WOODS, William

No. 29434, Gunner, William WOODS
Aged 32

121st Battery, Royal Field Artillery
Killed in Action on 14th September, 1914

An Old Contemptible and the 1st Exning man to die

Born in Woodditton on 18th March 1882,[Newmarket 3b:550] the 3rd son of Harry and Emily A. WOODS (née SEGROTT) of Ditton Lodge Farm Cottage, Woodditton.

Admitted to Exning Board School on 22nd October 1888.

1891 census...At 6 Eleanor Terrace, Burwell Road, Exning were William[9] , his father Harry WOODS [38] a gardener born n Norton; mother Emily [38] born Newmarket; brothers George James [15] a waiter in hotel, born Disley, Cheshire), Bertram [10] born Woodditton and Harry [4] born Newmarket, and his sister Emily Annie [12], Rose Miriam [2] born Exning and Maud Ethel [1] born Exning.

1901 census...At Parsonage Lane, Burwell were Bertram [20] Royal Navy seaman, his parents, brother Harry, sisters Rose and Maud and brother Frederick [9] born Exning. Brother Bertram WOODS was home on leave from the Royal Navy but not William, who was in the Army.

1911 census...All that were left at home at 1 Ash Terrace, Laceys Lane, Exning were William, an Army Reservist, his parents, and niece Katherine Elizabeth JONES [14] a nursemaid, born Fulham SW.

In the 1911 census his occupation is given as Reservist, which would account for him being in France so early in the war. CWGC have his parents at Chapel Yard around the time of his death. He appears never to have married.

He was 31090 Woods, 94 Coy,(Metropolitan Mounted Rifles) 24th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry during the South African War. He had enlisted on 26th February 1901 in London, for one year in the colours (which presumable meant 11 on Reserves), 5'9" (175.3 cm) tall, weighing 142 pounds (64.6 kg). His South African service was from 11 April 1901 to 30th August 1902 and he was discharged on 7th September 1902. He was awarded the Queens South Africa Medal with clasps for South Africa 1901 , South Africa 1902 and Cape Colony. His medal index card does not include the 1914 Star and clasp, but since he was killed in action he must have been in range of enemy guns and before 23rd November 1914, therefore was a fully fledged Old Contemptible. Presumably no one submitted the claim for his medals
William was killed in the Battle of the Aisne, the last day of the British retreat from Mons, on the day when the armies began to dig in and trench warfare started. The 121st Battery was part of XV Brigade, 5th Division
There are only 3 British soldiers buried in the cemetery, all 3 gunners. Driver William Martin died the same day as William, Gunner Francis Calow died two days later of his wounds, indicating they were probably serving the same gun at the time.

William's entry in "Our Exning Heroes" reads as follows:
Woods, W.   Gunner in Field Artillery
William Woods, who was killed at the battle of the Aisne, on September 16th, 1914, was the first of the Exning men to lay down his life for his country.
He was born at Woodditton, on March 14, 1882, and was educated at the village school and also attended St. Martin's Sunday School. He enlisted and served eight years in the Field Artillery, and fought in the South African War. He was on the Reserve when the war with Germany broke out. His Major, in reporting his death, writes of him:-
"He was an exceedingly good soldier, and a great loss to the Battery. He was buried in Ciry graveyard by an Army Chaplain. He was hit by a shell and died almost instantaneously."

The Newmarket Journal of 31st October 1914 reported:-

"We regret to announce that Gunner Wm.Woods, of the Royal Field Artillery, has met his death when fighting for his country in France. Gunner Woods was the 5th son of Mr. and Mrs.H.Woods of Exning, and was 32 years of age. He had served in South Africa in the Imperial Yeomanry for a year and eight months; and subsequently was in the Field Artillery for 8 years, spending 7 of those years abroad. When the war broke out he was a reservist, and would shortly have completed his period of service. While Mr. and Mrs Woods have the deepest sympathy of the parishioners. it will be a source of pride and comfort to them that their son died the death of a hero, fighting in defence of his country as truly as if the war were being waged on British soil."

William on right

William is buried in Ciry-Salsogne Communal Cemetery, France Ref: left hand wall to front of cemetery

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