First World War Project

William McGarry (of Teynham)

b. 1884
d. 11th October 1917. Aged 33

Lance Corporal, Service Number 5/3398
7th Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps

Hooge Crater Cemetery

Plot 17, Row C, Grave 1

Killed in Action

Hooge Crater Cemetery

Tracking the family of William McGarry has proved particularly difficult.

Teynham Parish records place William's family home in Station Cottages, but that link must have been made after the 1911 Census when William is found working as a servant (Farm Worker of horses) at Bicknor Court Lodge, Bredgar/Bicknor, south of Sittingbourne. From William's marriage records, dated 30th September 1916, we know his father, John, predeceased him. The same record shows the father of his wife, Sarah, had also passed at the time of her marriage. Sarah (née Turner), is recorded as a field worker in the 1911 Census, married to James Eames (a farm worker), lodging at 63 High Street, Dartford. Following William's death, Sarah married for a third time; this time to Charles W Wildish in 1919. Charles W. Wildish appears in the 1911 Census as a Carter on Ozier's Farm, Teynham and he lived to 1953. So, even if we cannot document the detail, there were clear local links with Teynham. A local newspaper report from 1915 confirms this link (below).

William gives his occupation as "Tin Plate Worker" on their marriage certificate. This occupation (sometimes referred to as "whitesmith") was distinguished from blacksmiths by their work in lighter sheet metal producing and repairing items such as plates, flagons, decorative and functional items. Tin Plate workers also turn up in census records for Greenstreet but just exactly how and where they fitted into the commercial centre of Greenstreet/Teynham is not known. How or why William transitioned from Farm worker (Horse) to tin plate worker can only be guessed at. Bearing in mind that the occupation included finishers of tinplate - filing, shaping, etc.

Following his death, William's effects went to his widow, Sarah. This amounted to £17 6s. 6d with an additional War Gratuity of £14 10s. From the Gratuity we can see William enlisted at the outbreak of war in August 1914 [See Appendix 2]. The few records to survive suggest that William only ever served in the King's Royal Rifles Corps which had its training reserves moved to Sheerness at the outbreak of the War.

Faversham and North East Kent News of 17th November 1917
CORPORAL W. McGARRY, K.R.R. Corporal William McGarry, a married man whose home was in Station Row, was killed on October 11th, the news of his death reaching his wife on Tuesday in last week. he had previously had many narrow escapes during the three years he had been at the front, and had been wounded three times. he was about 38 years of age.

Military Experience of William McGarry

The 7th (Service) Battalion, Kings Royal Rifles Corps was formed in August 1914 as one of the Kitchener or "New Army" formations out of Winchester, the home of the KRRC. It is likely that William first enlisted through the 5th or 6th (Reserve) Battalions which had moved to Sheerness at the outbreak of the war to ensure security of the Naval Port and provide training areas. On the face of it, William may have remained in training there until early 1915 when the 7th Battalion, KRRC, readied itself for France, landing at Boulogne 19th May 1915 as part of the 14th (Light) Division, 43rd Brigade. By this time, there was a desperate need to bolster the embattled British Expeditionary Forces that had been thrown into the fray at the outbreak of war. However, from a local newspaper report, it appears that William saw active service before May 1915.

The Faversham and North East Kent News of 17th April 1915

TEYNHAM MAN'S REMARKABLE ESCAPE. LIFE SAVED BY PRINCESS'S GIFT. The story of the remarkable escape from death of a Teynham soldier has just been received. The man in question is Rifleman William McGarry, of the 2nd King's Royal Rifles, who claims that his life was saved by the embossed tobacco box sent him by Princess Mary as a Christmas gift.

In a letter home Rifleman McGarry explains his wonderful escape as follows:-
"Fanny's horse shoe has given me good luck, as you will see by the box I am sending home. I want you to keep it as a souvenir, as it has saved me from being wounded, and it might have been a fatal one. As I was in the trenches at a certain place a shrapnel shell came over and exploded near me, and a piece of the flying shell pierced through my coat and entered my Princess Mary Christmas gift. As you will see the piece of cloth is in the hole made by it, and if it had not been for the box it would have been a serious wound and might have been fatal. I have to thank God for the lucky horse shoe, and also for Princess Mary's box for saving my life."

