Hay, Douglas. Died 18th Mar 1918

Douglas was born in the July qtr. 1892 in Cranleigh in Surrey, and was christened in St Nicolas church in Cranleigh on 10th August 1892. In the parish register we find his parents are Alexander and Elizabeth Francis. Alexander’s occupation was a Bailiff and they were married in July qrt.1887 in Newport Pagnell RG.

In the 1891 census we find the family on a farm in Cranleigh with their first child, Colin. Douglas, aged 8, appears in the 1901 census in Towcester, Northants, when his mother is recorded as a widow, employed as a principal of a school. His father died on the 26th October 1896, when Douglas was four years old, and from the calendar of wills and administrations we can see that his mother Elizabeth received £406 14s. In the 1911 census he was living in Rugby at 92 Murray Road, with his mother and brother Colin. With his brother he was working as a winder at the B.T.H.

From his attestation papers we find that he had gone to Canada and served in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from 11th September 1914 till 10th September 1915 before joining the army on the 21st October 1915. He was attached to the 2nd company London Yeomanry. He was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps on 13th Aug 1917 then on the 19th Aug to the Tank Corps, He was posted to the training depot, and on the 26th Aug 1917 he was transferred to the 3rd battalion of the Yorkshire and Lancs regiment.

He was “Home” 21st October 1915 to the 9th May 1916 then B.E.F. 10 March 1916 till 18 August. Home 19th August till 30th October 1917. he was posted to the 2/5 Yorks & Lancs Regiment on the 1st November 1917. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 3rd January 1918, and he relinquished the promotion on the on the 4th February 1918 and was transferred to the 1/4 battalion Yorks & Lancs on 4th February 1918.

From his medical sheet we find he stood 5ft 9 inches tall he had a scar on his right thigh, blue eyes, fair hair, he weighed 12 stone and his chest was 39 inches with a 3 inch expansion.

The war diary states that the battalion was at the West hock Ridge. On the 12th the battalion carried out training in small parties, on the 13th the same as 12th, 1 ordinary rank wounded, on the 14th the same as 13th   but states the strength of the 49 officers and 1022 ordinary ranks on the 15th same as 14th. On the 17th it’s the same as 15th but 1 ordinary rank wounded. On the 18th they move to Judee sub section:

Battalion moved into the line relieving 1st/6th Duke of Wellingtons Regiment being relieved at West hock and Railway Dugouts by the 4th Battalion Duke of Wellingtons Regiment. Casualties Ordinary Ranks killed 2, 3 Wounded.

Reports for the next few days read:
Considerable number of enemy gas shells (BLUE) and the support line was frequently heavily shelled casualties thus:
19th    4 ordinary ranks killed
20th    2 ordinary ranks killed, 6 ordinary ranks wounded.                                                21st     8 ordinary ranks killed, 11 ordinary ranks wounded 

Private Douglas Hay 205383 1st/4th Bn. York’s and Lancaster Regt. was Killed in Action on 18th March 1918. Aged 26. Son of Mrs E. F. Hay and the late Alexander Hay.

He was buried at the Dunhallow A.D.S. cemetery in Ypres Belgium, V.A.8

Details on the headstone sheet indicate that Mrs Hay had moved to Awelfryn High St, Prestatyn.



Willard, Kenneth Hugh. Died 12th Oct 1917

Kenneth Hugh Willard was born 23rd July 1898 to Thomas Webb Willard and Tryphena (Renshaw) at Rugby, and was baptised at St Andrews Church, Rugby 7th August 1898. Kenneth was their second child, his elder brother, James Donald, was born at Leamington in 1897, followed by Cynthia Violet Mary born Birmingham, Colin Gerald born Wolston and Rupert Alan born Rugby and another brother, Frederick, was born in 1900 but died the same year aged 4 months.

