Monday, 19 January 2015

Willie Austin 1893-1916

Willie Austin from Barnsley Chronicle 10 June 1916
(with thanks to Barnsley Archives)
1893 in Heanor, Derbyshire

Son of:
John Austin b.1863 Marlpool, Derbyshire 

1911:  Colliery Banksman and boarder at 19 Derby Road, Ilkeston, Derbyshire
married in the Derby Registration District in Q4 1882 to
Emily (or Emma) Taylor b.1859 Derby d.1903 Beckett Hospital, Barnsley

Position in family: The youngest of at least 4 children
1. Edward Austin b.1887 Pinxton, Derbyshire m. 1907 Florence Goulding  WW1 SERVED
2. John Thomas Austin b.1889 Pinxton, Derbyshire m. 1915 Margaret Parker

3. Francis Jane Austin b.1890 Pinxton, Derbyshire d.1892
4. William Austin b.1893 d.1916 WW1 DIED OF WOUNDS

Home address, age and occupation:
1901: 8 Industry Road, Ardsley, Barnsley aged 7 Scholar
1911: 59 Salisbury Street, Stairfoot, Barnsley aged 18 Labourer (Colliery) above ground
1915 on enlistment: 19 Industry Road, Stairfoot, Barnsley  Age 22 Worked at Redfearn Brothers' Glassworks at Wombwell

Marriage: He was unmarried

Military Service:
Enlisted: 1915 at the age of 22 years
Regiment and Battalion:   18th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales' Own)
Service number and rank:  22677 Private

Previously in 14th York and Lancaster Regiment, but transferred in Egypt
Awards: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Death:     24 May 1916 age 23
Buried at:  Bertrancourt Military Cemetery
Grave Reference:  Plot 1. Row C. Grave 8.

Information from Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

Brother of Thomas Austin, of 19, Industry Road, Stairfoot, Barnsley


Ardsley, Christ Church, Christ Church Parishioners - WW1 Plaque 
Barnsley, Redfearn Brothers Glassworks & Aldham Works
Willie's mother died in 1903 and is buried in Ardsley Cemetery (O 105) along with a 12 hours old child, Philip Austin d.1907, who could be a grandchild.  John Austin, his father, is not living with his sons in the 1911 census, and his eldest brother Edward, now 25 years old and a Brickyard Labourer living in Worsborough, has married Florence Goulding and according to the census they have lost both of their children within 4 years of marriage - which may fit with Philip above.  They appear to have eight more children, of whom five more die young. The burials of some of these children in Barnsley Cemetery show that the family moved to Wood Street, in the St John's parish of Barnsley. Edward Austin is listed in the 1918 Absent Voters' List at No.4, Ct.10 Wood Street.  He was serving in the Motor Transport Section of the Army Service Corps, Pte 397309.

(John) Thomas Austin was boarding at the same address as Willie in 1911, and was working at a Glass Bottle Works.  This may be Redfearn's where we know Willie works before enlistment.  Thomas marries in late 1915 to Margaret Parker and they too are unlucky with their children, with four born between 1916 and 1922 of whom two die young and then a daughter at age 23, all buried in Ardsley Cemetery.  John Thomas himself died in 1934 aged just 45.  There is no evidence that he served in WW1.

Willie's death was reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 10 June 1916.  There seems to be some discrepancy between the reports of the chaplain and the officer on whether Willie was shot or hit by shrapnel and whether he died in the morning the day after he was shot or the evening the same day he was hit.  

As his Army Service Records have not survived only a cryptic comment on his Soldiers Died in the Great War record supports the comment that he was previously enlisted in the 2nd Barnsley Pals.  He does not appear in the listing for that battalion in Jon Cooksey's book, Barnsley Pals.  A transfer in Egypt, however, suggests that he was taken ill there, delayed when the rest of the Pals left for France, possibly shipped back to Britain, hence the furlough, and transferred to the West Yorks Regiment before going to the front.

Stairfoot Man Killed - On Furlough a Month Ago
Private 22677 W. Austin, of Stairfoot, whose photograph we reproduce, has died of wounds in France. A month ago he was at the home of his brother at Stairfoot on furlough, and met his end ten days after returning to the Front. The deceased joined the 2nd Barnsley Battalion, but had been transferred to the 18th West Yorks Regiment, and prior to the war he worked at Redfearns' Glassworks, Wombwell. He was 23 years of age. 

News of his death was received by his brother to whom the Chaplain of the Regiment, the Rev. J. G. Thornton, wrote: "May 26th, 1916 - Dear Sir, - I am very grieved to inform you that your brother, Pte 22677 W. Austin, 18th West Yorkshire Regiment, passed away at the hospital on May 24th. He had been shot through the lungs the previous day. I sat beside him for some time and he died towards the end of the morning. I understood him to say that lately he had lived with you, and he sent his love to you. He was in great discomfort and there was no hope for him from the first. I buried him yesterday morning in one of the British military cemeteries close to this village. His body was carried there in a motor ambulance and the grave dug by men of his own regiment. He was not known personally by me. His friends told me he joined us in Egypt from the Barnsley Battalion. I do offer to you my deepest sympathy on the death of your brother. You was in his thoughts to the last. He died on Empire Day and he died for the Empire. May God bless and keep you in your sorrow." 

Lieut. Frank Watson also wrote the deceased's brother: "Private Austin was killed by a shell which burst on the parapet of the trenches; or should I say he died from the effects of wounds received. Our doctor told me that he was afraid that a piece of shell had pierced his lungs and this proved to be the case, and the poor fellow died the same evening in hospital. Please allow me to offer you my deepest sympathy." 

Willie's story can also be read on Lives of the First World War, which allows you to add your own photos and memories of this man.

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