This is another exploration of the life of a man commemorated on the cenotaph in the churchyard of St James, Ogley Hay. I chose this name simply because it seemed unusual for the area, but his story did turn out to be unusual.
William Gerry was a career soldier, but there are things missing from the records. This is what I have found out so far.
I have been unable to find a record of his birth.
The censuses tell us:
- 1881 census. Chester Road, Brownhills. Willie Gerry, age 1, born Brownhills. Parents John, coal miner, and Elizabeth, both born Tavistock, Devon. From the order of records I think this was a short way south of Pike Helve [Pier Street].
- 1891 census. High Street, Brownhills. Willie, age 12, with family.
- 1901 Somewhere in the Army? This is because his military records show that he fought in the Second Boer War and World War I, but there is something odd.
British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920 via Ancestry.
Short Service Attestation, 17 April 1897, Lichfield. Age 18, collier. Royal Artillery.
79505. Posted to 101 Battery, Royal Field Artillery.
Second Boer War
Posted to South Africa 28 Sep 1899 – 7 June 1900, then home.
Campaigns South Africa 1899-00.
Medal: Queens South Africa wf “Defence of Ladysmith” & “Cape Colony”. A clasp inscribed “Defence of Ladysmith” will be granted to all troops in Ladysmith between November 3rd, 1899, and February 28th, 1900, both dates inclusive. From AngloBoerWar.com
Baldwins have a medal like this for sale – http://www.baldwin.co.uk/military-medals-and-decorations/queen-s-south-africa-medal-1899-1902-2-clasps.html?usrc=1
In brief from various sources: The Boers surrounded the garrison town of Ladysmith, Natal. The British attempted to capture the Boer artillery, but this was disastrous, with the loss of 1,200 men. The rail link was cut off and the town was besieged for 118 days. Both sides grew weak from lack of supplies and feed for horses. Towards the end of the siege both military and civilians were living on the remaining horses and oxen. The defenders suffered from diseases such as enteric fever or typhoid, mainly because the clean water supply was cut off. Eventually, the British broke through and the Boers retreated. The first relief column arrived on 28 Feb 1900.
There is a lot of information online, but if you prefer a book, Ladysmith, by Giles Foden, perhaps best known for The Last King of Scotland might be for you.
So, William Gerry survived and was transferred to Army Reserve 7 Apr 1904, class 1.
Discharged 6 Apr 1909.
1911 census. Shoebury Ness. Boarder. Age 31, general labourer, government works.
World War I
Enlisted 3 Dec 1915, number 121432, Driver William Gerry, age 36, Southend on Sea, consistent with residence in Shoeburyness.
The pension records don’t include details of William’s active service in World War I.
However, they do record that at various times during 1917-18 William was admitted to hospital with malaria and then on 22 Sep 1918 with influenza.
Posted from base, place of casualty “Field”, 9 Nov 1918.
Posted HQ 12 Nov 1918
After the armistice on 11 Nov 1918 the British armed forces continued to be deployed in various places around the world. William Gerry was sent to Greece and Georgia.
- Embarked Salonica [Thessaloniki, Greece] 4 Jan 1919
- Disembarked Batoum [Batumi, Georgia] 10 Jan 1919
- Embarked Batoum 10 Apr 1919
- Disembarked Salonica 18 Apr 1919
- Embarked for UK 20 Apr 1919 – on board until 2 May 1919.
Extract from Hansard, the record of Government proceedings
BRITISH TROOPS, BATOUM.
HC Deb 04 November 1919 vol 120 c1290
19. Mr. SWAN asked the Secretary of State for War whether British troops remain at Baku or at Batoum; whether it is at the wish or request of or on an understanding with the Allied Council or any Russian government that British troops remain at or were withdrawn from these places; what expenditure is being incurred weekly in this connection; and whether any assurance can be given as to the date when British troops in Russia will be withdrawn and returned home?
Mr. CHURCHILL No British troops are at Baku or in any other part of the Caucasus except Batoum on the Black Sea. A brigade of British and Indian troops is temporarily remaining at Batoum at the request of the Foreign Office to prevent serious local disorders occurring at this particular moment.
William was declared to be class 2, and suffering from spinal disease. He was discharged on 5 Jun 1919.
Entry of death
Obtained from GRO by PDF – see previous post.
27 Nov 1919, 11 Love Lane Cottages, Shoeburyness.
William Gerry, male, 40 years, Labourer in Government Works.
Cause: Mitral Regurgitation, Cardiac Dilation.
Informant: J D Ovens, present at the death, 11 Love Lane Cottages, Shoeburyness.
Registered 27 Nov 1919.
I have not been able to locate the address. Ovens were the family with whom he boarded. I think he must have been employed by the Army in a civilian capacity. The cause of death was essentially heart disease.
Driver William Gerry had a hard life and, although he did not die of war wounds in the conventional sense, he did give his life for his country and, in my view, deserves his place on the memorial.