Ernest Edward Woods
Staff Sergeant SS/5255
attached to 37th Division H.Q. Army Service Corps.
Ernest Edward Woods was the son of Thomas and Susannah Woods, of 185, Oxford Road at the time of their son’s death; and 23, Coley Hill, Reading at the time of CWGC registration. His name is commemorated on the headstone of grave number 16890. He died on 22nd May 1916 and is buried in Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension II.C.18.
The Standard 29th July 1916 gives details of his career and the details of the illness which killed him.
“ Sergt. Woods enlisted directly the war broke out, prior to which time he was a journalist on the ‘West London Free Press,’ which makes the following comment on his death:- “Woods was a capable and strenuous journalist. His qualities of sprightly energy, alertness and loyalty won him the sincere regard of our staff. His death appears all the more tragic because it was so unexpected. Shortly before he was taken ill he wrote to his mother saying he was quite well and ever so happy. Further information showed, however, that the preliminary cause of death was a tumour on the brain. He was an extremely bright and joyous fellow, and had he lived would have had an honourable career in the Army. Already he had won the confidence of the officers’ and men, and at headquarters it was known that he was marked out for rapid promotion. For his mother and other relatives the sympathy of all who knew Staff Sergt. Woods goes out.”
The C.O. wrote: “Woods had been in my confidential clerk for over a year – ever since the formation of the division. It may be of some satisfaction to you to know that your son did his duty both willingly and well. He died practically in the front line.”
Doullens was the H.Q. of the French General Foch in the early part of the war. From Summer 1915 to March 1916, the town was the junction between the French 10th Army and the British Third Army on the Somme. The Citadelle, overlooking the town from the south, was a French military hospital, and the railhead was used by both Armies. In March 1916, the Arras front became British, and the town became home to various Casualty Clearing Stations. Medical units buried their dead firstly in the French Extension of the Communal Cemetery and later Extension No.2 when casualties form both the Arras and Somme fronts increased.
Frederick Edward Wilcox
204th Field Company Royal Engineers
Frederick Edward Wilcox was the youngest son of George and Elizabeth Wilcox.
He had two older brothers and one older sister. Frederick was born in Slough although his parents were from Reading and the family had resettled in Reading at the time of the 1911 census. George Wilcox was then a widower aged 65 years. The family home was run by daughter Louisa May, aged 30, who also worked at home as a dressmaker. Albert, who was 5 years older than Frederick was also living at home and was the manager of a grocers shop. In 1911, George’s second son, Henry Charles was working as a Coppersmith and boarding in Northamptonshire. He worked for a firm of motor body builders. The Green family with whom he boarded worked in the shoe trade. Like his father Frederick worked for the Great Western Railway.
Frederick Wilcox married Florence Chamberlin in the first quarter of 1915 and enlisted in May the same year. The couple had made their home at 133, Cumberland Road, Reading.
Frederick was killed in action on the 31 May 1916, aged 28. By this time he had been married sixteen months and the couple had a child.
The circumstances under which Frederick met his death are unknown. There are no service records pertaining to Frederick Wilcox other than his name on the Medal Role. However, an extract of a letter to Florence from Frederick’s Commanding Officer was published in the Standard 17th June 1916.
“All the men and myself miss him very much. He was so willing, so cheerful and so brave, for he set us all a splendid example and we are proud to have had such a man in our company. He was buried, not where he fell, but in a beautiful English cemetery near other of his comrades”.
The English cemetery is St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L’Avoue. Location III. K.4. The cemetery stands in an old orchard between two farm buildings, where a tramway had its terminus and a dressing station was established. The cemetery was begun in May, 1915, at the time of the Battle of Festubert, and was used by fighting units and Field Ambulances until July, 1917.
Charles Edward Weeks
1st Batt. Royal Berkshire Regt.
Charles Edward Weeks, was the son of Charles William and Agnes Esther Weeks, of 180 Kings Rd. Reading. The 1911 census indicates that at the age of 17 Charles was working as a grocers assistant. His father had his own business as a book keeper and his younger brother, Cyril aged 9, was in school. Charles had attended Wokingham Road School, now known as Alfred Sutton Primary School and it is assumed that this was the school Cyril attended. Agnes had given birth to four children but only Charles and Cyril had survived.
Charles joined the army in Sept. 1914. The Standard of August 19th 1916 gives an account of the wounding, in both legs, one arm and head, which Charles Weeks received on July 30th 1916. He had been left for dead when a 9.2inch (250lb.) shell fell in front of him but was brought out by the Warwick’s. After the usual field dressings had been administered and treatment at a casualty clearing station he was transferred to Etaples and later evacuated to England where he spent some time in a war hospital in Norfolk. Writing from hospital he commented that the food and treatment was A1. Swelling in his face had gone down and he was now able to see out of both eyes. His left thigh and right knee were still painful. In total he had twenty three injuries but only considered eleven to be bad.
Charles Weeks survived these injuries and returned to France where he was killed on 25th March 1918*, his body was never found. A headstone in Division 32, of the Reading Cemetery, describes him as “Missing in France”, he is officially commemorated on the Arras Memorial, Bay 7, he was 24 years old.
* Four days from the start of the German Spring offensive.