Humphries, William Henry James


War Service:
Pte William Henry James Humphries G9996 11th Bn Queens Own Royal West Kent regiment. He died of Wounds 7 October 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

The 11th (Service) Battalion (Lewisham) Formed at Lewisham on 5 May 1915, by the Mayor and a local Committee. July 1915 : attached to 118th Brigade, 39th Division. October 1915 : transferred to 122nd Brigade, 41st Division. 16 March 1918 : disbanded in France. Battalion were involved in attack on Gird Lines. At 1.35pm on the 7th October, the first wave, A and C companies, left their trenches and advanced a distance of 60 yards where they lay down… …Just before zero hour (1.45pm) the whole Battalion moved forward in order to be closer to the protecting barrage. This brought them to the brow of the rise and they at once came under heavy machine-gun fire from both flanks and from the enemy`s new trench in front… …It was a disastrous moment: the ranks, already thinned by previous casualties, were literally mown down by the hail of bullets…The losses were enormous, three out of every four had been hit, including all the company officers except one…The remnants, finding advance impossible, proceeded to dig in." Out of 16 officers and 465 other ranks who went into action only 4 officers and less than 100 men survived. The 11th Battalion was raised in early 1915 by R Jackson, the Mayor of Lewisham and a local committee. Some experienced regulars were either transferred into the unit or brought out of retirement and by mid November the Battalion was at full strength. There were some changes in command before the Battalion went overseas in May 1916 led by Lieutenant Colonel AF Townshend (formerly of the Scottish Rifles) with Major AC Corfe 2nd in command. They blooded their swords in some minor actions in the Ypres / Armentieres area before moving down to the Somme area in August / September. They were involved in one of the first tank attacks at Flers on September 16 and lost 443 men including Townshend who was killed. Corfe took over the command and a large draft of reserves brought the Battalion up to strength for its next action near Gueudecourt on 7th October.

Location of Memorial:
He has no known Grave but remembered on Thiepval Memorial [Pier Face 11 C] to those missing during the battle of the Somme and St Mildred's, Lee War Memorial.

His occupation was shown as Grocer Shop boy living with parents at 121 Glenfarg Road Catford on the 1901 census. By 1908 his residence was 25 Larkbere Road, Sydenham. When he enlisted in Lewisham he showed his residence as 78 Summerfield Street, Lee.


Contributed By: Alan Humphries

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