Private, SD/3199, 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action at Ypres, Belgium, on 3 September 1917, aged 31
Buried at La Clytte Military Cemetery,
Reningheist, Belgium: Plot 1, Row F, grave 36

William Padgham's gravestone in La Clytte Military Cemetery
(Click to enlarge)

Private William Padgham was born in 1885 and christened in Forest Row on 27 December 1885. He was the son of Alfred and Mary Agnes Padgham and the brother of Spencer Padgham, who was killed in action on 3 September 1916.

In the 1891 census William was recorded as living with Alfred, a carpenter and joiner aged 42, who had been born in Rye, Mary Agnes, aged 36, born in Forest Row, and four brothers. By 1901 the same family unit was together at 2, Medway Cottages, with the addition of a sister, Dora, aged 7.

In the 1911 census Mary is recorded as a widow. Alfred had died in March 1910 and William, now aged 26, is recorded as a single, rural postman. His brother Hector was a domestic gardener, Alexander was a grocer's assistant, and Dora was in domestic service.

William enlisted at Horsham, joining the 13th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, then the 11th Battalion and finally the 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment Service Division. His battalion was part of the 24th Division.

William was wounded on 21 October 1916 and transferred to a sick convoy with Number 27 Ambulance Team on the following day. He was taken to Number 3 Casualty Clearing Station. On 29 November 1916 he was listed as wounded by the War Office. Under admission number T2035 William is recorded as suffering gunshot wounds to his back and spine causing simple flesh contusions and wounds. (During the war some 2,272,998 men were wounded out of a total force of about 8,500,000. This meant that there was almost a 1 in 4 chance of being wounded.)

Wound stripe
(Click to enlarge)

By Army Order 204 dating from 6 July 1914 William was entitled to wear a wound stripe on his uniform (see photo). A wound stripe could be awarded for each wound suffered. It was a two-inch stripe of gold Russian braid that was stitched onto the left sleeve of a uniform jacket. The gold braid often tarnished easily and had to be repeatedly cleaned with brass polish.

In 1917 William's battalion saw action at Vimy ridge, Messines, Piskew Ridge. Langemarch and Cambrai.

The Battle of Langemarch was part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres. It was an indecisive affair with successful Allied advances in the north but progress in the south was forced back by a powerful German counter attack. Also, progress was limited by particularly bad weather and soaking ground conditions in low-lying areas that were heavily bombarded.

From September 1st to the 3rd the battalion was based in camp in a supporting role at Dickebusch. Enemy aeroplanes were very active during this period, particularly dropping bombs on the rear supporting areas. On 3 September the battalion was relieved with the 3rd Rifle Brigade coming into the line. During the day there was heavy enemy shelling including the use of gas shells. It was on this day that William Padgham died.

La Clytte Military Cemetery
(Click to enlarge)

William was buried in La Clytte military cemetery in the West Flanders region of Belgium. The cemetery took casualties from November 1914 up to mid-1918. After the Armistice in November 1918 many small local graveyards were relocated and concentrated at La Clytte. The area was a brigade headquarters and many of the burials were carried out by soldiers from the infantry, artillery and engineers. Some 1,082 casualties were buried or commemorated in the cemetery of which 238 are unidentified. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

William would have been awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal, automatically awarded on death in active service between August 1914 and November 1918. This award was certified on 10 November 1920 by the Colonel-in-Charge of the Record Office at The Barracks, Hounslow.

After his death, William's effects included credits of £7.1s.9d. in October 1917 and a further one shilling in December. On 3 April 1918 money was dispersed as follows. £1.3s.10d. for his mother Mary, £1.3s.10d for his brother Alfred, £1.3s.9d. each for his brother Alexander and sister Dora, and £1.3s.9d. for Elizabeth Padgham, widow of his brother Spencer Padgham. On 13 June 1918 a further £1.3s.10d. was awarded to Mary at the request of William's brother Hector. A War Gratuity of £12.10s.0d. was confirmed in August 1919 and on 30 April 1920 Mary was awarded the sums of £10.8s.4d. and £2.1s.8d.

The Memorial Book in Holy Trinity Church in Forest Row was signed by William's mother Mary Agnes, resident at 1, Medway Cottages, Forest Row.

Kevin Tillett