Sapper William Bustin

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Rhode Island.

Sapper William Bustin
Sapper William Bustin

William Bustin was one of three sons from this family who died during the war; his brother Robert was killed in action at Gallipoli in 1915, and Ernest was killed in action in France in 1918.

He was born on 25 November 1886, in Adlington, Lancashire, into the large family of Joseph and Elizabeth Bustin; he was one of nine surviving children; two others died as infants.[1] The family had lived in Wigan until around 1885, when they moved to Adlington; they moved again, to Failsworth, around 1895. William Bustin’s father was employed in various light engineering jobs in the cotton mills and his son followed him into that occupation. In 1906 William Bustin enlisted into the British Army and served with 37th Battery, VIII Brigade, Royal Field Artillery—his record indicates that he served for less than a year.

In the spring of 1909 he married Rose Willisford in St John’s Church in Failsworth. There they had three children, Helena, Mary, and William.[2] Before the First World War, the family decided to emigrate to the United States. William Bustin travelled first, arriving in Boston, Massachusetts, on 15 March 1914. His family arrived on 19 May and they made their home on Ianthe Street in Providence, Rhode Island. Bustin found work as a blacksmith with the Rhode Island Tool Co. The couple had a fourth child in May 1915 but the boy died before the end of the year.[3] Bustin subsequently went to work for Brown and Sharpe Manufacturing Company in Providence.

He enlisted in Rhode Island on 12 August 1918 and travelled to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (with Joseph Alcorn), where he was allocated the regimental number 2014372. On 30 September he was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal—for five days he had been suffering from influenza symptoms. The following day he became delirious and he died from pneumonia at 4.20am on 3 October.

His remains were returned to Rhode Island and he was buried in North Burial Ground, Providence on 11 October 1918. His grave—Section 34, Grave 1000—is at the northern end of the cemetery between Cemetery Street and the cemetery’s northern perimeter road, Althea Avenue. His gravestone is inscribed: ‘Always in our thoughts. Wife and children’.

The grave of Sapper William Bustin
The grave of Sapper William Bustin

His wife and children returned to England on 17 February 1919, to their earlier home in Failsworth in Lancashire. His wife died there in 1979, aged 87. Sapper Bustin is commemorated on page 378 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 17 August. All three brothers are commemorated on the war memorial in St John’s Church, Failsworth. Sapper Bustin is also commemorated in a memorial booklet published by Brown and Sharpe Manufacturing Company.[4] He was not entitled to any war medals; the memorial plaque and scroll were sent to his widow and his mother received the Memorial Cross.

The war memorial at St John's Church, Failsworth
The war memorial at St John’s Church, Failsworth

His brothers:

202758 Private Ernest Bustin (enlisted initially into The Manchester Regiment) arrived in France on 4 August 1916 and was posted to 1/4th Battalion, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was shot in the chest on 31 July 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres. When he recovered he returned to France and joined the 9th (Service) Battalion on 28 April 1918. He was declared missing on 27 May 1918 during the Third Battle of the Aisne; he was later designated as ‘killed in action’. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial.

M/397130 Private Fred Bustin, Army Service Corps, had served previously with the Labour Company of The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) (50454, Private), and with the Labour Corps (75258).

Able Seaman Gordon Buston entered the Royal Navy as a Boy in May 1916 and served on the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign in the Grand Fleet. He was discharged on 18 December 1919.

13561 Private Robert Bustin was killed in action on 24 July 1915 serving with the 6th (Service) Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment at Cape Helles, Gallipoli; he is buried in Lancashire Landing Cemetery.


1. (Back) Joseph Bustin (30 October 1858-10 February 1942) married Elizabeth Radcliffe (24 April 1863-9 May 1926) on 7 August 1880 at St Thomas’s Church, Wigan: John (13 February 1881-9 April 1925); George (1882-1883); Joseph (24 May 1884-1951); Florence Ethel (later Taylor) (25 May 1889-9 August 1959); Robert (13 February 1891-24 July 1915); Bertha (15 November 1893-NK); Fred (8 October 1895-22 November 1945); Ernest (1897-27 May 1918); Gordon (24 June 1899-6 October 1947); Leonard (1902-25 February 1903); and Elisabeth Ivy (later Whittaker) (21 September 1906-1997).
2. (Back) Rose Helena née Willisford (8 September 1891-24 April 1979): Helena May (28 December 1909-1977); Mary Nora (1911-NK); William Herbert (19 November 1912-13 September 1981).
3. (Back) George William (21 May 1915-3 December 1915).
4. (Back) See: Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Co. (1920). Memorial to the employees of the Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Co. who served at home and abroad in the great World War. Providence: Brown & Sharpe.

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