The box referred to has a large dent in the corner of the lid, and a piece of the soldier's tunic and a fragment of the shell are inside.

Rifleman McGarry, who was a reservist, was formerly employed by Colonel J.F. Honeyball, Newgardens, Teynham.

From Boulogne, the 7th KRRC moved to OUDERDOM near YPRES to train but soon had to provide 380 men to work on the ZILLEBEK switch (trenches) where they suffered their first casualties. They took more substantial losses when serving in trenches at HOOGE during July and August 1915. Out of the trenches, the Battalion 's bivouacs/billets were at POPERINGHE. The Corps was also involved in the second attack on BELLEWAARDE. This Diary lists all casualties during the first few months in theatre but like so many other Diaries, the casualties became increasingly anonymous for riflemen both as casualties and drafts. By December 1915, the greatest number of evacuated casualties were suffering from trench foot.

The diary in 1915 and early 1916 often shed very little light on actions beyond listing the number of casualties suffered. Nevertheless, the diary does tell us that the 7/KRR Corps departed the area of Ypres via Doulens, Sombrin, arriving ARRAS on 29th February 1916. In March, 7/KRRC took over the BLANGY Sector, close to the River SCARPE. One incident stands out when (5th March) 1 Other Rank died and 12 ORs were injured "accidentally" while counting "French Bombs" when one exploded. This period also saw a regular flow of soldiers to hospital through sickness.

The Corps took part in the Battle of Delville Wood (15th July - 3rd September 1916) they led a costly attack on 18th August, and Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September). On 15th September the Corps was in the Front Line - facing Delville Wood. These formed part of the Battle of the Somme. William may have missed the second battle as he returned to England in time for his marriage on 30th September 1916 at which time the Corps had come out of the Trenches and were at DERNANCOURT. At the time of his marriage, William was still a Rifleman (Private).

During 1917, the Corps were active during the Arras Offensive (German retreat to the Hindenberg Line, First and Third Battles of the Scarpe). This brings us to the Third Battles of Ypres that included, for William, the Battle of Langemark (16-18th August) and the failed First Battle of Passchendaele (12th October).

Circumstances of the death of William McGarry

The somewhat 'thin' War Diary from September 1917 onwards lends us a glimpse into the circumstances of William's death.


1st: METEREN: Battalion at rest. From there we moved on the 2nd into the VIII Corps area, first to WATERLOO CAMP [2nd] and then on to NEUVE EGLISE [5th] which it was understood was to be our permanent rest billet for the winter. The Division took over the line East of MESSINES and started with one Brigade at a time in the line.
Lieut. J.N. Martin rejoined on the 1st but left to command the Division Convalescent Company on the 9th. 2/Lieut W.A. Knight joined on the 6th but went to hospital on the 20th. 8 O.R. joined on 5th and 1 O.R. was killed (self inflicted) on the 7th.
12th: MESSINES: The Battalion moved into Brigade support. Battalion and Company H.Q. were accommodated in Pill Boxes. Battalion was finding nightly working parties. Movement in daylight had to be restricted on the Messines Ridge, but a very fine view was obtained of towns in rear of the German lines. The time was fairly quiet though the proximity of some of our own batteries caused some annoyance, and was always likely to draw retaliation. Casualties for the 4 days: 3 O.R. killed, 8 O.R. wounded, nearly all by one salvo as a party was returning from work.
16th: FRONT LINE: Battalion relieved 8th Rifle Brigade (R.B.) holding front line from the BLAUWEPOORTBEEK 28.O.29.c.5.0. to 28 U.5.b centre. The line was in bad condition, it was difficult to get round in daylight, and very little existed in the way of adequate support or reserve lines. B, C, D Companies in front line and A in support. 7th Rifle Brigade on the right, 30th Division on left. During this time one artillery fire was very considerable in connection with operations to the North. The 7th Rifle Brigade (R.B.)also carried out a successful raid in which B Company co-operated by exposing dummy figures which gained their object by drawing a good deal of fire.
Casualties for the 4 days. 2/Lieut W.O. DRING wounded. 19 O.R. wounded.
20th: NEUVE EGLISE: Battalion was relieved by 10th D.L.I. and moved to Neuve Eglise where the remainder of the month was spent in training, and in finding working parties.
14th: Lieut. D. Allhusen joined.
15th: Lieut. C.H.D. King, M.C. marked P.B.
17th: 2/Lieut. R.G. Lee, 8th London Regiment attached invalided to England
25th: 2/Lieut. D.O. Paget and 8 O.R. joined.
28th: 2/Lieut. R.I. Cowan joined.
29th: 14 O.R. joined.

