First World War Project
William FORD (of Teynham)
Private, Service Number 13577
William Ford was born to Agricultural Horse - Waggoner - Henry William (sometimes "William Henry") and Mary Ford at Hoaden (Ash), in 1889 (ambiguously reported elsewhere as 1886 and 1887). William was the oldest of nine children, Percy R, Frederick J, Alice E, Henry Edward, Edith Mary, Ethel Mabel, Lily May and Dorothy.
In 1901, aged 13, William was living with his parents at No.6 Gore Bank, Upchurch. After his father died (c. 1908), the family moved to No.3 Trigg Row, Barrow Green, Teynham. In 1911, the wage earners, William is recorded as a Farm Horse Driver; Frederick was a waggoners mate and Henry a farm labourer. William was in the employment of R.Mercer (Rodmersham) who was a principal landowner locally.
He married Elizabeth Pleasant Paslow on 3rd June 1917, living in Eastwood Cottages, Conyer. Elizabeth later married Bob Skillen in 1927, also in Teynham.
From his records we learn William is 5 feet, 4½ inches tall. His chest measured 35½ inches (expansion 3"). Vision and physical development were both Good.
In the absence of War Gratuity records, we know that when he was discharged he was awarded a Pension with 25/6 Bonus weekly from 7th March 1919 to 2nd September 1919, then 40/- weekly from 3rd September 1919 to end of quarter in which he died. On 21th January 1919, on Army Form W.3458, William's wife received "Bounty allowed under Army Order 209 of 1916 --- £15; Credit for present issue --- £5; Balance to be issued subsequently, as laid down in the Army Order --- £10." Given that William served throughout the war, this is probably not the whole story regarding gratuities. [See Appendix 2]
William was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals. [See Appendix 1]
We have to infer William's wartime experience from the Battalions he moved between.
On 31st April 1911, William was confirmed as a "Private 1264" in the 4th (Reserve) Battalion giving his address as Brickfield Cottages, Frognal, Teynham. Whilst in Broadstairs, William signed Army Form E.624 - "AGREEMENT to ... subject himself to liability to serve in any place outside the United Kingdom in the event of National Emergency." So, he was not serving at this time. He named as his next of kin, Mary Ann Ford (mother), who was living at 7 Epps Road, Sittingbourne. On 12th May 1911, he was passed as "Fit" at Sittingbourne by Commander of "E" Company, 4th Battalion.
Moving forward to the outbreak of War, William was given his new number 13577 and went into the 3rd Battalion (Reserves), The Buffs - at Shornecliffe, Dover. His formal date of enlistment being 4th August 1914 although he was not posted until 1915. Medical Category A1. His next of kin continued to be his mother, now living at Brickfield Cottage, Frognal, Teynham. He later married in 1917.
His Statement of Services
William's Reckonable Service was calculated from 5th May 1911 when he first entered the Reserve. His service during the First World War is something of a mystery as he moved between Kent Depots.
From his Medal Card we see that William "served" in the Asiatic Theatre from 5th August 1915, although he was actually posted to the 4th Battalion Depot after the active 4th Battalion had already embarked the Varsova (Dover, 26th July) arriving in Aden on 4th August. The active 4th Battalion relieved the Brecknockshire Battalion following Turkish incursions into the Protectorate on 2nd July 1915. Aden was regarded as a "hard" posting in peacetime with most soldiers staying only one year at the end of their tour of India. Heat and lack of potable water made movement in the theatre difficult and illness was common. Aden itself was protected by the navy on both sides of the narrow isthmus joining Aden to the mainland.
Indeed, William never served in the Asiatic Theatre! William and other new recruits at this time were held in reserve (probably undergoing training as well as fulfilling guard duties in and around Thanet/Dover). He is recorded as Posted again to the 4th Battalion Depot on 14th August 1916. This may have been a response to reorganisation of the Battalion at Home. William is then shown as being formally "Posted" to 4th Reserveson 12 October.
