LAST time out we told the story of William Williams of the Bucks Constabulary who served as a Police Constable in Marlow from 1909 until retiring from the force in 1917.

He and his wife Matilda had three sons, all of whom fought in the Great War.

In the previous article we considered the career of their youngest son Cecil, who although badly wounded and at one point left for dead on the battlefield, recovered and went on to live a full and successful life.

We now look at the other sons William Alfred and Charles, whose stories are of unremitting tragedy.

William Alfred Williams

William their eldest son was born in 1891 in West Wycombe. By the time of the national census taken in April 1911 he had moved to London to work as a printer’s compositor.

He was lodging with his Aunt Hannah Smith and her family at 105 Disraeli Rd, Putney. On 20th February 1915 he married Lilian May Keen at St Luke’s church in Shepherd’s Bush and their first child, a daughter, was born on April 8 1917.

By this time William had been drafted into the Army, on January 20th 1916, when he and Lilian were living at 35 Oaklands Grove in Shepherd’s Bush.

William joined the Kings Royal Rifles as a rifleman and was posted to the Western Front on January 1st 1917. At some stage he was a casualty of a gas attack, eventually leaving hospital in September 1918.

He was initially transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps but on April 5th 1919 he was discharged from the Army. He was awarded with a pension of 11 shillings per week to be reviewed after 52 weeks, and to be ‘temporarily increased by a bonus of 20%’.

Two weeks later this pension was supplemented by an ‘allowance for child’ of 2 shillings and 8 pence per week. Although he was assessed as being unfit for military service he was considered fit enough for employment, his degree of disability being assessed at 40%.

Back home William was unable to work and was nursed by his wife Lilian and mother Matilda. Eventually he was so ill that he was admitted to Mount Vernon Hospital in Ruislip.

He died there on January 23rd 1920, the cause of death being recorded as ‘pulmonary tuberculosis’. His widow was awarded a weekly pension of 26 shillings and 8 pence for herself, plus 10 shillings for her daughter.

The family story is that his body was taken back to Marlow, and buried in the churchyard of Trinity Church.

His death has not been recorded on the Marlow War Memorial, or the commemorative tablet in All Saints parish church. Apparently recognizing this, his family paid for a suitable tablet on his grave in Trinity churchyard, but it appears that this no longer exists.

The church was de-consecrated in 1976 and converted into office premises.

There is therefore no public memorial to the suffering and sacrifice made by William Alfred Williams. However his mother wrote the following words in the family bible ‘’In loving memory of W. Alfred Williams, departed this life Jan 23rd 1920 aged 29 years.

He loved his King and his Country well. He suffered pain, no one can tell, he gave up hope, his life and friends, died as a soldier and a man’’.

Charles Williams

Regrettably the same lack of recognition applies to Charles, the second eldest son of the family who was born in West Wycombe in April 1893.

Charles together with his younger brother Cecil, enlisted on September 25 1914, initially in the 4th Hussars. Eleven months later he joined the Royal Irish Regiment, on August 23rd 1915. This was an infantry regiment of the British Army first raised in 1684.

Although little is known about the details of Charles’ experiences during the Great War he did see service in the Balkans theatre. He survived the war, but he did so severely shell-shocked.

He returned home to live with his parents in Steeple Claydon and tried to pursue a career as a ‘motor-body fitter’. But he was clearly mentally ill.

For example his nephew John remembers his father Cecil, a brother of Charles, telling him that when they were out walking in the woods he kept saying that the Germans were hiding behind the trees.

Eventually Charles’ problems were too great for his parents to be able to cope and he was committed to the County Mental Asylum at Stone near Aylesbury on May 21st 1924.

Three months later, August 16th, he was classified as a “Service’’ patient, a recognition that he had effectively been discharged from the Services as insane. This meant that he did not carry the stigma of being a pauper and was treated as a private patient.

The cost of his care was paid for by the Ministry of Pensions, and with a special visiting service. He was one of a peak of around 50 ex-servicemen in the County Asylum after the Great War.

Charles remained there for the rest of his life, over 50 years, until he passed away on March 14th 1975. His body was cremated at Amersham Crematorium and his ashes scattered over the grave of his parents in Steeple Claydon churchyard.

Another forgotten victim of the ‘’War to end all Wars’’ was finally laid to rest.

I am most grateful to Cecil’s son John D Williams for much of the information contained in this article and for allowing me to share his memories.