Sergeant William Pattinson

The notification of the death of Sergeant William Pattinson

The death of Sergeant William Pattinson in Hagerstown, Maryland was brought to our attention by Jill Craig of Western Maryland Regional Library. The notification of his death, published in the Hagerstown Daily Mail, was found during research for a project about Western Maryland during the war. He is not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission—a case will be made for his death to be recognised as attributable to his war service.

William Pattinson was born on 21 January 1889, in the village of Crosscanonby in Cumberland, the eldest son and eldest of the five children of James and Margaret Ann Pattinson.[1] His mother worked as a milliner in his father’s drapery business.

Having decided to become a teacher, he enrolled in The College of the Venerable Bede in Durham (now part of Durham University) in 1910, graduating in 1912.

Recruiting AdvertisementWilliam Pattinson responded to the call for volunteers to form a new battalion of The Durham Light Infantry, the County regiment, and enlisted on 10 September 1914. He joined the 18th (Service) Battalion (1st County), probably in ‘B’ Company, which was made up of men from Bede College, and was allocated the regimental number 1002. He was quickly promoted to Sergeant. His brother, John, also enlisted and joined the same Battalion.[2]

This ‘Pals battalion’ was not raised by the War Office but by a committee led by the Earl of Durham[3] and the cost of equipment and training was met by private subscription until it was taken over by the War Office in August 1915.[4] Based at Cocken Hall, the property of the Earl of Durham, the men of the Battalion proved to be of excellent calibre. The standard of recruit was high; a minimum height of 5’ 9’’ was imposed and a good level of education was expected. The standard of its recruits was reflected in the subsequent commissioning of at least 76 of its soldiers as the war progressed. The Battalion suffered its first casualties during the bombardment of Hartlepool by the Imperial German Navy on 16 December 1914—five men were killed and eleven wounded, of whom one later died of his wounds. Over 100 civilians were killed and more than 200 wounded in the attack.

18th (Service) Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry (1st County)
18th (Service) Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry (1st County)

Initially part of 122nd Brigade with three battalions of The Northumberland Fusiliers, on 22 May 1915 the Battalion joined 93rd Brigade, in 31st Division.[5] This Division was also a ‘Pals’ formation, in this case, with the exception of 18th Durham Light Infantry, made up of Pals battalions from Yorkshire and Lancashire.

After some uncertainty as to its final destination, the Battalion sailed on the SS Empress of Britain for the Mediterranean in December 1915. The ship avoided detection by submarines but collided with the French troopship Djuradjura just before reaching Malta. The French ship came off worst but the repairs to the Empress of Britain took two days. The ship finally arrived in Egypt on 22 December.

Here William Pattinson was engaged in security duties on the Suez Canal before he sailed for France from Port Said on 6 March 1916 . The Battalion disembarked at Marseilles on 11 March and was transported by train to the Western Front. After a short period of training the men of 18th Durham Light Infantry went into the line and for the next two months undertook the routine of life in the trenches.

On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 31st Division attacked at Serre. 93rd Brigade was on the right of the attack and its leading battalions barely made it out of its trenches as the German artillery responded to the start of the attack.[6] The German artillery destroyed the frontline trenches and for the next four days maintained a barrage of explosive and gas shells.

Forward in the line were the men of 93rd Brigade Trench Mortar Battery. Just after the arrival of 18th Durham Light Infantry in France, Sergeant William Pattinson had been detached from the Battalion to the new Trench Mortar Battery.[7] It was raised from men from across the battalions of 93rd Brigade and was dispatched for training at 4th Army Mortar School, returning to the Brigade in early April.

During the attack on 1 July, the Trench Mortar Battery had four mortars in saps forward of the frontline and eight other mortars in a firing line farther back. Just before the infantry attack began the Battery began its fire-mission and added to the heavy artillery barrage that had been underway for five days. The Battery fired 1,700 mortar rounds but, when the attack by the infantry began, the German artillery caused significant casualties in the British trenches. Nine mortars were put out of action. Lieutenant Sidney Bobby,[8] attached from 18th Durham Light Infantry was commanding a pair or mortars in a forward sap when he was killed, and Captain Stanley Titford,[9] who commanded the main firing line, was wounded; four men of the Battery were killed and 18 others wounded, including Sergeant William Pattinson.

Serre and the are where Sergeant William Pattinson was wounded
Serre and the are where Sergeant William Pattinson was wounded

He was evacuated to hospital in England and then spent some time at home recovering from his wounds. His injuries precluded further service in France and Sergeant Pattinson joined the 1st Training Reserve Battalion as an instructor.[9] The injuries sustained in France proved too much, however, and he was discharged as a consequence of being ‘no longer physically fit for service’ on 5 February 1918.

It was thought that a sea journey and the climate farther south would help him recover and he sailed for the United States on the SS Melita from Liverpool on 19 August 1918, arriving at New York on 29 August. He travelled onward to Hagerstown in Maryland to live with his maternal aunt, Sarah.[10] At first he seemed to get better but his condition steadily worsened and he was taken to Hagerstown hospital on 20 September.

The grave marker for William Pattinson
The grave marker for William Pattinson

He died there on the morning of 24 September 1918—his death was recorded as being caused by dysentery. On 26 September his funeral service began at Washington Square Methodist Church. He was interred in Rose Hill Cemetery, where his aunt and uncle were later buried alongside him. His grave is marked with a flat private memorial stone that records his name and years of birth and death. The rear face of the Wilson family monument is inscribed, somewhat erroneously, ‘Gallipoli Campaign Casualty’.