With the ebb and flow of Battalion losses to The Buffs, there was continuous re balancing of numbers between battalions from Depots. William finds that on 29th December 1916 he is Posted to 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, The Buffs, before being Posted the next day (30th December) to the 6th Battalion, Infantry Brigade Depot, Canterbury. The active 6th Battalion was at this time serving at the Western Front (Sombrin). William's pathway through successive depots suggests that he was fulfilling an unspecified depot function. Potential depot roles include guard duty, horse care, driver, training new recruits - we simply don't know from the available paperwork. Perhaps a clue comes from his history of working with horses?
It does appear that William made it to the Front with the 6th Battalion as his records show that William fell ill for the first time on 14th March 1917 - he was signed off "to Hospital Sick" in the Field. He went immediately from the 2nd New Zealand Field Ambulance to 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station (Trois Arbres, near Bailleul) to be admitted to the 7th General Hospital (St. Omer) with Erysipelas (acute skin infection) on 20th March. He was sent back to England aboard the Hospital Ship "Jan Breydal" on 6th April with "cellulitis in the right leg". His records still showed him as ECD (Eastern Command Depot).
William remained assigned to the 6th Battalion Depot through to 30th May 1917 when he was posted to ECD (Eastern Command Depot) at Shoreham-by-Sea. As he recovered, William was Posted again to the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion.
It isn't until 8th September 1917 that William embarked again for the Western Front with the 8th Battalion. On 9th September he was posted to the 38th infantry Brigade. He was one of 75 Other Ranks to arrive on 18th September at the Battalion camp at OUTIERSTEENE. William was one of only three men in this draft who had not served overseas before. He would have to adjust very quickly as the Battalion moved on 21st September to YTRES the next day where they settled down to parading, games, entertainments, bathing and meeting the needs of working parties. The first casualty after his arrival was due to a lorry accident when a man in a working party was run over and killed at POPERINGHE.
The Battalion moved again by bus to HERVILLY on 29th September to take over the line from the Dismounted Cavalry with the French on their left. October was mostly devoted to patrol work with modest losses.
A wry comment made by Moody ("Historical Records of the Buffs") reads - "On 4th November an American officer was attached to the regiment - one swallow does not make a summer, but this was a welcome sign of what was to be expected later on."
Without any major engagements, news arrived on 21st January that the 8th and 12th Battalions were to be disbanded and moved to the 1st and the 6th Battalions. For William, this meant he was formally posted to the 1st Battalion on 8th February 1918. It appears that Drafts arrived in in the 1st Battalion from 20th February when the Battalion was camped in BEUGNÂTRE during a quiet period on the Front.
However, William was not destined to join his colleagues in the 1st Battalion as he was reported sick on 8th February 1918 with an ulcerated heel and enlarged groin while in the Field. On 12th February he was sent from the Casualty Clearing Station to 11th Ambulance Train arriving later that day at Freport (3rd General Hospital). On 16th March he was transferred to England aboard the Hospital Ship "H.S. Warilda."
In England, between 2nd June to 6th July 1918, William was granted Furlough from Hospital (given by W. Ferguson, Capt. R.A.M.C.) to Brickfield Cottage, Frognal,Kent. At this time he was also issued a "wound stripe" - to deflect any ill-informed criticism of his failing to do his duty. At the time of his discharge/demobilisation (6th February 1919) he received his Protection Certificate.
His home address was first given as Radfield Cottage, Frognal, Teynham, Kent. Later, 18th August 1919, his demobilisation record had him living at No.3 Quay Cottages, Conyer, Teynham.
When William was granted furlough from 29th June to 6th July 1918, his home address was given as Brickfield Cottage, Frognal, Kent. So we can assume this was his wife's address too. Curiously, on 18th July 1918, William's paperwork listed him again as "ECD" (Eastern Command Depot) before being Posted to the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion on 5th October (or 5th November as documents conflict on this point). William was carried off with Tuberculosis.
Circumstances of the death of William Ford
William's wife placed the following in the "Personal Column" of the East Kent Gazette of 11th October 1919:
"MRS WILLIAM FORD, of Conyer, Teynham, wishes to thank all kind friends, particularly Dr. Henderson and Nurse Pyles, for great kindness and sympathy shown during her late husband's long illness."