On the 1901 census Kenneth and his brother James are with their mother at 26 Bilton Road Rugby, their father is not with them, their mother is given as Wife of Thomas Webb Willard. On the 1911 census the family are all together and are still living at 26 Bilton Road Rugby, and their father’s occupation is Architect and Surveyor to the District Council. With the family are also a Governess, Mary Elizabeth Schineider and a Servant, Florence May Smith. Kenneth attended Lawrence Sheriff School and entered Rugby School in 1912 and left there in 1914 and went into his father’s office and in September 1916 he went to R. M. C. Sandhurst. He became a 2nd Lieutenant and in May 1917 he was assigned to the York and Lancaster Regiment and went to Reading, Castle Bromwich and Shrewsbury for his training for the Royal Flying Corps as a Pilot. Kenneth went to France on 6th October 1917 and was attached to the 45th Squadron R. F. C.  On 12th October he was on patrol with others and they encountered German planes. He was then reported missing 12th October 1917.

An official list, published in Germany and republished in FLIGHT 1918, of British machines in which the Germans claim fell into their hands during October 1917, lists 37 single – seater  Sopwith machines, giving details of the pilots, one of which is Lieut. K.H. Willard wounded.

His parents were informed that he was missing but he had died later that day.
He is buried in Harlebeke New British Cemetery: Grave Reference XI. A. 18.

Rugby Advertiser 20th October 1917
Second Lieut Kenneth H. Willard, York and Lancaster Regiment, attached to the Royal Flying Corps, second son of Mr. T. W. Willard 26 Bilton Road, has been officially informed reported missing as from October 12th. In a letter to Mr. Willard a fellow officer writes “He went out with six other machines on the 12th inst. to do a patrol, the leader being one of our best pilots. About 15 to 20 enemy machines were encountered, and a general mix-up ensued, in which your son was seen handling his machine and fighting in a most efficient manner. Although our machines were greatly outnumbered, they put up a great fight, but on returning to the aerodrome it was discovered that your son was missing. No one saw him go down, and it is just possible that he may have been hit in the engine, and had to descend in the enemy lines.” Lieut. Willard was educated at Rugby School and Sandhurst, and visited his parents a fortnight ago on his final leave before proceeding to the front.

Rugby Advertiser 17th November 1917
WILLARD – In proud and loving memory of KENNETH HUGH WILLARD, 2nd Lieut., York and Lancaster Regiment attached to R. F. C. Killed in action on the Western Front on October 12th 1917; second son of T. W. And Tryphena Willard Rugby aged 19.

The Midland Daily Telegraph Saturday October 20th 1917
Mr T. W. Willard, Surveyor to Rugby District Council, Has been officially notified that his second son, Second Lieut. Kenneth H. Willard is missing. He visited his parents so recently a fortnight ago on his final leave before proceeding to the front. It appears he was fighting with six others when they encountered about 20 enemy machines Second Lieut. K. H. Willard was educated at Rugby School and Sandhurst.

Rugby Advertiser 15th October 1920
WILLARD – In proud and loving memory of Kenneth Hugh Willard, 2nd Lieut. York and Lancaster Regt. (attached Royal Flying Corp) killed in action on October 12th 1917. Buried in the Cemetery of Honour at Rumbeke Belgium.

Lieut Kenneth Hugh Willard’s name is recorded at Rugby School in the Memorial Chapel on the East Wall South Transept, on the Rugby Memorial Gates, in Volume VII of Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War with his photograph, also recorded in the Old Laurentians (former schoolboys of Lawrence Sheriff School) who died during the First World War.

Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War VII

Second Lieut. K. H. Willard entered School in 1912 and left 1914.   For about 18 months after School he was in his father’s offices and then went to R. M. C. Sandhurst September 1916.   On passing out of Sandhurst in May 1917, he was gazetted to the York and Lancaster Regiment, and then went to Reading, and afterwards Castle Bromwich and Shrewsbury for his training for the Royal Flying Corps.

He went to France on October 6th 1917 and was attached to 45th Squadron R. F. C. He was flying with a patrol Squadron of seven machines to Houthulst Forest when they met a Squadron of German machines, fifteen to twenty strong. Two of our machines, of which he was one, failed to return and it was afterwards learned he had died in the hospital at RUMBEKE on the same day, October 12th 1917, age 19.

