ELEY, William Charles



No.31950, Guardsman, William ELEY
Aged 23


3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards
formerly 23873, 14th Bn., Hampshire Regiment
Killed in Action on Monday, 4th November 1918


William Eley was born in Cowlinge in 1895 (Risbridge Q2-1895 4A:736), son of James and Maud Rachel ELEY (née CARTER). His surname is sometimes ELY, sometimes ELEY.

1901 census...Aged 6, he was at 3 Fern Cottages, Pound Green, Cowlinge with his father James ELEY [30]farm labourer born Cowlinge and his mother Maud [29], born Barnardiston.

1911 census...Aged 16, assisting father, he was at Blackland Lane, Cowlinge with his parents (father now a carrier) and sister Eva [5] born Cowlinge.

His father died in 1916 and his mother married Charles BITTEN towards the end of 1918.


First, to put one confusion behind us. Some members of the Guards Division have 'Private' on their headstone, other have 'Guardsman'. It all stems from HM King George V decreeing 11 days after the end of the Great War that in future all Privates in the Guards Regiments would assume the title Guardsman in honour of their conduct during the war. This led initially to the CWGC using the 'Private' title for too long on headstones. To quote the Commission now - "Commission policy in relation to the commemoration of Guardsmen has been reviewed. Consequently I can confirm that from now on the headstones of Privates of the Guards Regiments will record the rank of Guardsman in accordance with their original format. Any headstones which have over time been altered to include Private will be reverted to Guardsman as they fall due for replacement."

He enlisted in Newmarket in June 1915. His Soldiers Personal Effects entry gives his sole legatee as Mother-Mrs Maud R BITTEN.
Despite the medal rolls showing him awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal serving in the Grenadiers, no such medal index card has been found either on Ancestry or the National Archives, but there is one with him in the Hampshire Regiment. The CWGC entry shows death on 6th November but this seems to be a transcription error since their own original card shows 4th November.

War Diary shows the battalion being held up at Villers Pol where a bridge over the La Rhonelle had been destroyed and they had to cross the river on a single plank, under high explosive fire and gas whilst crossing. Assembly positions were reached at the rear of La Flaque Wood at 08:00 and the battalion passed through the 1st Coldstream Guards. They were met with MG fire from slopes east of a sunken road, but this was overcome and the advance continued, 8 field guns having been captured by No.2 Coy. The enemy was seen to be retiring and touch was made with 2nd Grenadiers on the left, pushing forward to the Aunelle and then across to a line in 51.M.4.a.1.6. where they came under heavy MG fire. Battn HQ was moved forward. At 17:00 the left company advanced and took REU-AU-SART. and dug in. By now all the officers in the right Coy were casualties,Lt Anson MC was sent to take command and they then cleared MGs out of houses on the St.HUBERT-GOMMEGNIES Road. CWGC records show 18 of the 3rd Grenadiers killed on the 4th but there are an additional two entered erroneously on 6th

Below, the yellow box is the area of the reference mentioned above



The only medal index card found was when he was in Hampshires




photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commmission



William Eley is buried in Frasnoy Communal Cemetery, grave A:17

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details


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