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141 Days: The Battle of the Somme

The Final Days

As the difficulties of winter made the soldier’s life worse than ever there was one last push launched on 13th November. This saw the 8th Battalion at Serre, not far away from where it had all started with the 1st Battalion. There was no question of a quick assault.

The ground, churned up by endless bombardments, slowed any movement. Little could be distinguished in the dark misty day and in the confusion, the battalion by-passed parts of the front line. When confronted by a strong party of the enemy the battalion had to withdraw in the face of heavy fire. The 8th Battalion had, however, successfully pinned down the Germans and allowed other units to press forward to capture Beaumont Hamel.

Corporal Leonard Williamson, 8th King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, killed in action 13th November 1916.
Accession Number: KO1773/11

Two page letter from 8th Battalion Chaplain concerning the death of Corporal L Williamson, 8th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, Killed in action 13th November 1916

“Dear Mrs Horton,
It is with real sorrow that I write this letter, for it brings you I am afraid very bad news about your brother Corporal L Williamson.
He played a very gallant part in the attack which we made against the German position last Monday and helped his company Commander when he was wounded to a place of safety. But shortly afterwards he was himself hit by a piece of shell and died shortly afterwards, I am deeply grieved to say.
I cannot tell you how sorry I am, in fact I can assure you that there is not one who doesn’t feel his death as a personal blow. Everyone thought so much of him, and admired his fine sturdy character, and his unfailing cheerfulness. He was an excellent NCO and a fine example to all.
Captain Williams, his company Commander wrote from hospital, not knowing that your brother had been killed later in the day. “Tell Corporal Williamson how greatly I appreciated his attentions to me when I was hit, and that I will certainly remember him when I get to England.”
I know how deeply grieved he will be to hear the sad news.
I wish I could help to soften the hardness of your sorrow, there is one comfort at least knowing that he gave his life in a sacred cause fighting for Right and Justice. It is the greatest sacrifice that a man can make.
All those who have fallen on the field of honour in this world war, though perhaps they know it not, are following the path of self-sacrifice and of duty which Our Lord Himself once trod, they are following in His footsteps and helping him to pay the price of the world’s salvation.
Let pride then be mingled with your tears.
We laid him to rest in a little military cemetery at Bertrancourt by the side of several of his comrades who have died that England might live, and a cross now marks his grave. His soul we commended to the loving care of Our heavenly Father, who will keep him until the day when you will find him again never more to be parted.
May God comfort and console you in your sorrow is the prayer of all who knew your brother, in truest sympathy,
M P G Leonard
Church of England
8th King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment
British Expeditionary Force


Next: The Battle's Over -The War Continues

Supported by the Sir John Fisher Foundation and the Army Museums Ogilby Trust

© Images are copyright, Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum.
 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

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