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William Hetherington

Private William Hetherington, 35443, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry , 8th Battalion

William Hetherington was born in Ossett on the 13th June 1894 and baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Ossett on the 17th July 1894. He was the second child and only son of John Henry Hetherington and his wife, Annie (nee Dunhill), who married in 1891. They had two children from their marriage: Annie Louise born in 1893 and William. All of the family were born in Ossett.

William Hetherington’s grandfather was Henry Hetherington, an Ossett chapel-keeper. William’s mother, Annie died, aged 34, in late 1899 and on the 20th December 1900, at South Ossett Christ Church, 33 year-old, John Henry Hetherington, of Brook Street, married 36 year-old spinster Caroline Mercer of Prospect Road, Ossett.

In 1901, the Hetherington family were living on Brook Street and John Henry was working as a butcher. By 1911 John Henry, his wife and two children had moved to Bank Street, Ossett and William, now aged 16, was an assistant butcher in his father’s business.

Private William Hetherington's army service record has not survived but his medal card records that he was awarded the British and Victory medals, but not the 1914-15 Star indicating that, whilst he may have enlisted at an earlier date, he did not serve overseas before the 31st December 1915.

The 8th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was raised at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Third New Army and joined 70th Brigade, 23rd Division. They undertook training in England at Pontefract, Frensham, Aldershot, Hythe and Bordon, before proceeding to France. They landed at Boulogne in August 1915 and transferred to with 70th Brigade to 8th Division on the 18th of October 1915, in an exchange with 24th Brigade allowing the inexperienced troops to learn from those who had battle experience, returning to their original divisions in June 1916.

The 23rd Division were at Bomy beginning a period of intensive training for the Battles of the Somme. They were in action in The Battle of Albert including the capture of Contalmaison, The Battles of Bazentin Ridge, Pozieres, Flers-Courcelette, Morval and The Battle of Le Transloy including the capture of Le Sars. In 1917 they fought in The Battle of Messines, The Battles of the Menin Road, Polygon Wood and the The First and Second Battles of Passchendaele.

In November 1917 the Division moved to Italy concentrating between Mantua and Marcaria before taking over the front line at the Montello on the 4th of December. In 1918 they were in action during the fighting on the Asiago Plateau and the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, including the passage of the Piave and the Monticano. At the Italian Armistice at 3pm on the 4th of November, the 23rd were midway between the Rivers Livenza and Meduna, east of Sacile. They moved to billets west of Treviso and demobilisation took place in January and February 1919.

In early December 1917, the 8th Battalion KOYLI took over the support of the front-line that followed the southern bank of the River Piave, relieving the Italian army that, on the 12th of November 1917, had successfully halted the rapid advance of the Austro-Hungarians in fighting, which as part of the Battle of the Caporetto, is often known as the First Battle of the Piave. It is possible that the Austro-Hungarian army had set the River Piave as an objective, and had decided to halt the offensive there before their lines of communication became dangerously stretched. The arrival of British and French reinforcements, all tried and tested on the Western Front, effectively locked the enemy forces in these positions.

The 8th KOYLI went into the front line opposite Edifico, in the Montello Sector, on about 3rd December 1917. They relieved the 2/136th Regiment of the 70th Italian Division and formed the left-most Battalion of the Brigade, with an Italian Division on their left and the 11th Sherwood Foresters on their right. Private William Hetherington, aged 23 years, was killed by an Austrian shell on the 8th December 1917, the same shell that caused the death of his Ossett 8th Battalion, KOYLI comrade Harvey Wainwright.

The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this obituary for William Hetherington:

"First Ossett Soldiers To Fall In Italy - Ossett Tradesman's Son Killed - Another popular Ossett young man, Private William Hetherington (22), of the K.O.Y.L.I., only son of Mr. John Henry Hetherington, butcher, of Bank-street, Ossett, has made the supreme sacrifice in the war. He was employed by his father in the butchering business prior to joining the army in June, 1916, and in the following September he proceeded to the Western front. After about sixteen weeks varied experiences he was admitted to a base hospital in France on Boxing Day last year, suffering from 'trench feet', and was subsequently invalided to a Leicester hospital. In May last year he rejoined his regiment in France, where he remained until about six weeks ago, when he accompanied a British force to Italy. According to a letter, which was received by his father on Boxing Day, from his company officer, Private Hetherington was killed by a shell on the Italian front on December 8th, the same shell causing the death of five others. Expressing the sympathy of the deceased's comrades and himself, the officer forwarded some paper money, which he said had been taken from the soldier's pocket."

Italian Front at the River Piave November 1917

Private William Hetherington, aged 23 years, son of John Henry and the late Annie Hetherington, of Ossett, died on the 8th December 1917 and is buried at Plot 2. Row B. Grave 11 in the Giavera British Cemetery, Arcade. 2 Giavera is 12 kilometres east of Montebelluna and 20 kilometres west of Conegliano on the S248, the road that joins the two towns.

The Italians entered the war on the Allied side, declaring war on Austria, in May 1915. Commonwealth forces were at the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918.

On 4 December 1917, the XIth and XIVth British Corps relieved the Italians on the Montello sector of the Piave front, with the French on their left. The Montello sector acted as a hinge to the whole Italian line, joining that portion facing north from Mount Tomba to Lake Garda with the defensive line of the River Piave covering Venice, which was held by the Third Italian Army.

The Commonwealth troops on the sector were not involved in any large operations, but they carried out continuous patrol work across the River Piave, as well as much successful counter battery work. In January 1918, an additional sector of the defence on the right was taken over by the Commonwealth troops. Between December and March the Royal Flying Corps carried out a large number of successful raids on enemy aerodromes, railway junctions, and other objectives. Sixty-four hostile aeroplanes and nine balloons were destroyed during this period against British losses of twelve machines and three balloons.

In March 1918, the Commonwealth troops on the Montello sector were relieved. Three Divisions (7th, 48th and 23rd) took over the Asiago sector in the mountains north of Vicenza, and two Divisions (5th and 41st) were despatched to France. In October, the 7th and 23rd Divisions were withdrawn from the Asiago Plateau to take over the northern portion of the XIth Italian Corps front from Salletuol to Palazzon, on the River Piave. These Divisions took a prominent part in the Passage of the Piave (23 October-4 November 1918) during the final Battle of Vittorio-Veneto. On 4 November the Armistice came into effect, and active hostilities ceased.

Men who died in defending the Piave from December 1917, to March 1918, and those who fell on the west of the river during the Passage of the Piave, are buried in this cemetery.

Giavera British Cemetery contains 417 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.

Within the cemetery stands the Giavera Memorial, which commemorates more than 150 members of the Commonwealth forces who died in Italy in 1917 and 1918 and whose places of burial are unknown.

References:

1. "Ossett Observer", 29th December 1917

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site