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Pte 16/1671 West Yorkshire Regiment, Prince of Wales Own. 15th Battalion, Leeds Pals. 19th Battalion. 20th Battalion.

William was born in Bradford to Annie Cowan and a man who could possibly have been William Cowan; but this is not certain. He may also have had two sisters; Annie and Sally, along with a brother named Robert.

They lived at 36 Waverley Road, Horton and William Thomas was a clerk with the Bradford Daily Argus. This newspaper first began publishing in 1892 and went on to become the Yorkshire Evening Argus in July of 1923. This merged with the Bradford Daily Telegraph to become the Bradford Telegraph and Argus in 1926 and then in 1947 it became the Telegraph and Argus as it is now known today. (Source: Army Medical History)

9th August 1915: He was attested at Bradford and posted to the 19th Reserve Battalion in Nottinghamshire. At his medical, it was recorded that he was 5ft 6.5, weighed 7st 4 and his physical development was described as ‘fair.’ He was 19 years of age. (Source: Army Medical History/Army Form B. 2505: Short Service)

21st October 1915: Posted to 20th Reserve Battalion, also in Nottinghamshire.

22nd April-7th May 1916: Attached to 3rd Entrenching Battalion. The next day on 8th May, he was sent to join the BEF in France in preparation for the Big Push.

He stayed with the BEF until the 3rd of July when he received a severe gunshot wound to his right arm during the Battle of the Somme. On the 4th of July, he was evacuated from Boulogne and sent to a hospital in England where he remained until 10th May 1917.

William stayed with the 15th Battalion until 27th March 1918: when he was captured – possibly at Ayette along with many others from his battalion – and imprisoned at Puchhiem POW camp near Munich (ICRC archives). He remained there until 30th November 1918 when the war was over.

On the 17th March 1919, he appeared before a medical board which assessed him and moved him into Reserve Z, ready for demobilisation. Earlier in the year on 31st January 1919 the Bradford Daily Argus had confirmed to the Army that they were willing to offer William a job upon his discharge. (Source: Correspondence from Head Office)

He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. (Medal Index Card)

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.
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