1914 - 2023

The Marston Lads

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Lance Corporal

William Neild

Killed in Action
5th April 1918

Aged 25

17th Battalion
Kings Royal Rifle Corps

11 Cross Street
William Neild was born in 1893 in Marston to Joseph and Mary Neild. William was one of 13 children born to the marriage. By 1911, four children had died. In 1911, eight children were still at home together with a lodger and of course the parents. That's eleven people in one 5-room house, and that included the kitchen. Pretty cramped by today's standards.

Like many of the Marston Lads, William worked at Marston Salt Works. During his time there he injured his leg riding on one of the wagons in the Adelaide Salt Mine.

The family appear to have lived in Cross Street for a great number of years.
William Neild's enlistment records are missing, no doubt part of the 50% that were destroyed during the London blitz in 1940. However, after an exhaustive search and a great deal of luck, I have been able to map his military life accurately. This was aided by him being a Lance Corporal, this suggested William had served in the military before, and he did. Before and during the latter part of 1914, a number of Territorial Battalions had built up, so many that a number were placed in 'Reserve'.

One record exists that shows William Neild, and noted as 'Formally' the 16th T.R. Battalion, the letters T.R meaning 'Training Reserve'. William would be one of three Marston Lads who took the decision before the First World War to take up training with the Army prior to the war. Following his training, which he would do each year, he would remain in Reserve for a number of years. This will explain why he was quickly promoted to a Lance Corporal at such a young age. To have this responsibility, William must have shown leadership and intelligence during his time with the Reserves. His enlistment date was 24th December 1913.

Reserve Battalion soldiers during training 1914

William's reserve unit was the 16th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He would keep with this battalion when he joined the army full time, then on the 1 September 1916 the regimental distinctions disappeared and the battalions were re-designated as the 1st to 116th reserve battalion in one of 26 reserve brigades, and in the case of William, he joined the 17th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps, and as a Lance Corporal. William enlisted at Manchester.

A lance corporal usually serves as second-in-command of a section. It is also a rank held by specialists such as clerks, drivers, signallers, machine-gunners and mortar men.

The 17th Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 117th Brigade in the 39th Division in March 1916 for service on the Western Front.

The division was formed as part of the fifth wave (K5) of divisions in the New Army; it did not have a regional title but was composed primarily of recruits from the Midlands, London, and the south of England. Several of its battalions had been raised by local communities and were named for their towns or industries. After training and home service, it deployed to the Western Front in early 1916 and fought in the Battle of the Somme. The following year, it saw action at the Third Battle of Ypres, and in 1918 took heavy losses in the German Army's Spring Offensive. The General Officer Commanding, Major-General Edward Feetham, was killed in the action in March 1918.

The 1918 Spring Offensive

William Neild was the 4th Marston Lad to be killed during the German Spring Offensive. He died of wounds received during battle on the 5th April 1918. He is buried at St. Sever Cemetery Extension, France.

St. Sever Cemetery Extension, France
Tony Hayes