Title - George Gabriel Williams

George Gabriel WilliamsGeorge Gabriel Williams was born on 5th June 1886 in Accrington, the son of Gabriel and Bessie Matilda. Despite qualifying as a municipal engineer, he chose to join the family firm of drapers in Accrington.

On 14th September 1914 - the opening day of recruitment for the Accrington battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment - Williams enlisted as a Private with the Army Number 15050. A rapid series of promotions saw Williams rise to the rank of Sergeant by 7th October. On 7th December he was appointed to a commission with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. A further promotion to Lieutenant followed on 20th June 1915.

For the attack on Serre on the opening day of the Somme offensive, Williams led the third wave of the battalion, comprising two platoons each of "Y" and "Z" Companies. At 7.29am, the four platoons of the third wave advanced from Campion Trench, crossing the British front line about 7.34am. Around this time, with his wave already reduced to half-strength by enemy artillery and machine gun fire, Williams was hit in the right calf by a bullet. Aided by the battalion's adjutant, Lieutenant Peltzer - himself wounded in the hand by shrapnel - Williams limped 7 miles before receiving treatment at a dressing station.

While recovering from his wound at home in Accrington, Williams remained too shocked by his experiences on 1st July to talk with relatives of the killed and missing.

Although Williams was posted back to the 11th East Lancashires in February 1917, the legacy of an old operation for emphysema rendered him unfit for General Service. On 30th November 1917, Williams was posted to Etaples as an Anti-Gas Instructor in the Royal Engineers.

Tragically, with the war over, Williams was admitted to hospital on 17th February 1919 suffering from influenza. Seven days later, he died in hospital. A mix-up at the War Office had given his mother no chance to visit her son before he died.

The telegram from the War Office Secretary to Williams' mother read "Deeply regret Lieut. G. G. Williams R.E. anti-gas school Etaples died of broncho pneumonia on February twenty fourth in No 20 General Hospital Camiers. The Army Council express sympathy."

Lieutenant Williams lies buried in Etaples Military Cemetery (Plot XLV, Row C, Grave 6).

© Andrew C Jackson 1998, 1999
Email: andrew.jackson@btinternet.com

Compiled from St. James' Church Accrington Baptism Register, TNA documents WO339/66402 and WO95/2366, CWGC records, the Quarterly Army List for June 1916, and "Accrington Pals" by William Turner.

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