Brayne, William

On the 20th of August 1893 Enoch Brayne and Alice Harthern were married in St Giles Church, Toxteth, Liverpool. He was 21 and she 23 and, according to the marriage certificate, they were both living at 3 Madryn Street.

Their first child, Ada, was born in 1893 followed by Thomas John in 1894 and William in 1898. By 1901 they were living in Great Saughall near Chester. Enoch was a carter working with agricultural horses on a farm. Three more daughters were born: Gladys in 1900, Mary in 1901 and Alice in December 1903.

Tragedy struck the family in January 1904 when Alice died. In September baby Alice died too. Her mother was just 33 years old and Enoch became a widower at the young age of 30.

Looking at the 1911 census it would seem that family rallied to support Enoch and his children. Enoch and Gladys – now 10 – were living with the Jones family in Rodney Street, Birkenhead. Mr Jones was a signalman on the railway and perhaps helped Enoch to secure employment as he was also working on the railway, as a platelayer. Mrs Jones was possibly a relative as, like Enoch, she was born in Ellesmere, Shropshire.

At the same time William and John were living in 34 Glendale Road, Port Sunlight with their Uncle Edward and Aunt Sarah, their father’s sister. William was at school whilst his brother John, along with Uncle Edward, worked in the adjacent soap factory. John was a paper/ card box cutter. Meanwhile nine year old Mary ( Mollie) was living with Uncle William and Aunt Jane Brayne in 3 Madryn Street, Toxteth.

In July 1915, aged 42, Enoch married for the second time. His bride was Sydney Alice Weaver and in 1916 it appears they were the landlords of the New Inn in Dyserth.

During this period William enlisted in Birkenhead and served with the 1st/4th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. His brother John also enlisted at Port Sunlight but was soon discharged as medically unfit.

Port Sunlight is a model garden village built on the banks of the Mersey by Lever Brothers to accommodate the workers in their soap factory. William Lever named it after their popular brand of cleaning agent: Sunlight.

The 1st/4th Battalion of the Territorial Force was raised in Birkenhead in August 1914 as part of the Cheshire Brigade, Welsh Division. In July 1918 it was attached to the 102nd Brigade in the 34th Division which saw active service on the Western Front.

In 1919 Enoch Brayne filled in a Roll of Honour index card and gave details of what had happened to his son.

“Died from wounds August 2nd 1918 at 63 Casualty Clearing Station, France and buried at Senlis French Military Cemetery 2.5 miles North East of Paris.”  

Senlis is a small town in the Department of the Oise, on the main road from Compiegne to Paris. It was entered and damaged by the Germans on the 2nd of September 1914, and evacuated by them a week later. It was not involved in the fighting on the Aisne and the Marne in 1918; but during these operations it became a French Hospital Centre. The British 63rd Casualty Clearing Station was at Senlis for twelve days in August 1918 and it was then that William Brayne died of his wounds.

Senlis French National Cemetery was begun in June 1918 and closed in December 1921. There are now over 100 First World War casualties commemorated in this cemetery. The majority belonged to the 15th (Scottish) and 34th Divisions who fell in July and August 1918. (Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

The Casualty Clearing Station was part of the casualty evacuation chain, further back from the front line than the Aid Posts and Field Ambulances. It was manned by troops of the Royal Army Medical Corps, with attached Royal Engineers and men of the Army Service Corps. The job of the CCS was to treat a man sufficiently for his return to duty or, in most cases, to enable him to be evacuated to a Base Hospital.

CCS’s were generally located on or near railway lines to facilitate the movement of casualties from the battlefield and on to the hospitals. Although they were quite large, CCS’s moved quite frequently, especially in the wake of the great German attacks in the spring of 1918 and the victorious Allied advance in the summer and autumn of that year. Many CCS moved into Belgium and Germany with the army occupation in 1919. (The Long Long Trail. The British Army in the Great War 1914-1918)

William Brayne is also commemorated on the Port Sunlight War Memorial.



During the First World War William Lever was chairman of the Empire War Memorial League, and was anxious to have a war memorial in Port Sunlight. He was concerned that at the end of the war the best sculptors would have been engaged to work on war memorials, and as early as 1916 he commissioned Goscombe John to design a memorial for the village. Lever had been concerned that England would be invaded and at the start of the First World War, although he was then aged 63, he joined the Birkenhead and District Volunteer Training Corps (the forerunner of what would become the Home Guard in the Second World War). (Wikipedia)

503 of Lever’s employees were killed in the first World War. They are commemorated along with those who fell in World War 2 on the War Memorial in Port Sunlight.

