Sergeant, 200225, "B" Battalion, Tank Corps
Killed in Action at Fontaine on 23 November 1917
during the Battle of Cambrai, aged 24
Commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial,
Louverval, France: Panel 13

Cambrai Memorial
(Click to enlarge)

William was born in Forest Row in 1893. He was christened on 12 March 1893. His parents were William Peter Luxford and Mary Ann Luxford (née Isaac). William Peter was the brother of Job Luxford, a local builder, whose son Edward was killed in action (presumed dead) at the Battle of Ypres on 8 May 1918.

In the 1901 census the family were living at Woodbine Cottage in Forest Row. William Peter, born in Maresfield, was 44 and a bricklayer. Mary Ann was 40 and had been born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Young William was 8 and he had two older brothers, Frank, a 14 year old general labourer, and Bernard, aged 9. There were also two younger sisters, Mary, aged 6, and Ellen, aged 2.

By 1911 William Peter was 54 and still bricklaying and Mary Ann was 50. Frank was also a bricklayer and William at 18 was an apprentice to a motor engineer. Mary was a dressmaker and Ellen a Scholar. There was also a boarder named Herbert Cook, a gardener from East Grinstead.

William Luxford enlisted at Brighton, initially with the Royal Sussex Regiment Machine Gun Corps. He entered the war on 22 May 1915. He later joined the Royal Field Artillery as a private gunner, then as a corporal, and later a sergeant in the "B" Battalion, the Tank Corps (this was the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps). In 1916 the eight existing companies were expanded to form new battalions lettered from A to H.

On 20 November 1917 the British Third Army launched an attack on Cambrai using a new method of assault. There was to be no traditional preliminary artillery bombardment. Instead, a large force of newly-developed tanks took part in a significant attack. The aim was for the tanks to break through the German barbed wire followed by infantry under the cover of a smoke barrage. The early morning attack had initial success but by the 22nd the advance had to be halted to allow for rest and reorganisation. This break allowed the German defences to be reinforced. On the 23rd William Luxford was killed in action. Over the following week fighting became focused around Bourlon Wood but by the 29th a German counter-attack had been organised. In the days that followed most of the ground gained by the tank advance was lost. Therefore the result of the attack was disappointing although the Allied generals under Douglas Haig did learn very important lessons about tank strategy and future tank tactics that later proved very valuable.

On 12 November 1917 William Luxford was awarded the Military Medal by His Majesty the King for "bravery in the field". The award was recorded in the London Gazette, issue 30424. This was a level 3 Gallantry Medal instituted on 25 March 1916 for British and Commonwealth service personnel below Commissioned rank. It was the Other Ranks equivalent of the Military Cross awarded to Commissioned Officers. It was basically awarded for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire. Recipients were entitled to the initials MM after their name.

William was awarded the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1911/1915 Star. Credit of £20 8s 1d was forwarded to his father in December 1918 and a War Gratuity of £18 0s. 0d was approved in August 1919 for payment to his father Willam Peter.

The Remembrance Book in Holy Trinity Church in Forest Row was signed by his mother, Mary Ann Luxford, of Woodbine Cottage.

Cambrai Memorial
(Click to enlarge)

The Cambrai Memorial at Louverval in the Nord region of France commemorates 7,069 First World War casualties, mainly those from Britain and South Africa who died in the Battle of Cambrai and who have no known grave. The memorial was designed by Harold Bradshaw with sculpture by Charles Jagger, and was finally unveiled on 4 August 1930.

Kevin Tillett