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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 49070
1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment
Who Died of Wounds on Thursday, 24th October 1918
Age 19

Plot I Row B Grave 18
Premont British Cemetery, Aisne, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Premont British Cemetery

Premont British Cemetery, Aisne, France1

William Phillips was born in Radford, Nottingham in July 18992, the eldest of seven children of William (b. 1874, Sneinton, Nottingham) and Minnie Phillips (b. 1877, Nottingham née Mullins, later Holland3). William senior spent almost all of his working life in the lace trade as a brass bobbin winder and, as such, moved his family to where the work was at various times, In 1901, newly married, he was still living in Radford, Nottingham where he was born, then at 37 Bloomsgrove Street4. In about 1900, they moved to Long Eaton, Derbyshire and, in 1911, the family - now including six children - was there at 17 Orchard Street5. Within a year or two, the family moved to Beeston, at 69 Regent Street5. Their seventh and last child, George Arthur, was born there in 1913. All of their sons, and one of their daughters, were to find work at Beeston Foundry. While William senior was able to continue to wind bobbins for the lace trade for most of the remainder of his life, even he found work, as a sand mixer, at the Foundry for two of the war years when the lace trade would have been all-but at a standstill. William junior started at the Foundry as a moulder in January 1915 and continued there until his enlistment6.

In 1916, conscription into the armed forces had become compulsory, with some exceptions, for all single men when reaching the age of 18, and they would then be eligible to be sent abroad on reaching age 19. Accordingly, William, who was 18 in July 1917, would have been eligible for enlistment then. As he was then working at Beeston Foundry, it is quite possible that his job gave him exemption but, in the event, it appears that he enlisted in April 19187, with the Leicestershire Regiment, at a time when the demand for replacements on the front line was so great, following the demands and losses of the German Spring Offensive, that the age for serving abroad had been reduced, controversially, to 18½. He was therefore eligible to be sent abroad as soon as he completed his training. It appears likely that, after basic training, he joined the Regiment's 1st Battalion, part of 71st Brigade in 6th Division, sometime in September 1918 at the earliest or, more likely, in October.

By this time, what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which was to finally lead to the end the war, was now well underway but there was still much hard fighting to be done against an enemy which was not about to give up easily. In the Battle of Cambrai, in early October, the battalion was part of an offensive by British, Canadian and New Zealand forces in which the Canadians were able to take Cambrai days ahead of expectations. The enemy was now nearing exhaustion but established new positions to the east of the Selle River. On the 20th, Allied forces, including tanks and infantry, attacked across existing and temporary bridges and were able to reach their objectives despite heavy enemy resistance and bad weather conditions. 1st Battalion attacked on the 23rd, advancing behind a creeping barrage facing machine gun fire and shelling and held up by the terrain and wire. Nevertheless, objectives were reached, albeit with substantial casualties - in all 5 officers and 126 other ranks.8. Private Phillips was amongst those who were wounded in the battle. After transfer through th evacuation chain, it appears that he arrived at one of the Casualty Clearing Centres - the 20th, 50th, 55th or 61st - that were then positioned at Premont. Sadly, despite the best efforts of the medical staff, he died and was buried in the nearby Premont British Cemetery. It seems likely that he had been in France for just a matter of days.

Premont is a village some 19.5 kilometres south-east of Cambrai on the road to Guise and a little south-east of the main straight road from St. Quentin to Le Cateau. It was captured by the 30th American Division on the 8th October 1918. Premont British Cemetery was made and used by four Casualty Clearing Stations (the 20th, 50th, 55th and 61st), which came to nearby Bohain in October 1918, and it was closed in the following December. Some years later 165 graves were added to it from nearby sites including two cemeteries. The cemetery contains the graves of 536 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War, eight of which are unidentified. There are also 36 German casualties buried here, two of which are unidentified. The cemetery was designed by Charles Holden9.

Private Phillips was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal10. His financial effects of 7 19s 7d, which included his War Gratuity of 5, were paid to his mother and his brother Robert, as his joint legatees, on 29 April 191911.

William's parents stayed in Beeston, living at 69 Regent Street, for the remainder of their lives. William senior died in 1940, aged 65 and Minnie in 1955, aged 75.12.

1The photograph of Premont British Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Nottingham Registration District (of which Radford was then part) in Q3/1899 (Ref 7b 387). Employment records show his birthday to be 5 July 1899.
3She was registered as Minnie Mullins, Nottingham Registration District in Q2/1877 (Ref 7b 642), being the daughter of Elizabeth Mullins. After Elizabeth married Jeremiah Holland on 27 July 1878 at St Andrews Church, Nottingham, she adopted her step-father's name, becoming Minnie Mullins Holland and using 'Holland' as her declared maiden name.
She married William Phillips at Christ Church, Radford, Nottingham on 30 April 1898.
4New Radford, Nottingham: 1901 Census, Piece 3181 Folio 83.
5Long Eaton, Derbyshire: 1911 Census, Piece 20832 RD434 SD4 ED11 Schedule 160. His siblings were Robert (b. 1901). Florence (b. 1903), Minnie (b. c1906), Maud (b. c1908), George Arthur (b. 1911) and Ernest (b. 1913).
6Robert, Florence, George Arthur and Ernest each worked at Beeston Foundry (later Beeston Boiler Company) in the inter-war period.
7As his Army Service Record has not survived his date of enlistment has been derived from Beeston Foundry records which record his leaving date, for reason of 'Enlistment', as 26 April 1918. This is supported by the amount of his War Gratuity which indicates that his period of service was less that 12 months.
8Details of 1st Battalion's deployment in October 1918 are derived from its War Diary.
9This description of Premont British Cemetery is based on that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
10Recorded on William's Medal Card - available on ancestry.com.
11Details from his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 - available on ancestry.com.
12Details of the family in the post-war period are derived from standard genealogical sources, including the 1939 Registration.

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