Sergeant William Pattinson is one of twelve casualties of the First World War commemorated on the Crosscanonby War Memorial at the Church of St. John the Evangelist. He is not recorded on the Bede College memorial.

Crosscanonby War Memorial
Crosscanonby War Memorial

He is also commemorated on the Honor Roll in Washington Square Methodist Church in Hagerstown and by a window presented to the church by his aunt and uncle. Also on the Honor Roll is his cousin, 2LT Stanley Gladstone Wilson, who served as a  supply officer with 50th Aero Squadron, Aviation Section, United States Army Signal Corps.

Memorial Window dedicated to William Pattinson
Memorial Window dedicated to William Pattinson

His medals group comprises the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal. He was awarded Silver War Badge number 334212.

Jill Craig, Western Maryland Regional Library, for information about the Wilson family and for photographs of the Wilson family plot in Rose Hill Cemetery and of the memorials in Washington Square Church.
Mike Deacon for the photos of Crosscanonby war memorial.

Hagerstown Daily Mail.
Lowe, W D. (1920). War history of the 18th (S.) Battalion Durham Light Infantry. London: Oxford University Press.
The National Archives (TNA). Public Record Office (PRO). (April-August 1916). WO95/2362-4. 93rd Brigade Trench Mortar Battery War Diary.
Sheen, J. (2006). Durham Pals: 18th, 19th, & 22nd (Service) Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry: a History of Three Battalions Raised by Local Committee in County Durham. Oxford: Casemate Publishers.
The Bede magazine.

1. (Back) James Pattinson (1862-1940) and Margaret Ann Pooley (1860-1945) were married on 5 November 1885; Jane Sharp (3 September 1890-1976); Ann (1891-NK); Linda (1896-NK); and John Pooley (1897-1983).
2. (Back) 1000 Private John Pooley Pattinson served in Egypt with 18th Durham Light Infantry and later transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (162577, Private). He was discharged to the Class Z reserve on 19 February 1919.
3. (Back) Pals battalions were made up of men who had enlisted from the same locality, often from the same workforce, social strata and community, who were able to serve with the ‘pals’ with whom they enlisted, rather than being allocated to different units. A fifth of the battalions of the New Army raised in the first two years of the war were Pals battalions. When mass casualties occurred in the major actions in 1915 and 1916, the impact on the communities that had formed these battalions was sudden and severe.
4. (Back) When the Battalion was taken over by the War office the committee refused to accept reimbursement of the money that had been spent raising and training it and the Earl of Durham refused recompense for the use of Cocken Hall.
5. (Back) This reorganisation was part of the wider reorganisation of the Fourth New Army—122nd Brigade was broken up and the other two Brigades, 123rd and 124th, were renumbered as 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) and 103rd (Tyneside Irish) and allocated to 34th Division.
6. (Back) With the exception of the men of ‘D’ Company, 18th Durham Light Infantry was in reserve during the initial phase of the attack. ‘D’ Company took part in the attack on the right of 93rd Brigade and was destroyed. The rest of the Battalion was ordered forward later in the morning and attempted to consolidate the front line. For three more days the men of the 18th Durham Light Infantry held the front line under heavy shellfire, which included  a large number of gas shells. Finally, on the night of 4/5 July, the Battalion was relieved. Its losses were considerable. Of the 769 all ranks that had entered the line on 30 June, 12 officers and 60% of the other ranks were casualties.
7. (Back) An account of the action on 1 July 1916 and the attachment of Sergeant William Pattinson to 93rd Brigade Trench Mortar Battery is recorded in Bede College magazine. See: ‘Record of the Pals’ (December 1916). The Bede. Volume 13, No. 1. p 7.
8. (Back) Second Lieutenant Sidney Fitzgerald Bobby. He was born in 1894 and served as a Private in 1/1st Honourable Artillery Company before being commissioned into The Durham Light Infantry on 25 April 1915 for service with the 18th (Service) Battalion (1st County) in 93rd Brigade. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial.
9. (Back) Captain Stanley Herbert Titford. Commissioned into The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) on 16 April 1915 for service with the 18th (Service) Battalion (2nd Bradford) in 93rd Brigade. He was one of the original officers attached to 93rd Brigade Trench Mortar Battery. He was transferred to the General List on 30 May 1916. His wounds precluded further service in France and he served the remainder of the war in the Training Reserve. He was discharged as a result of his wounds on 26 April 1919. He died on 27 February 1960, aged 73.
10. (Back) Formerly the 16th  (Reserve) Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, part of the 1st Reserve Brigade at Rugeley in Staffordshire.
11. (Back) William Henry Wilson (10 July 1859-5 November 1943) was born in Allerton, Liverpool and arrived in the United States in May 1879. Sarah Jane Pooley (1858-10 October 1931) was born in Cumberland and arrived in the United States in 1880. They married on 17 September 1880 and lived first in Lonaconing, Maryland, where William Wilson worked as a miner and where their children were born. They subsequently moved to Hagerstown where William Wilson set up business as a grocer. After Sarah Wilson’s death in 1931, William Wilson remarried (Daisy Sowers). He died in 1943. Sarah J. and William H. Wilson are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Hagerstown. Daisy Sowers Wilson died on 29 August 1945.

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