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William Henry Thompson

Private William H. Thompson, 242477, 11th (Service) Battalion, Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)

William Henry Thompson was born in January 1899 at Guide Post, Northumberland, 17 miles north-east of Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of coal miner, Thomas Frederick Thompson, who was born in Gawthorpe in April 1867 and his first wife, Elizabeth Peace, born in Ossett in 1875. The couple married at Holy Trinity Church, Ossett on the 21st February 1891. The couple had moved to live in Northumberland where Thomas Thompson worked as a coal hewer in the coal mines, after working previously as a coal miner in the Gawthorpe area. There were seven childen including William Henry born in 1899, Mary Ann born in 1902 and Minnie born in 1900, who died aged one in 1901; George Walter Thompson born in 1904, died aged 7 months and Thomas Thompson born 1906, died aged 3 months.

In early 1908, Elizabeth Thompson died aged only 34 years in the Morpeth Registration District and Thomas Thompson returned with his son William to live in Ossett. On the 27th February 1909, 41 year-old miner Thomas Frederick Thompson of Dewsbury Rd, Chickenley Heath married 26 year-old spinster Ethell Arundale of Grosvenor Road, Batley at St. Mary's Church, Gawthorpe and Chickenley Heath. They had three children: Lily born 1909, Fred, born 1911 and Clifford born 1912.

The Government introduced the Military Service Act on the 27th January 1916. All voluntary enlistment was stopped. All British males were now deemed to have enlisted on the 2nd March 1916; that is, they were conscripted, if they were aged between 19 and 41 and resided in Great Britain (excluding Ireland) and were unmarried or a widower on the 2nd November 1915. This act was extended to married men, and the lower age dropped to 18, on the 25th May 1916. William Henry Thompson most likely joined the West Yorkshire Regiment in early 1917, when he reached 18 years of age. Conscripted men were no longer given a choice of which service, regiment or unit they joined, although if a man preferred the navy it got priority to take him.

The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment), 11th (Service) Battalion was formed at York on the 10th October 1914 as part of K3 and came under orders of 69th Brigade, 23rd Division. On the 26th August 1915 they landed at Le Havre and in November 1917 they were transferred with Division to Italy.

Menin Road September 1917

Private Thompson died during the Battle of the Menin Road, which took place from the 20th to 25th September 1917, in the Ypres Salient in Belgium on the Western Front. At the time had been hailed in the press as a 'great success', and the Second Army, in it's first major operation of the offensive, had overran five and a half miles of torn-up Belgium. What the press did not disclose at the time however, is the fact that the British had suffered 20,255 British casualties (3,148 fatal) for those few miles of ground, around 3,800 per square mile.

"When it was relieved by units of the 98th and 100th Brigades (33rd Division) and moved back to Micmac Camp on the 24th and 25th September, the losses of the 11th West Yorkshires were severe. All four Company Commanders had been either killed or wounded, the former including Capt. C. A. Town and Second-Lieut. F. J. Thomas, whilst two officers, Second-Lieuts. J. Cave and W. Baker died of wounds; three other officers were wounded. In other ranks the losses were fifty-six killed, four died of wounds, 208 wounded and ten missing; in all a total of seven officers and 281 other ranks." 1

Amongst the casualties had been 19 year-old, Private 242477, William Henry Thompson.

Private William Henry Thompson died on the 25th September 1917, aged 19 years old, the son of Thomas F. Thompson, of 544, Lumb's Yard, Street Side, Ossett. and is buried or commemorated at Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, plot II. L. 24, located 5 kms east of Ieper town centre in Belgium.

William H Thompson

As of January 2023, Private William Henry Thompson is not remembered on the Ossett War Memorial, but it is hoped his name will be added with the additional eight men who are not yet remembered.

My thanks to Ossett historian, Anne-Marie Fawcett for her detailed research on Private William Henry Thompson.


1. The West Yorkshire Regiment in the War 1914-1918: Volume II (1928) by Everard Wyrall

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site