FITCHES, William

No.5371, Private, William FITCHES
Aged 21

4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
formerly 53613, Suffolk Yeomanry
Died of his Wounds on Thursday, 25th January 1917

William Fitches was born in Chippenham on 22nd February 1895 (Newmarket Q1-1897 3B:546) and was baptised in Chippenham o 7th April 1895. He was the 2nd son of George and Emily FITCHES (née BAILEY).

1901 census... Aged 6, he was living at Palace Farm. Chippenham, with his father, George FITCHES [42] farmer; his mother Emily [40]; sister Edith [11]; brothers Philip [9] and Neville [4] and sister Annie [1]. The entire family were born in Chippenham.

1911 census... Aged 16, he was working for his father at Palace Farm, the same family group had been joined by another brother, Eric[8] also born in Chippenham.

His brother Neville was killed exactly one month earlier, in Belgium, with the Queen's Regiment. see here.

He enlisted in Cambridge.

His Army records have not survived. The 4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, having had three weeks in training around Villers-sous-Ailly at the start of 1917, moved up to a "dismal camp" near Dernancourt and on January 20th 1917 relieved French soldiers in Brigade reserves at Howizter Wood. Two days later they took over front line trenches just south of Bouchavesnes. It seems most likely that this is when William was killed.

The Bury Free Press of 10th February 1917 reported

We regret to report the death of two brave Chippenham lads, who have given their all for their country. Prvt Frederick Drake, son of Mr.Elias Drake.....The second of these noble lads,the intelligence of whose untimely end has been received, is Prvt.William Fitches, second son of Mr. and Mrs. George Fitches, of Palace Farm, who, on Tuesday in last week, received a letter from the Captain of his Company, now at the front, containing the sad information that he had been killed by a shell explosion in the trenches. The write informed his parents that he was mortally wounded and died without recovering consciousness a few hours later. Great sympathy is felt for the bereaved parents, who have a younger so also at the front.
The deceased young man, who was nearly 22 years of age, was well known in the neighbourhood before the war as a fine and enthusiastic cricketer. Leaving the village school in September 1907, having gained a scholarship, he attended Perse Grammar School, Cambridge for 2 1/2 years, after which he assisted on his father's farm. He joined the Suffolk Yeomanry in November 1915 and went to France in December 1916, being transferred to the 4th Suffolk three weeks before his death.
The loss of these two men makes a total of eight from this small village who have made the great sacrifice.

No Known Grave
William Fitches is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France pier and face 1C & 2A

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