William John Bramham

​Area: Castleford (Brotherton)
Born: 1847
Died:  29 September1918
Service No: 39857
Rank: Private
Regiment / Service: Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Hannah Mary Bramham of Vicars Croft, Brotherton

War Service

On the outbreak of war William joined the 2/4th Battalion of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI). This was a Territorial unit formed in Wakefield on 30th. September 1914 as a second line unit attached to the 187th Brigade , 62 Division (2nd West Riding).

The units of the 'second line', the 2nd West Riding Division, remained at home for quite some time. Along with other 'second line' Divisions it suffered greatly from lack of equipment of all sorts, and training was inevitably affected. The Division also continually supplied drafts of men to the 'first line', which delayed things terribly.

In March 1915 Divisional HQ moved to Matlock Bath and the various units gradually moved to the Matlock, Derby, Belper, Nottingham and Bakewell areas. Two months later moves were made to Thoresby Park, Babworth Park, Welbeck Park, Southwell and Beverley. A further move in October 1915 saw all units concentrated in the area of Retford, then quickly going to Newcastle and in early 1916 to Salisbury Plain. Yet another move was made in with the Division going to Lowestoft, Wangford, Flixton Park, Bungay and Somerleytown.

The Division was inspected by King George V on 26 July 1916. The units made a final move to Bedford, Wellingborough and Northampton in October 1916, where orders were received to embark for France.

The Divisional Ammunition Column sailed from Avonmouth to Rouen  on 30th December 1916; the rest crossed from Southampton to Le Havre from 5th January 1917 and by 18 January concentration was completed in Third Army area between the rivers Canche and Authie. The Division then remained on the Western Front in France and Flanders for the rest of the war and took part in the following engagements:

1917

  • The Operations on the Ancre ( 15 February - 13 March)
  • The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (14 - 19 March)
  • The first attack on Bullecourt (part of the Arras offensive) (11 April)
  • The German attack on Lagnicourt (part of the Arras offensive) (15 April)
  • The Battle of Bullecourt (part of the flanking operations round Arras) (3 - 17 May)
  • The actions on the Hindenburg Line (20 - 28 May)

The Cambrai Operations (Tank attack 20 - 21 November and the capture of Bourlon Wood 27 - 28 November). During this operation, to the west of Flesquières, the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division swept all the way through Havrincourt and Graincourt to within reach of the woods on Bourlon Ridge.

1918

  • The Battle of Bapaume (25 March)
  • The First Battle of Arras 1918~(28 March)
  • The Battle of the Tardenois (part of the Battles of the Marne 1918) (20 - 30 July)
  • The Battle of the Scarpe (26 - 30 August)
  • The Battle of the Drocourt-Queant Line (2 September)
  • The Battle of Havrincourt (12 September)
  • The Battle of the Canal du Nord (27 - 30 September)

The Battle of the Canal du Nord 27 September - 1 October 1918

In the last week of September 1918 four separate major Allied offensives were launched on the Western Front with the aim of finishing the war before the winter. In the second of these attacks the British First and Third Armies were to drive across the northern extension of the Hindenburg Line, towards Cambrai. The operation was a logical consequence of Canadian success at Drocourt-Quéant and once again the

Canadian Corps was given a principal role in the renewed offensive. The task of crossing the formidable obstacle of the Canal du Nord required the most careful planning and precisely organised artillery and engineer support to underpin the success of the attack.

At 5.20am, on Friday 27 September, following a night of heavy rain, assault troops of the Canadian 4th and 1st Divisions left their cramped assembly positions and attacked on a narrow front (centred on Sains-lez-Marquion) behind a devastating creeping barrage; Third Army's infantry, immediately to the right (south) advanced simultaneously.

With dense clouds of smoke blowing towards the enemy lines the leading Canadian assault troops, assisted by tanks, quickly crossed the canal; Royal Engineers immediately began bridging operations to speed troops, guns and supplies over the captured barrier for the next forward moves; the Marquion Line was passed later that morning and following much fierce fighting, the high ground of Bourlon Wood was in Canadian hands by nightfall; good progress was also made by Third Army.

Attacks were renewed next day; though Canadian progress slowed, Third Army forces captured Noyelles, Marcoing, and Gouzeaucourt, and seriously threatened Cambrai. In two days an advance of six miles was made on a twelve mile front; 10,000 enemy prisoners and 200 guns were taken. This spectacular success represented a vital preliminary to Fourth Army's attack on the Hindenburg Line scheduled for 29 September.

William John Bramham was killed on 29 September 1918, probably during the above engagement. Hie is buried in Flesquieres Hill Cemetery which was originally made by the 2nd Division, in 1918.

William's widow returned to live in Brotherton on Vicar's Croft. After William was enlisted. His son Robert continued to live in Brotherton and Byram (Sutton Lane) and there are living descendants.

Family Life

William John Bramham came from a long established Brotherton family who's

roots can be traced back to at least 1700.William himself was the son of Robert and Matilda Bramham. Robert was born in Brotherton about 1847 and Matilda was his second wife. He originally married Isabella Lee who had been born in Scotland in 1846. They were married in Brotherton in 1870. In 1881 their family consisted of David James (9), Charles Henry (7) , Robert Arthur (4) and Alexander (1). Robert was described as a builder and they lived at Bunkers Hill. Isabella died on 29th of December1882.

Robert remarried to Matilda Yard born in Thorne near Wantage in Somerset about 1848. In 1881 she was employed as a Domestic Service Nurse at 6 Upper Brook Street, Hanover Square, Chelsea in London. This was the home of Sir John Ramsden (Bart) who also owned Byram Park Estate. How the couple came

to meet is not clear but being a nurse she may have travelled north with the family at some stage. They married in St George's Church, Hanover Square.

Robert and Matilda had two sons - William John born 1 April 1884 and Alfred Harold born in 1887.

In 1891 the whole family were living together. The two eldest boys were in employment - David as an apprentice stone mason, Charles an apprentice Grocer.

By 1901 the family were living on Bramham's Row but David (29) had left. Robert senior was described as a stone mason rather than a builder and both Charles (27) and Robert junior (24) were similarly employed. William, then aged 17, was an apprentice beef butcher.

William married Hannah Mary Holey in 1909. She had been born in Brayton (about 1886) and previously employed as a dressmaker. Their son Robert Holey was born in 1909. By 1911 William and his family had moved to 1 Lockwood Road, Wheatley near Doncaster and he was a Butcher.

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