7th (Service) Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps:The average strength of Battalion during the month of September 1917 was 30 Officers, 836 Other Ranks.
Of above: Officer and 74 Other Ranks were admitted to Field Ambulances, 1 Officer and 12 Other Ranks were evacuated out of the Divisional Area, 38 Other Ranks rejoined from Field Ambulance, and 24 Other Ranks still remain in Field Ambulance.


1st: NEUVE EGLISE: Battalion in Divisional Reserve. It was expected that Neuve Eglise would be our winter Headquarters, and much work was done on improvement of billets, roofing a concert hall, and making horse standings. We were expecting to go back into the Messines Sector on the 6th, but on the previous day all orders were cancelled and we moved on the afternoon of the 6th to huts near RENINGHELST. The weather was very bad and we were lucky in having excellent accommodation. 3 days later [9th] we moved to camp near DICKEBUSCH and the following day [10th] proceeded to take over the front line [Trenches] from the 1st Bedfords, 5th Division.
The relief was carried out under considerable difficulties owing to heavy shell fire and the ignorance of the guides. One of our company commanders with his headquarters and a whole platoon had to spend a most uncomfortable night in Dumbarton Lakes.
Dispositions: Battalion held front from MENIN ROAD, 28.J.21.D to the SCHERRIA BEEK. 4th Middlesex on our right, 7th Rifle Brigade on our left. Two companies in front line and two in support. On the 14th the 39th Division came in on our right.

The tour of 6 days was most unpleasant. Communications were very difficult especially to the rear and the Menin Road which was the principal route was always liable to be heavily shelled. We were unlucky in having R.S.M. Oxley severely wounded and 3 C.Q.M.S. - Ellis, Stannard and Johnson - killed on the dump. All these men were among the oldest members of the battalion and their loss was very much felt.
A large number of men were sick in the line, largely owing to the bad conditions of the trenches, and the impossibility of getting up thigh boots or hot food. We had ready 70 cases of men sent to F.A. (Field Ambulance) with Trench feet.
There were more opportunities for sniping than we had ever had before as the Germans walked about openly at dawn and dusk. Our men thoroughly enjoyed themselves and accounted for a large number.
Our total casualties for the tour were 27 O.R. killed, 59 wounded, 4 missing.
16th: RIDGE WOOD: The Battalion was relieved by 5th Oxf and Bucks [light infantry] and moved to camp at RIDGE WOOD. Two days were spent in reorganizing and cleaning. On the 18th, Lieut. Col. G.A.P. Rennie, D.S.O. who had raised the Battalion, and except for 6 months had commanded it throughout, left to take command of the 146th Infantry Battalion, 49th Division.

After being killed in action, William was one of 20 men interred during October 1917 in MENIN ROAD PILLBOX CEMETERY, ZILLEBEKE, between Herentage Chateau and Gheluvelt. After the Armistice, William's remains were disinterred and removed to the larger CWGC HOOGE CRATER CEMETERY, ZILLEBEKE (also started in October 1917, initially holding 76 graves but, today, contains 5,916 Commonwealth servicemen of which 3,570 are for unidentified men). William's body was identified by means of his Identification Disc and his personal effects were forwarded to the Army Base to be returned to his wife.

map of Hooge in October 1917

Serving from the outbreak of war, William McGarry was posthumously awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War and Victory Medals. [See Appendix 1]

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