His captain wrote “Although your son was with us a short time, he gave every proof of being an exceptionally capable and well trained Pilot, who would have given a splendid account of himself, Although our machines were greatly outnumbered, they put up a great fight, and your son was seen to be handling his machine and fighting in a most efficient manner. We all feel his loss very much.”

Lieut. Kenneth H. Willard was entitled to receive the Victory Medal and The British War Medal. His parents would have been sent The Memorial Death plaque after the war which commemorated all of the war dead.

When his mother died in 1964, and was buried in Clifton Road Cemetery Rugby, the inscription on her headstone reads “In proud and loving memory of KENNETH HUGH WILLARD 2ND Lt York & Lanc Regt R F C killed in action Oct 12th 1917 aged 19years. Buried at Rumbeke, Belgium. In loving memory of TRYPHENA WILLARD died March 20 1964 aged 89 years.   In loving memory of FREDERICK DOUGLAS MARK WILLARD died August 27 1900 aged 4 months. “Ere sin could blight or sorrow fade.” In loving memory of THOMAS WEBB WILLARD died December 28 1940 aged 78 years.





Cooper, John. Died 1st Jul 1916

Based on the CWGC record, John Cooper was born in about 1889 in St Phillip’s, Sheffield, the son of Alfred and Mary Ann Cooper, latterly of 33, Essex Street, Rugby. He served with the 8th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, with the rank of Lance-Sergeant, and the number 9178.

His Military Records survive, although not fully legible. He joined up as a professional soldier before WWI, as his attestation was on 6 May 1908. He was then 5ft 35/8in tall; weighed 129lbs; had a fresh complexion; brown eyes and dark brown hair. He was a ‘bricklayer labourer’, then aged 19 years and 3 months.

He enlisted at Rotherham and was also in Pontefract and York for a short while. He was in hospital at Aldershot for over a month with measles in May and June 1909.

He was then posted to British India, with the 1st Battalion, being in Karachi by January 1911. On 25 April 1911 he was promoted to Lance-Sargeant. He was also posted to Jullanpoore [possibly Jalalpur, Pakistan] in 1913; Poona in 1914 and whilst in India he was hospitalised on six occasions: with psoriasis (in Quetta), with ringworm (in Karachi), with malaria (twice in Karachi and once in Jullanpoore), and then tonsillitis (again in Jullanpoore).

On their return from service in British India, the regular 1st Battalion was formed up as part of the 83rd Brigade in the 28th Division. John was back at Alnwick Castle by 16 November 1914, his ‘Home Service’ being recorded from 19 November 1914 to 14 January 1915.

The 28th Division comprised regular battalions returning from overseas service and went to France in January 1915. John’s Medal Card and Military Records suggest that he went to France on 15 or 17 January 1915. The 1st Battalion saw action in the Second Battle of Ypres [22 April – 25 May 1915] and later that year in the Battle of Loos.

On 5 [or 7] May 1915, during 2nd Ypres, John received a gunshot wound to his right hand, possibly during the actions on the Frezenberg Ridge. He was returned to England on 10 May 1915, and was thus not himself involved with the 1st Battalion in the Battle of Loos and was thus not shipped with the Battalion to the Balkans as part of the British Salonika Army.

After time in hospital and at the depot, he was posted as L/Sergeant to the 3rd Battalion, in UK, on 16 July 1915. When war broke out in August 1914, the 3rd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment had been at Pontefract, as a depot and training unit. They moved on mobilisation to Cleadon and in January 1915 moved to Sunderland. In August 1915 they moved to Durham and later returned to Sunderland in February 1916 as part of the Tyne Garrison.[1]

During this period, and probably before the move to Durham, John was posted as L/Sergeant to the 8th Battalion on 5 August 1915. This would be his final posting and agrees with his CWGC record.

The 8th Battalion was formed in Pontefract in September 1914 and in October 1914 joined the 23rd Division as part of 70th Brigade. The same year it was at Frensham, Hants, in October, and at Aldershot in December. In 1915 it was at Shorncliffe, Kent in February, and back to Hampshire at Bordon at the end of May.

