Private William George Boswell

Regiment:  13th Battalion Royal Sussex
Service No:  SD5628
Date and place of birth:  3rd qtr 1892 in Midhurst, Sussex
Date and place of death:  21 October 1916 in France

William and his cousin Thomas Boswell were both killed in action, they were the sons of brothers George and James Boswell and grandsons of John and Jane Boswell, who lived in Duck Lane, Midhurst

Family Background

William Boswell was born in 1892 in Midhurst, the son of George Boswell, a labourer (32) and Ada Louisa Boswell, nee Merritt, (25) a laundry woman. They had married in 1890 at Petersfield, Hants. William was their eldest son and was baptised in Midhurst Parish Church on 11 September 1892. In 1911 he was 18 and a builder’s apprentice.  He had four brothers: Thomas (15), Archibald (11), Henry (9), Sydney (5) and two sisters: Mabel (17) and Maud (3).  They all lived at 3 Bennetts Terrace, Station Road, Midhurst.

Military service

William Boswell enlisted at Horsham, joining the 13th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment.

The 13th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment came into being between September and November 1914. These battalions (including the 11th and 12th) were formed by C.Lieut. Colonel Claude Lowther MP in Bexhill-on-Sea and were later known as ‘Lowther’s Lambs’. The three battalions formed ‘The South Downs’ with the 11th being the 1st, the 12th being the 2nd and so on. They were mobilised for war in March 1915 as part the 116th Brigade of the 39th Division having been based in both Aldershot and then Witley. They continued training until 5 March 1916 when they embarked from Southampton on the SS Viper and  SS Australand. On 6 March they were camped, in snow, at Le Havre.

The ‘Pals’ battalions of the Royal Sussex South Downs suffered terrible casualties on 30 June 1916. They formed part of the diversionary attack prior to the ‘First day of the Somme’, carried out by the 39th Division at the Boars Head near Richebourg l’Avoue.

Just under 1,100 casualties, the majority of which were from Sussex, were logged as either dead, wounded or taken prisoner.

After regrouping, the battalions were part of the Battle of Thiepval (26 to 28 September) and the push to take The Ridge. It is possible that the last big battle William Boswell was party to was the Battle of Ancre Heights (1 to 11 October 1916).

He was awarded a Victory medal.

Death and commemoration

William Boswell was killed in action.  He is buried at the Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.  He is commemorated on Midhurst War Memorial, Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church, and Pier and Face 7C. Thiepval Memorial.

Thiepval Memorial
Thiepval Memorial
William Boswell's inscription
William Boswell’s inscription

Subsequent family history

George Boswell’s death was registered in 1928 in the Midhurst district.  He was 68.  Ada Boswell’s death was registered in 1949 in the Midhurst district.  She was 82.

In September 1917 William’s brother, Archibald James Boswell, enlisted in Chichester and entered the Training Reserve Battalion, but was discharged from active service in April 1919 from Fusehill War Hospital, Carlisle, as being ‘no longer physically fit for war service’.  His degree of disability was assessed at 30%.  His discharge report stated there was was ‘no indication that the condition has been aggravated by military service as he never persevered in trying to do what he found himself incapable of’.  This was supported by a report that he had often been absent from school on doctor’s orders and that he had been unable to cope with the tasks inherent in his work record as a butcher’s apprentice and ‘page boy’.  It was concluded his disability was ‘probably congenital – no evidence of organic disease’.  He was entitled to a Silver badge and his character report was good.  He died in Southmead Hospital, Bristol in 1957, leaving a widow, Ethel Kathleen Boswell.  He was 58.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project