Driver T/12182, Army Services Corps
William was born into a large family in Datchet. He appears to have been brought up by his grandparents at Chaloner Row (a row of tiny, overcrowded tenements behind Astracot on Horton Road). He was working as a groom before he joined the military in 1894 and served in South Africa during the Boer War. (When he signed up he wasn’t quite 5’4″ and weighed less than 8½ stones.) His military records are available on the Ancestry website. He had a very long charge sheet and hardly a year went by without him being punished for committing some sort of misdemeanour: late for parade, absent from tattoo, loitering in the forage barn, dirty on parade, changing duty without authority, absent from work, not washing a wagon, dirty kit, absent from drill, refusing to get out of bed, breaking out of barracks, letting horses loose. He was regularly confined to barracks as punishment.
When he returned to Datchet, he was often on the wrong side of the law here, too. In 1905 he was drunk and disorderly and assaulted a police constable. He gave his address as Montagu Cottages (Ditton Road) and was sentenced to 28 days’ hard labour. In 1906, he was caught lodging in a shed without any means of subsistence and sentenced to 14 days’ hard labour. That same year he was arrested again in Datchet for ‘lodging in the open air not having any visible means of subsistence’, and sentenced to 14 days’ hard labour. In 1908, he assaulted a police constable and was sentenced to three months detention and 14 days’ hard labour. The records indicate that he had no fixed abode.
He stayed with his sister sometimes (at Wilton Cottages, Green Lane) but seems to have had no real home of his own.
William was recalled in 1914 and went with Expeditionary Force to France in August 1914 as Driver T/12182 in the Army Service Corps. He served in France 1914-15, Egypt 1915, Dardanelles 1915-16, and Salonika 1916. He suffered from malaria in June 1917 and in December 1917 it was reported that he had an aortic aneurysm. The doctor listed the cause as being ‘due to continuation of colds – climate’. He became more seriously ill from around April 1918, transferred to HS Braemar Castle (HS is hospital ship), was taken to Malta, and invalided home to England on HS Dunluce Castle.
Back in the UK, William was in hospital from July 1918 where he was reported to be in much pain, coughing and breathless, with no hope of a cure. He was dismissed as unfit for military service on 12 September 1918 and died 4 October 1918, age 42, at 2nd London General Hospital Chelsea on King’s Road. (See cutting from Windsor & Eton Express below.) His funeral took place on 8 October 1918 and he was buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey. He has an Imperial War Graves Commission headstone, with an inscription which reads ‘ Though from our sight gone, in memory ever lives’. His SDGW documents list his next of kin as his sister Mrs A (Allan) Hawkins of 3 Lawrence Cottages, St Luke’s Road, Old Windsor.
William wasn’t listed on Datchet’s Memorial when it was erected in 1920. This may possibly have been because his sister had moved to Old Windsor and wasn’t aware that a Memorial was being erected. His home was in Datchet when he enlisted so he would have been eligible for inclusion based on the original criteria. His name was added to the Memorial in November 2018.
William’s military documents list his ‘mother’ as Harriet Bowery of 2 Chaloner Row and sister as Mrs Allan Hawkins. His brother, Edward, was described as being ‘in Canada somewhere’. Harriet Bowery was actually his grandmother. William and his sister Mary were with George and Harriet Bowery at Chaloner Row in Datchet in the 1881 census where they are listed as grandchildren. In C1891, Edward was with them there, and they were again listed as grandchildren. (William and his brother Edward were both remembered on Datchet’s War Roll.)
Mary married Allan Hawkins in 1898. William appears to have stayed with them from time to time. In the 1901 census they were at Wilton Cottages, Green Lane, Datchet, which William gave as his address in 1907. Mary and Allan had moved to St Luke’s Road in Old Windsor by 1911.
William’s military documents also refer to an ‘Uncle’ William Bowery at Rose Cottage, Datchet. (Marshall’s Directory 1905 and 1910 has a W Bowery at Rose Cottage, Datchet Common.) William also had an aunt, Mrs Bray, in Berkhamsted. (Mary Bowery married Thomas Bray in Eton in Q3 1867)