland Division faced three enemy Divisions and only began to retire on the afternoon of 22 March, when ordered to do so, in consequence of the enemy’s progress at other parts of the line.
From 21 to 26 March, even the ‘surplus’ 2nd/6th personnel were brought into action and a separate ‘diary’ was kept for them. Meanwhile, from 22 to 23 March, the Battalion withdrew westward, through Fayett, Attilly, Matigney, Vyennes, to Breuil and Billancourt. By 24 March, the Battalion was only about 140 strong and at Buverchy, where it occupied the west bank of the Canal du Nord.
The Battalion, or what remained of it, continued a fighting withdrawal from 25 March to 3 April towards the outskirts of Amiens. By the time the Battalion was relieved, after fighting back to Amiens in the First Battles of the Somme 1918, the Division had been involved in continuous action since August 1917 and was exhausted.
The Battalion casualties from 21 March to 5 April 1918 were some 16 Officers and 450 Other Ranks. The remnants of the exhausted Battalion – and the 61st Division – were transferred from the XVIII Corps on 10 April 1918. Lt. General Ivor Maxey wrote a message of congratulations to the 61st Division, which had ‘… established for itself a high reputation for its fighting qualities and its gallant spirit …’.
The Battalion were moved north to what had been a quieter part of the line near Bethune. They were entrained at Rue St Roch, Amiens and taken north to Berguette, and then on to Le Cornet Malo to join 153rd Brigade. However, rather than having some rest, the Battalion had to prepare immediately for a counter attack, as the Germans had just launched the second phase of their offensive on 9 April 1918. The Division became involved and many more casualties were incurred.
The actions until 12 April were reported in a separate appendix of the Battalion War Diary, but only the reports for ?10 and 11 and 12 April survive. A trench map with the War Diary shows the 2nd/6th Battalion was in positions just south of Merville. It concludes by stating that ‘The casualties of the Battalion between 10th and 14th April inclusive were 9 Officers and 133 Other Ranks’.
Another Rugby man in the 2nd/6th Battalion was killed on the 11 April (see Sidney George HALL) and at some stage on 12 April 1918, during this second major German attack, on this ‘quieter part of the line’, William Harry Packwood was ‘shot through the head’ and ‘killed in action’.
SECOND-LIEUT W H PACKWOOD. Second-Lieut W H Packwood, R.W.R, third son of Mr & Mrs C J Packwood, of St Matthew Street, Rugby, who, as we reported last week, was posted missing on April 14th, has been reported killed in action April 12th. A brother officer, writing to the bereaved parents, says: “He died with his face to the enemy, rallying the men during a counter-attack by the Germans. It may be a little comfort to you to know that he died instantly, shot through the head, and we managed to bury him and erect a little cross to his memory. His pleasant disposition and resolute courage will always in our minds and with you, whose loss must be so much keener, we grieve at his death.” The gallant young officer was 20 years of age, and was educated at the Lower School.
Sadly, the ‘… little cross to his memory …’ was lost and his body was never found again or else not identified. He is remembered on Panel 2 or 3 [Stone 2K] of the Ploegsteert Memorial which stands in the Berks Cemetery Extension, which is located 12.5 kms south of Ieper [Ypres].
The Ploegsteert Memorial commemorates more than 11,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in this sector during the First World War and have no known grave. The memorial serves the area from the line Caestre-Dranoutre-Warneton to the north, to Haverskerque-Estaires-Fournes to the south, including the towns of Hazebrouck, Merville, Bailleul and Armentieres, the Forest of Nieppe, and Ploegsteert Wood. The original intention had been to erect the memorial in Lille. Most of those commemorated by the memorial did not die in major offensives, such as those which took place around Ypres to the north, or Loos to the south. Most were killed in the course of the day-to-day trench warfare which characterised this part of the line, or in small scale set engagements, usually carried out in support of the major attacks taking place elsewhere.
William Harry PACKWOOD 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.’
His Medal Card and the Medal Roll showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
William’s parents appear to have left Rugby after the War. In the CWGC records, William is noted as the son of Charles John and Alice Ruth Packwood, of ‘Minsterley,’ 15, St. Ledgers Road., Bournemouth. By 1922, his father’s address on William’s Medal Card, was Cheapside, Langport, Somerset.
Four of the five Packwood sons were involved in the First World War and their progress was reported by the Rugby Advertiser, as it reproduced information from their letters home.
Charles William Packwood, the eldest son, joined the Rugby Howitzer Battery in September 1914; he was wounded in August 1916 and again in August 1917 when he had ‘… been wounded in the chest in two places during the recent fighting’. The second son, Walter Davies Packwood, volunteered for the Canadian contingent, and joined the Balcartier Camp at Quebec; in October 1914, he had arrived with the force at Plymouth, and was in training at Salisbury Plain. In March 1917, John Norman Packwood was joining up and entering the wireless department of the Royal Naval Reserve. Their cousin, Herbert M Packwood, who had worked at Willans and & Robinson, had also joined up in September 1914, probably also in the Rugby Howitzer Battery as he had a similar number and went to France on the same day as his cousin, Charles William Packwood.
These other three brothers and their cousin survived the war. The fifth brother, Noel, the youngest, was too young to enlist.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on William Harry PACKWOOD 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 2018.
 https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/4th-dec-1915-interesting-letter-from-an-old-murrayian/; and see also, Rugby Advertiser, 4 December 1915.
 https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/14th-apr-1917-baptist-local-preacher-killed/; and Rugby Advertiser, 14 April 1917.
 https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/27th-oct-1917-ladies-war-services/; and Rugby Advertiser, 27 October 1917.
 2/Lieutenant William Harry PACKWOOD, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, TNA file ref: WO 374/51812.
 Based on: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/316/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.
 WWI War Diaries, 1914-1920, 2/6 Bn., Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 61st Division,
 Murland, Jerry, Retreat and Rearguard Somme 1918, the Fifth Army Retreat, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-78159-267-0.
 Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 4 May 1918.
 Information from https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/lawrence-sheriff-school-plaques.
 Details are available from the author, or search https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/ for ‘Packwood’.