There is evidence on Ancestry that Gladys died in 1918 – the same year as her brother. In 1936 Enoch and his wife were landlords of the Castle Inn in Rhuddlan. Both lived into their eighties – Enoch died aged 81 in 1953 followed by his second wife in 1958 aged 88.

Family member Peter Thomas has been in touch with

His mother Gladys Thomas, is William’s niece and the only daughter of William’s older sister Ada. Mr Thomas has carried out some research of his own and says:

“Up until about 10 years ago I knew nothing of my Great Uncle William at all, when my Mother one day turned up an old photograph of him in uniform and said she thought that he had died during WW1. This led to a speculative War Graves Commission enquiry and later by a research request to the Cheshire Military Museum in Chester to try and find out more. They also sent me a lot of general information about the Cheshire Regiment during WW1 including some extracts from the war diaries of William’s battalion in the weeks leading up to his death. I have enclosed a particularly poignant newspaper archive from the time which I recently obtained from the Birkenhead library which confirms some references in the letter from Chester.”

An extract from the letter received from the Cheshire Regimental Museum, Chester:

The Cheshire Regiment had a total of 38 battalions serving during WW1, and with the normal strength of a Battalion being around a thousand men, I would not be far out therefore if I were to say that at any one time during the course of WW1 the Regiment had a total of 38,000 men in uniform. Approximately 8700 soldiers of the Regiment lost their lives, and about 2000 more were made Prisoner of War and increasing these figures up by the number of men wounded, I would estimate that at least a total of 75,000 men served with the Regiment during the full course of the Great War.

The Regiments Roll of Honour records that William Brayne died of wounds on the 2nd of August 1918 and that he was born at Langhall in Cheshire and enlisted into the Army in Birkenhead. It is highly likely that William was wounded during an attack made by the 1/4th Battalion at Grand Rozoy the previous day, besides those killed during the attack the 1/4th suffered 42 wounded 4 of whom died the following day. The attack was led by Lieutenant G H Swindells who had commanded the 1/4th pre war, at Gallipoli and also during the Palestine campaign. Swindells was killed by machine gun fire, in theory he would not have been expected to go over the top but he was of the opinion that if his men had to take the risk than he should set an example to them. I am enclosing extracts taken from the Battalions War Diary, enclosed are entries for the weeks leading up to the attack at Grand Rozoy in which William Brayne was seriously wounded. I cannot give you a precise date for William going overseas other than it could have been any time from January 1916 due to his Medal entitlement.

The 1/4th Battalion were in existence pre WW1. It was raised and recruited within the Wirral area of Cheshire with Companies located throughout and its HQ located in Birkenhead. On outbreak of war two other Battalions of the 4th were raised – the 2/4th and 314th and neither went overseas during the course of the war. The 214th was used as a feeder Battalion for the 1/4th which was located overseas. Regular drafts of replacements for casualties suffered overseas by the 1/4th were sent from the 214th.

The Medal Index card for William records that he was originally numbered 2741 and then later was issued with a new number 200796. The number 2741 is a pre 1916 Territorial Army number, the number 200796 would have been issued in early 1916 when the War Office decided to re-number the whole of the Territorial Army. Each Regiment’s Territorial Army Battalions were issued with identifiable blocks of numbers and 200796 falls into the block that was issued to the 4th Battalion. Likewise the Cheshire Regiment’s other T.A. Battalions – the 5th (Chester), 6th (Stockport area), 7th (Macclesfield, Crewe & Congleton) all received blocks of numbers all six-figured and beginning with a two and having a range unique to each Battalion. William had certainly served prior to 1916 in the UK on Home Service duties.

The 4th Battalion left the 53rd (Welsh) Division then in Palestine on the 31st of May 1918, the Battalion travelled from Egypt via Alexandria, Taranto and Marseilles. It is quite possible that William had served with the 1/4th in Egypt but unfortunately I have no sources to check when he exactly joined the Battalion. The Battalion did require re-enforcements when it landed in Egypt after the arduous campaign at Gallipoli. He certainly wasn’t at Gallipoli prior to the 1/4th moving to Palestine, had he been he certainly would have had a third Medal noted on his entitlement card, the 1914-15 Star and there is no reference. Unfortunately only overseas service counted towards the campaign medals given for war service, time spent in the UK on Home Service did not count towards Medal qualification. It is also possible that he had been with the 214th since the very start of the war.


Back to top