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Remembered Today:

A weakling, whilst in France.........

Laird of Camster

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I recent bought and am currently researching a British War Medal, the details of which are as follows. I thought it might be interesting, to someone?

77239 Pte John William Whomsley Liverpool Regt

Born Wrexham 23rd Oct 1897.

Light brown hair, grey eyes.

Height 5` 5

Father Simon mother Mary of 16 The Retreat Top-Y-Cefn Broughton, Wrexham.

Served RWF, Liverpool Regt, Labour Corps 1 year 51 days, 62 days of which were served in France. Served 23rd March 1917 to the 23rd May 1917.

Enlisted 24th Oct 1916

Signed discharge papers 6th Oct 1917

Character - good

Trade Shop Assistant.



Was in Wrexham Military Hospital 20th - 29th June 1917, due to some sort of convulsion and back ache?

(Medical Report - 9th October 1917 .Physically unfit. Disability. Originated about a year ago but uncertain always been a weakling in France, not a result of but be aggravated by active service in France.)It appears he had a bad back and something wrong with his teeth? This being Pyorrhea alveolaris - chronic periodontitis; purulent inflammation of the teeth sockets. Seemed to clear up and he needed some remedial dentistry. He was also complaining of backache.

He is remembered on two local war memorials.


Note that the roll of honour gives details not included on his service papers.

It appears that this soldier, was from Pentre Broughton as apposed to Broughton. Google maps takes you to Summerhill when you put in 16, The Retreat, Top-y-Cefn, Broughton, however this address doesn`t appear to exist anymore it looks like it would have been were the carpark for the Black Lion currently is? Given that he`s on two local memorials, Brymbo & Pentre Broughton and is buried in St Pauls church Pentre Broughton. I believe that the CWGC have the Broughton bit wrong, an easy mistake to make, I suppose.

Checks of the local press have failed to locate any report of his passing.

I am curious to know why his CWGC head stone is to the RWF, his medal is named to the LIVERPOOL Regt, and yet he served in France with the Labour Corps?

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I am curious to know why his CWGC head stone is to the RWF, his medal is named to the LIVERPOOL Regt, and yet he served in France with the Labour Corps?

I think you'll find some punctuation/line breaks makes the reasons clearer?

Served RWF, Liverpool Regt, Labour Corps.

1 year 51 days, 62 days of which were served in France.

Served 23rd March 1917 to the 23rd May 1917.

In total he served in 3 units. He was probably in RWF and/or Liverpool Regt in the run up to and during the time he was in France, then when sent home to the UK was transferred to the Labour Corps.

I seem to recall other threads on here about CWGC using the Regiment First Served on memorials, Medals being produced from the Medal Cards (unit details taken from a different source).

I am sure someone more knowledgeable than me can explain the RWF/Liverpool transfer in detail.



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In total he served in 3 units. He was probably in RWF and/or Liverpool Regt in the run up to and during the time he was in France, then when sent home to the UK was transferred to the Labour Corps.

I am sure someone more knowledgeable than me can explain the RWF/Liverpool transfer in detail.



That is certainly a possibility, as his service papers are lacking exact dates of when and were he served. I just assumed that he`d served in France with the Labour Corps as this unit is mentioned most. However the local role of honour gives the following information, Royal Welsh Fusiliers(2nd/6th Bn.) Labour Corps (5th Bn.) The King's (Liverpool Regt.). I wonder given that his medal is named to the Liverpool Regt, that he served his 62 days in France with them?

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It appears that the 2/6 RWF didn`t go to France...

2/6th (Carnarvonshire & Anglesey) Battalion
Formed at Carmarthen in September 1914 as a home service ("Second line") unit.
22 April 1915 : attached to 203rd Brigade, 68th Division at Northampton. Moved to Bedford in July 1915, Southwold in November 1916 and Henham Park (Halesworth) in May 1917.
8 September 1917: disbanded.

There appears to have been 3 battalions of the 5th Liverpool which doesn`t really help!

1/5th Battalion
August 1914 : in St Anne St, Liverpool. Part of Liverpool Brigade, West Lancashire Division.
22 February 1915 : landed at Le Havre and transferred to 6th Brigade, 2nd Division.
15 December 1915 : transferred to 99th Brigade in same Division.
7 January 1916 : transferred to 165th Brigade, 55th (West Lancashire) Division.

