William Henry Howcutt (1896-1917)

 

William Henry Howcutt was the only soldier with the Howcutt surname to lose his life in either of the World Wars. He was one of the 4,756 soldiers from the Somerset Light Infantry who died between 1914 and 1918. [1]

 

William was born at Aldershot in 1896 and baptised at St Michaelís church on 26 April of that year. His parents John Thomas & his wife Fanny Horwood were then living at West End Cottage, West End, Aldershot and had two older children. [2] John Thomas was working as a groom.

 

By the 1901 census, Williamís father was a coachman and his mother was working at home as a dressmaker. Since William arrived, the couple had produced a further two offspring. [3] The family were living in a four-room house at 11 Church Street, Aldershot. During the following four years, a further three children were born [4], bringing the total number up to eight. All survived to adulthood.

 

William is not listed in the 1911 census with his parents and siblings who by then had moved to a cottage, also with four rooms, at New Town, Enford, Wiltshire. By that stage his father was a groom and worked for the Army. It is not known where William was living at that time.

 

Both Aldershot and Salisbury Plain had a strong military presence but this was mild compared to what awaited William from 1914 onwards. He enlisted in the Army at Devizes and served as a private in ďCĒ Company, 8th battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry [5]. He was killed on 4 October 1917, almost certainly at the Battle of Broodseinde. [6]

 

Williamís grave was one of the many that could not be identified after the War and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. His name is also recorded on the memorial at the entrance to the churchyard of Enford parish church.

 

Broodseinde Ridge before the attack

Tyne Cot Memorial

 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website includes a page with details for William Henry Howcutt and an opportunity to download a free commemorative certificate. The page is not entirely accurate as it says that William was 24 when he died; in fact, he was 21.

 

After the War ended, a lychgate was built at the entrance to Enford churchyard to commemorate the local men who had died. William Henry Howcutt is one of the 19 names recorded there.

 

William was not the only member of his family to fall in 1917. At some stage during the last three months of that year, his sister Bertha Mary married Tom Reynold Craven. Tomís parents lived in Manchester but he had emigrated and held Canadian nationality. After coming to England in 1914, he was a sergeant in the Canadian Engineers Unit, 1st Division, Signal company. He was awarded the Military Medal but died on Christmas Day 1917. [7]

 

Notes

 

[1]††† Somerset Light Infantry Archive Ė The Great War, 1914-1918.

[2]††† Leonard Joseph Mark (1892-1941) and Bertha Mary (1894-1957).

[3]††† John Thomas (1897-1972) and Frederick James Oliver (1899-1972).

[4]††† Fanny Elizabeth (1901-1978), Emilie Marie (1903-1967) and Frances Gwyn (1905-1987).

[5]††† The 8th battalion was formed in October 1914 and sent to the Western Front as part of the 21st Division in September 1915. It was transferred to the 37th Division in July 1916.

[6]††† On the same day, Thomas Henry Sage (1882-1945), who was also a private in the 8th Battalion, won the Victoria Cross at Tower Hamlets Spur, east of Ypres.

[7]††† Details of Tom Reynold Craven appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site.