Sergeant William Merrick (1885-1914)

Sergeant William Merrick and The Leicestershire Regiment during the First World War 1914-1918.

william merrick leicestershire regiment
William Merrick

31st March 1885 William was born in Ryton, a small hamlet on the edge of Bulkington, the son and first child of labourer George Merrick and Mary Jane (neƩ Morris). Twin sisters Emma and Louisa arrived in 1887, by which time the family were at Three Pots, Hinckley. Ada was born into the family in 1890.

1891 The family moved to No.2 Concrete Houses, Croft due to work where Williams father George worked as a shepherd. William is now listed as a 'scholar', meaning that he was at least of an age when he would attend school. A further child, Florence Eva, arrived in 1900.

1901 The family had moved again and were in Hinckley. George now worked at the gas works and seems to have found William a job as he is there as a gas fitter in the same year.

Life in Hinckley does not seem to have offered what William was looking for. Maybe he couldn't face the rest of his life as a labourer or factory worker. Perhaps he was simply caught up in the world of Empire that was still strong at the time. Whatever the reason, William enlisted in the Army, at Hinckley, for an initial term of six years as a Private with the Leicestershire Regiment. Within days he was posted to the Military Medical Staff Corps.

1902 By January he was embodied in the Corps and by March of that year was with the Royal Army Medical Corps in South Africa.

1905 William gains a Good Conduct badge.

1906 William gained his Army Certificate in Education.

1911 William has now been promoted as a Corporal with the Leicestershire Regiment at Fort St. George in Madras, India.

1912 William married Ada Brown at St.John's Church, Colaba, India on 13th December 1912. William's career was progressing and at this time he held the rank of Lance Sergeant.

1913 William was further promoted to Sergeant, Regimental Number 7285.

Indians arrive at Marseille
Indians arrive at Marseille

1914 At the outbreak of World War One the Battalion were stationed at Ranikhet in Northern India and their telegram to mobilise was sent on 9th August 1914 and they were ready to move by 11th August. They left Ranikhet on 12th August and marched 52 miles to the railhead at Kathgodam, arriving on 15th August. From here they travelled by train to Bareilly and on to Karachi. On 15th September they embarked on the 'Devanha' and set sail on 21st September 1914. Sailing via Port Said they disembarked at Marseilles on 12th October.

Moving up through France they finally relieved the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment in the front line at Calonne. The trenches are reported as being "very battered, with no adequate head cover" and "in a sea of mud". The Battalion were in the trenches for three weeks before moving to billets at La Couture on 22nd November. The following day they were moved to near to Festubert to attempt to block German advances in the area.

On 24th November they were in the front line, attacking the Germans and pushing them back. Wounded were evacuated and the Battallion were back in billets on 25th November - but still under shrapnel fire. 28th November found them back in the trenches facing heavy German bombing and sniping. Two days later they were back in billets.

The condition of the trenches, such as they were at this time, sounds poor. That, combined with the minimal personal protection available to the British soldier at this early stage of the war (steel helmets, for example, were not general issue at this time), made increasingly heavy casualties inevitable.

Sadly the notes from the Regimental History are a little vague at this point, simply stating that "during the next fortnight or so the Battalion had another tour of trench duty, but of this there is nothing very special to report".

Le Touret Military Cemetery and Memorial
Le Touret Military Cemetery & Memorial

8th December 1914 William Henry Merrick is recorded as being Killed in Action.

William was laid to rest in Le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'Avoue in Flanders.

9th January 1915 The "Hinckley Times & Bosworth Herald" paid tribute to William:

Hinckley man killed in action - Sergeant W. Merrick, of the 2nd Leicester's

We regret to record the death of Sargent William Merrick of the 2nd Leicestershire Regiment, which occurred while in action in France on December 8th.

Some years ago Merrick was a member of the Salvation Army Band. He was with his regiment in India at the declaration of war, and proceeded to France with the Expeditionary Force.

His wife is at present on her way to England with a two-months-old child, unaware of her husband's death. The deceased soldier was 30 years of age."

William Merrick's name was added to a tablet on the Hinckley War Memorial along with many others from Hinckley that lost their live in the First World War.