2/5th Battalion
Formed in Liverpool in September 1914 as a Second Line battalion.
8 February 1915 : came under orders of 171st Brigade, 57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division.
Landed in France in February 1917.
1 February 1918 : disbanded in France with personnel going to 2/6th, 2/7th, 11th and 12th Bns.

3/5th and 3/6th Battalions
Formed in Liverpool in May 1915.
8 April 1916 : became 5th and 6th(Reserve Battalions.
1 September 1916 : 6th absorbed into 5th.

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I’ve had another look at his service papers, but unfortunately there is no evidence of which Regiment he went to France with. All I am able to confirm is that he didn’t go with the RWF as the battalion he joined up with didn’t go to France; it was a home based unit. With regards to his Labour Corps service he was with 299 Res Lab Corp, which was based in Oswestry and again I don’t believe it served in France. As his medal is named to the Liverpool Regiment, I strongly suspect that he served with that Regiment in France (arriving on the 23rd March 1917), before being sent on the 23rd May 1917. His regimental number whilst with the Liverpool Regiment was 44289, he appears to have been with the 5th battalion, but there are 1/5th, 2/5th and the 3/5th. The 3rd didn’t deploy. The 2nd arrived in France in Feb 1917 (a possible contender), the 1st arrives in 1915. So assuming he wasn’t a casualty replacement (in which case I’m still none the wiser), I believe he may have been in the 2nd, albeit a very late draft, if such a thing happened, I assume that it only took a couple of days to move a battalion from England to France?

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Would the war diaries perhaps be a back door into discovering which battalion he served in? I wonder will one of them will make mention of a new draft arriving at the right time?

Given that the 2/5th only arrived in France a 3 or so weeks before what is the likely hood of them needing replacements? Was this battalion involved in any offensives, over this period?

As the 1/5th had been in France for years could it be more likely that they would have received a new draft. Had this battalion been involved in any offensive recently?

I believe that normal trench wastage was approx 100 soldiers a day, not including offensive loses.

(His Medal is named to 77239 Pte J W Whomsley Liverpool Regt).



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His medals are named to the first Regiment he served overseas with and qualified for the award, i.e. in this case the Liverpool Regiment.

For administrative purposes they were issued by the unit he last served with i.e.the Labour Corps and the details entered on that Regiment's (Corps) Roll.

He did not serve overseas with the RWF his date of enlistment suggests he was a conscript and probably trained with them given his home address. There is no mention of this Regiment on his mic. Might be worth looking at the war diary for the King's (Liverpool) but they don't always list drafts.

He is on the CWGC Roll of Honour however as he died at home in 1917 he was interred in 1917 in what was to become a family plot.

A CWGC headstone would only have been installed at the family's request post 1920, if the family had already erected a memorial stone then CWGC would not normally replace it. Many soldier's families had limited means so often soldiers who died at home were in unmarked graves, or with a temporary memorial. In these cases the family would be eligible for, and seek a CWGC headstone as it was/is part of the primary mission of that organisation that no sacrifice should be unmarked.

It follows the details of his unit on the headstone were placed there by the family, which leaves room for error given the circumstances although the 22nd Bn was a Reserve Bn which is where you would expect to find a sick man, he is shown as discharged from Western Command (Liverpool).

Details of units for CWGC headstones and the RoH were provided by the Army and therefore tend to be more accurate and precise.


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The Medal Rolls, available for viewing in person at The National Archives in Kew, will show his Battalion details.

His parents would have given the stonemason the details as they knew them, often an initial unit and not catching up with a unit he may have subsequently been transferred to

Infantry training could take about 12 weeks, some less others longer, depending on how unfit or their ability to pick up training quickly.

That would be his time with the RWF. Once trained he would be sent Overseas either with an entire Battalion or as you say, reinforcement drafts.

Once in France he would undergo further training to acclimatise to trench warfare (don't pop your head over the parapet at strange noises etc) and then be sent where needed most.

That accounts for him in the Kings.

In his case it seems the spirit was there, but the flesh was weak. That appears to have been speedily noticed and posting him back to the UK spared him the trials of the trenches.

It would seem at first glance rather inappropriate to post a "weakling" to the physical work of a Labour Corps, one hopes they found him a clerical post!

His MIC shows only those units he served Overseas with, and subsequent service, even if in UK.