During this time John joined the Battalion and they landed at Boulogne by the 27 August 1915, and in October 1915 transferred with the 70th Brigade to the 8th Division. After the Battalion landed in Boulogne they went on to Western Front, concentrating as a Division at Tilques (a few kms north-west of St Omer). The other units in 70th Brigade were: 11th Sherwood Foresters; 8th KOYLI; 9th York and Lancaster; 1/8th Middlesex (until Feb 1916); 70th MGC and 70th Trench Mortar Battery.

The account below of the final days of John’s service is based upon the regimental diaries and other sources:[2]

4th Apr 1916 – 70th Infantry Brigade prepare for battle On the 4th April 1916, in preparation for the coming battle, the 8th Division moved up to the Le Boisselle-Thiepval sector, the 8th Battalion York & Lancaster occupying trenches to the left of the sector in front of Authuile Wood, periodically withdrawing to reserve at Albert. The ground occupied by the 8th Division was the most difficult of the whole front, no-man’s land being exceptionally wide and the attack of the 70th Brigade would have to be made beneath the southern spur of the Thiepval salient which was commanded in enfilade by the Germans.

1st July 1916 – 8th Yorks and Lancs at the Battle of The Somme. Plans had long been in place for the great offensive along the line of the River Somme to draw the Germans away from Verdun to the East and so relieve the beleaguered French forces there. Despite what many people have been told about the Somme battle, it was never intended to be a war-winning campaign. It had clearly defined strategic aims, and in many respects was successful, it’s failures are extremely complex and outside the scope of this article. That it has become a by-word for failure and incompetence is, in my opinion, unfair. The huge and terrible loss of life has blinded us to any other interpretation but it is pertinent to remember that a German Staff Officer described the Somme as ‘the muddy grave of the German Field Army’.

After the artillery barrage lifted, the battalions began their assault near the village of Ovillers at 7.30am, 1st July 1916. Immediately after leaving their trenches the battalion came under heavy machine gun fire and most of the men were killed or wounded. The remainder carried on and took the enemy front line trenches and about 70 men eventually reached as far as the third line of German trenches, but only one man returned from there! What was left of the battalion remained fighting in the first line of trenches until overwhelmed. Such was the ferocity of the fighting that the Germans were forced to move extra troops in to face the 70th Brigade and this enabled other British units to make significant advances.

The 8th York and Lancaster Regiment took 680 men and 23 Officers over the parapet, all the Officers were either killed or wounded and of the battalion only 68 returned. The battalion had effectively ceased to exist as a fighting unit and was withdrawn that evening. The 8th K.O.Y.L.I.’s losses were only marginally less.

John was ‘Killed in Action’ sometime during that horrific advance on 1 July 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. His body was found and he is buried in Grave Reference: V.C. 24, in the Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood, close to where he was in action.

Authuile (now Authuille) is a village 4 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. Blighty Valley was the name given by the Army to the lower part of the deep valley running down South-Westward through Authuile Wood to join the river between Authuile and Aveluy. Blighty Valley Cemetery is almost at the mouth of the valley, a little way up its northern bank. Blighty Valley Cemetery was begun early in July 1916, at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, and used until the following November. At the Armistice it contained 212 graves but was then greatly enlarged when 784 graves were brought in from the battlefields and small cemeteries to the east. Most of these concentrated graves were of men who died on 1 July 1916.

John was awarded the 1915 Star; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

In the absence of any matching census information, it seems likely that his widowed mother moved to Rugby after her son John’s death.

In later 1916, his mother was still living at 109 Woodside Lane, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, and was receiving a separation allowance of 1/11d and an allotment of pay of 5/3d. By 17 May 1919, she had moved to Rugby, and was living at 33 Essex Street, with her 28 year old son, Henry Cooper. It seems likely that Henry had moved south to work in Rugby, and that his widowed mother had accompanied her son; he had signed for his mother on official documents, and she had ‘made her mark’. The location of 18 year old Eliza Cooper, a sister ‘of the half-blood’, was not known.

Whilst John Cooper is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, it seems that he was probably never in Rugby, but it was his mother’s home by the time that records for the memorial were being collated.




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This article on John Cooper 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, June 2016.

[1][1]         http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=4996

[2]         http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=1097