Today we commemorate the 101st anniversary of the death of local Bourne man, Private William Thompson (36295)
2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers Regiment, Formerly 140864, R.F.A.
Died 11th April 1917 age 29.

Willie Thompson was born in 1893 in Scottlethorpe, Edenham, Bourne, Lincolnshire. He was the 8th of 9 children born to Joseph Glassup Thompson, a farmer born in Woolthorpe and his wife Susannah Booth of Haconby.

In 1901 Willie is living with his parents at Wong Farm, Ruskington, Lincolnshire. In 1911 he is living with the Sindall family at Harlaxton Road, Grantham and is working as an apprentice butcher.

In 1915 Willie was married to Margaret Annie Sandall of Stainby. The marriage was registered in Grantham and they were blessed with a son, Norman W G Thompson who was born in 1916.

It is not known when William Thompson signed up, when he saw acton with the Royal Field Artillery or the circumstances of his posting to the Lancashire Fusiliers.

As we are not sure when Willie was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers we have to assume that he joined prior to the 1st April 1917, which is the last mention of reinforcements being posted to the battalion prior to the Battle of Arras.

The following transcription has been taken from the Battalion Diary of the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers and describes the Battalions actions in the lead up to and in the Battle of Arras.

1st April – Ostreville
Company training preparatory to offensive action.
Lieut Hartley and 62 other ranks reinforcements arrived.

2nd April – Ostreville
Company Training

3rd April – Ostreville
Batallion training attack practice

4th April – Ostreville
Company training

5th April – Ostreville
Brigade practice attack

6th April – Ostreville
Brigade practice attack

7th April – Ostreville
Battalion moved to Y hutments (1000 yards west of Etrun on main Arras road)

8th April – “Y” Hutments
Last preparation before attack. Grenades bombs etc issued

9th April – ‘Y’ Hutments

3.30am
Reville

4.30am
Battalion moved to assembly area in G.15.a

7.25am
Battalion arrived at assembly area

9.30am
Men had a hot meal.
The assembly area was near a prisoners cage and the sight of so many prisoners made the men cheerful and made them forget the rain and coming attack.

10.20am
Battalion moved off from assembly area, by platoon at 100 yards distance, behind the Essex.
Route:- Track from G.15.b.9.1 to Road junction G.16.a.1.1 – Cross Roads G.16.c.6.9 – Road junction G.16.c.5.7 – G.16.d.3.7 track North of Oil factory to G.18.a.0.0

From this point battalion moved by a beaten track on the Northern outskirts of St Laurent Blangy making from Railway Bridge across Blangy-Athies Road at H.14.b.0.3

12.50pm to 1.30pm
As companies arrived under cover of Railway Embankment they formed up into artillery formation. “C” is on right with rigt on main road, “B” is on left (C W Directing). “D” is on right in support to CW, “A” is on left in support to “B” company.
Battalion Headquarters have go into touch with Headquarters Kings Own Royal Lancashire Regiment south of the Road.
Casualties up to 12.30pm estimated at 1 officer wounded, 18 other ranks killed and wounded, caused by shell fire in vicinity of Cemetery about G.18.b.5.5

1.30pm
Battalion moved on to Brown Line or trenches in G.4.b

2pm
Arrived Brown Line.
C & B companies assembled in trenches from approximately H.14.b.9.3 to H.15.c.1.6
D & A companies assembled in trenches from approximately H.14.b.6.3 to H.14.b.7.6

3.15pm
Battalion moved off in rear of barrage to attack German 4th system and to push on and dig in on green line.
Parts of objectives allotted to battalion:-
4th system from H.16.d.10.05 to H.16.d.70.95
Green Line from H.18.a.9.2 to H.12.c.7.0

Except for a few shells and wild rifle fire the battalion reached the 4th German system without any difficulty.
Casualties, 1 officer wounded, 1 other rank killer, 3 other ranks wounded
The greater part of the Germans came out and surrendered but a few started to run away, many of which were accounted for Lewis Gun fire.
At this point the Germans dropped many shells amongst the trenches composing the 4th System. This added to the discomfort of German prisoners but did no damage to us.

The number of prisoners taken is doubtful estimated at 2 officers and 50 other ranks.

Nine small guns were captured in 4th German system. (Whizz Bangs). five at G.16.d.4.5, four at G.16.a.8.6
C & B companies pushed out patrols to their front.

3.50pm
At about 3.50pm posts were pushed out on to Sunken Road in G.17.B. The left posts took four guns (approximately 4.2’s) on Sunken Road

4.12pm
D & A companies passed through C & B companies and pushed on to green line. On reaching line of Fampoux-Gaurelle Road the companies came under heavy machine gun fire.
They pushed on but finally had to dig in just east of the road.
Touch was maintained with the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment and Essex Regiment on right and left respectively and a continuous trench dug.
As a counter attack was imminent a defensive position was soon built.

Enemy were seen to be massing and advancing in artillery formation. No Attack however took place.
Casualties
Officers wounded 2nd Lieut C st M Williams, 2nd Lieut Parkes
Other ranks killed 6, Died of wounds 2, wounded 53, missing 1

The weather throughout the day was very changeable at the assembly area it rained hard. During the day it rained occasionally. At night it snowed hard.

10th April

During the morning the enemy were active. Sniping and shelling.
In the afternoon the cavalry came up to attack. We were going to attackin support of them. Objective the Plouvain-Gaurelle Road and Greenland Hill. No action took place.
casualties – Officers Wounded – Capt W R Fanner, Lieut E L Hartley

Other Ranks killed 5, died of wounds 2, wounded 64.

11th April
Morning, artillery and aircraft active

12-noon
Battalion attacked – B and C companies were in support to the Kings Own Royal Lamcashire Regiment on the right.
A & D companies remained on green line in divisional reserve.

2pm
As attack was held up on the right by machine gun fire, D co was sent up to report to OC KOR Lanc R to come under his orders.

1:20pm
Cavalry attempted to break through, but owing to machine gun firs did not succeed.

At night B, C & D companies were first in front of original line Kings Own Royal Lancashire Regiment on the right, Dukes on the left “A” company was still on the green line on the left of some Irish Fusiliers who were next to the Dukes with Essex on the left.
Reorganisation was then taken in hand after warning the necessary people on right and left of A company. The company was moved to get in touch with B, C & D companies. This was accomplished without much difficulty.

Casualties
Officers wounded 2nd Lieut G L Wilkins.
Other ranks killed 6, wounded 12, missing 4

Battalion stayed in the line until the 14th April.

In memory of Private William Thompson, 362959, 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers Regiment who died on 11 April 1917 Age 29
Son of J Glassup Thompson of Gunby, Grantham: husband of Margaret Thompson of Stainby, Grantham, Lincs
Remembered with honour, Arras Memorial.

We will remember them.

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