It's now clear that he does not have a CWGC headstone. His parents erected a private stone on a plot they fully intended to occupy themselves when the time came, and inscriptions for each duly added below that for their son. It rather seems they declined to have a headstone added before their deaths and it would be up to surviving relatives if this was to change in any way.

The Census shows the family spoke both Welsh and English, mother's maiden name was Lewis. Address was 15 Cross Lane, Broughton, Brymbo.

In 1911 Simon is described as a Britisher.....!

EDIT: Much as ken says! Too slow again!

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Thank you very much for your posts and additional information (which I wasn`t aware of!!). I intend to visit the archives in Wrexham tomorrow, were I`m informed there is a report of his death in the local newspaper (Wrexham Advertiser), if it contains anything new I`ll be sure to post it here.

But going back to what Kevin suggests, I wonder whether Whomsley ever got as far as the trenches? Perhaps upon arrival in France during follow up training in Bull Ring or the like, it became apparent that he wasn`t up to the task and sent home from there? Perhaps he did spent a brief time in the UK with the 22nd after being posted there follow his basic training with the RWF?

Having looked at the other properties on Top Road (16 doesn`t appear to exist any more?), I believe that the Whomsley`s were perhaps a middle class family (the family head stone is certainly not a cheap one?) and I wonder as his trade is given as shop assistant, whether he worked in the family shop?


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The Census returns for 1901 and 1911 indicate that Simon was a surface stoker at the (presumably local) colliery.

As you note, it doesn't seem the occupation to allow for what is a fairly extravagant headstone, obviously bought intending to be occupied by their epitaphs too.

Virtually 100 years on it's impossible to know without specific confirmation as to what his military units were, but if he needed dental treatment soon after arriving in France then he'd need time for that to be done and his medical grading queried, so it could well be that he didn't get as far as the trenches, being nominally allocated to the Kings before his teeth intervened.

After being assessed as unsuitable for the trenches, he would possibly be "put on the books" of a Kings UK Battalion whilst they assessed whether any likelihood of being an efficient or A1 grade candidate for the trenches.

Having decided that he wasn't, then he'd move from an Army unit to Labour Corps, where his continuing poor health probably led to his death.

I think his 62 days in France were spent mainly in a Base Depot being trained in trench life before he needed medical treatment and sent back to a Reserve unit to await reclassification.

He was then transferred to a Labour Corps unit before sickening and dying.

Naturally his parents were proud of him joining the Army and commemorated him as a soldier in France, however short lived that might have been.

He did what he could and even with failing health was prepared to do his duty.

He deserves to be remembered for that, and so he was by his parents - and now you and us.

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Well done Kevin, btw more haste less speed - just noticed a misplaced apostrophe :w00t:

Gordon be interesting to see what the papers say,good luck with your search


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Final piece of the story....

Wrexham Advertiser 10th November 1917.

Death of a soldier:- News arrived Tuesday of the death at Park Hall camp of Pte J William Whomsley aged 19 years and son of Mr & Mrs Whomsley Cefn Broughton. He joined the colours 12 months ago and although of delicate physique served several months in France. He was recently invalided home and after a short stay in hospital was sent to Park Hall camp. One the Thursday following his death he was to have arrived home discharged as medically unfit. His remains were interred on Saturday with military honours at Brought cemetery in the presence of a large and sympatric gathering. The Reverend E Davies Lodge officiated.

Sadly there was no photograph of him.

But does anyone happen to know where Park Hall camp is?

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  • 5 years later...

The Western Front pension documents 

list J W Whomsley's  cause of death as V.D.H





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47 minutes ago, hafan said:

What would that be I wonder.

Valvular Disorder of the Heart. 

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On 16/11/2013 at 16:11, Laird of Camster said:

Have found his grave..


You`ll note it is a private one, I assume following the death of his parents, that his CWGC stone was replaced by a private one.

It also appears to say 22nd Btn Liverpool Regiment?

Going by the grave registration and headstone records attached to his CWGC entry his gravestone was always the family one ie noted as P.M. (private memorial). His parents died in 1930s and their names would have been added then. John was an only son and his parents were in their 40's when he was born. As he died and was buried at home in 1917 he'd have had this headstone before the CWGC came along. 



Edited by david murdoch
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  • 1 year later...
On 06/11/2019 at 15:19, Guest said:

J W Whomsley was a distant relative of mine. He was the grandson of my  2x grt grandparents.


Does any picture of him exist? Would be nice to put a face to a name.

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