Chester Chronicle, 15th May 1943 Pte. W.L.HUMPHREYS Shotton, KIA
REPORTED KILLED IN AFRICA. – Mrs. G. BURKHILL, 2, Wine Cup Cottages, Shotton, has received news that Pte. W.L. HUMPHREYS was killed in North-west Africa* on March 18th. He had been in the Army 14 years and had served in China, Gibraltar, Malta, and France, and came home from Dunkirk. His parents were the late Mr. And Mrs, Edwin HUMPHREYS, Nine Houses, Shotton. His Brother is in the Middle East.
*However William Ernest Humphreys didn’t die in North East Africa, he died in Myanmar, Burma.
I do not know if this is the right soldier, the initials are different and the place of death is different. However his period of service in the Army was right, he enlisted in 1930, making by 1943 about 14 years service as specified in the newspaper report above.
I am telling the story of William Humphreys who is recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database as William Ernest Humphreys, and I believe that he is, in fact, the same soldier.
William Ernest Humphreys was born in the September quarter of 1912 (Hawarden Vol. 11b Page 421) the son of Edwin & Emily Humphreys (nee Carlton) who married in Wrexham in the December quarter of 1906 (Wrexham Vol. 11b Page 525).
They had their first child, Doris Evelyn in the June quarter of 1907 (Wrexham Vol. 11b Page 274a) and then they moved to Shotton, as on the 1911 census they are seen living at the Nine Houses (Brook Road). Edwin, 38, was head of the household and a Fitter’s Labourer (Ironworks), he had been born in Sugdon, Salop. Emily, 39 had been born in Oswesty, Salop. They tell us that they had been married for 4 years and 3 children had been born to them, but sadly 1 had died. The remaining children were Doris Evelyn, 3 and Leslie, 1, who had been born in Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.
William followed on in 1912 as I have said before, but I have no information about his early life or teenage years, so if anyone can add anything then we can make sure he is not forgotten. I do know from the R.W.F. Enlistment Records that he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers for 7/5 years, on the 15th November 1930 when he would have just been 18 years old. This document gives us his date of birth – 1st August 1912. This also tells us that he was discharged on the 11th September 1938 (TAKi? (ii)(a)(ii). This source also tells us that he was Killed in Action on the 18th March 1943 in Burma. So if he was a Reservist he would have been one of the first to be recalled and been in the height of the fighting as is described in the newspaper report above.
Three years after enlisting he was to receive sad news on the death of his mother Emily, she died in December 1933 and was buried in Hawarden on the 29th December of that year. Age 58 years.
The National Register, which was taken on the 29th September 1939 gives us a sighting of William’s father Edwin Humphreys living at 6, Brookside Cottages, Brook Road , Hawarden , Flintshire. Edwin’s date of birth is given as the 5th July 1870 and he was Widowed and a Retired Steel Rolling Mill, Millwright.
The Casualty List 234 (Page 19) gives us another clue, William Ernest was wounded in 1940, no exact date, but all on the casualty list are from that year, so he was in early to the war as I suspected. Sadly no details how, why and where he was wounded, except it was in France. This may have been in Dunkirk or the aftermath.
1941 was a mixed year as his father Edwin died, I believe, in the September quarter of 1941 (Holywell Vol. 11b Page 49) age 71 years. However the year ended in a happier note as he had met and decided to marry his future bride, Janet Robinson, in Leeds in the December quarter of 1941 (Leeds Vol. 9b Page 525).
Royal Welsh Fuiliers – Second World War
Extracted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Welch_Fusiliers
During the Second World War the regiment was awarded 27 battle honours. 1,200 men of the Royal Welch Fusiliers were killed in action or died of wounds.
During the Second World War, the 1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers was a Regular Army unit and part of the 6th Infantry Brigade, assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division. It served in France in 1940 with the British Expeditionary Force. The battalion fought in the short but fierce battles of France and Belgium and was forced to retreat and be evacuated during the Dunkirk evacuation. After two years spent in the United Kingdom, waiting and preparing for the invasion that never came (Operation Sea Lion), the 1st RWF and the rest of 2nd Division were sent to British India to fight the Imperial Japanese Army after a string of defeats inflicted upon the British and Indian troops. The battalion was involved in the Burma Campaign, particularly the Battle of Kohima, nicknamed Stalingrad of the East due to the ferocity of fighting on both sides, that helped to turn the tide of the campaign in the South East Asian theatre.
THE HISTORY OF THE ROYAL WELSH http://royalwelsh.org.uk/regiment/history-regiment-timeline.htm
The Second World War – 1939-1945
The 1st Battalion as part of the British Expeditionary Force fought in North West Europe in 1940. Overwhelmed by the Germans, and with their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Harrison, killed, four officers and 263 men were evacuated from Dunkirk. The Battalion had suffered nearly 500 casualties, many becoming prisoners of war. Meanwhile, No 2 Independent Company (a precursor of the later commandos), under command Major Hugh Stockwell, with a significant number of Royal Welchmen, participated in the Norway campaign in May 1940.
Another Casualty List (Page 12) tells us he was Killed in Action, William was one of 14 men from the RWF who were K.I.A. on the 18th March 1943 on that Casualty List, another died on the 17th March 1943 in Burma.
William Ernest’s body was never found as he is remembered on the Rangoon Memorial, he is one of 26,856 men who are remembered there.
He was obviously loved and missed by his family as his name was put forward to be added to the WW2 War Memorial at Hawarden to be remembered in perpetuity.
Addendum – I have tried to find out the relationship between William Ernest and/or his parent’s Edwin & Emily, to the Burkhill family, who are noted on the newspaper article, but I cannot find it, so if anyone can add to this story, please get in touch, it would be gratefully received.