Story

William Robert Vidler Wounded in Action

Story submitted with the help of http://www.prescot-rollofhonour.info

William was baptised on 9th July 1871. The 1881 census states that William’s 66 year old father was a Charcoal Burner whilst his mother aged 56 had no written occupation. When the census was recorded, William was 9 years old.

During the census of 1891 William had left his parental home and was living in Surrey as a Domestic Gardener. Harry Foster, grandson of William Vidler described this career stating, “William was placed in service as a boy with a member of the Stanley family and only came north when family members and staff moved to Knowsley Hall due to a change in succession to the title of the Earldom. He eventually became a footman at the Hall. Grandmother Elizabeth Ackers was the sister of John Ackers. She was placed in service at Knowsley Hall and became the telegraphist (before telephones!). Her job was to transcribe telegraph messages into copper plate written messages for the designated recipients, and hand these to a footman for delivery within the house. Elizabeth and Robert were not allowed to remain on staff when they married; hence Robert went to work at the Wire Works”.

During the 1901 census William was 29 years old. He was living with his wife Elizabeth (25) and daughter Marion (1).

His army number of 140 is one of the numbers issued when the Territorial Force, of which the 1st/5th Battalion was part, was formed in 1908, so it seems likely that as with so many men of the day, William attested into the Territorials, which would have required him to attend a fortnight’s training camp every year. The Battalion had in fact just started its annual training when war broke out in August 1914. It was immediately sent to Edinburgh until October, and then moved to Tunbridge Wells until February 1915.

It was then ordered to France, sailing on the 13th aboard S.S. King Edward, arriving at Le Havre the same day. Over the next few days the Battalion marched to billets at Le Bizet, and then undertook instruction in trench warfare. The system was for companies from a Battalion to be attached to other Battalions for spells in the line, before the sector was allocated to the Battalion on its own. In addition to the trench duty, the Battalion undertook its share of pioneer work and training in rapid fire. The Battalion  moved around regularly without seeing action, until 28th April when it was moved to Vlamertinghe, Belgium in readiness to take part in the 1st Battle of Ypres, which had started on the 22nd.

William Vidler arrived in France on 13th February 1915 with the Battalion as shown by his Medal Index Card. This also records his award of the Silver War Badge (SWB) which would be awarded due to being wounded. It is likely that these wounds were serious enough to lead to his discharge from the army due to health reasons on 5th April 1916, although no record of the action in which he received these wounds can be located.

William Vidler passed away late in 1917 in Prescot, aged 46. His death certificate records the cause of death as Tuberculosis. Without a direct link between his reason for discharge and the cause of death, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will not recognise William’s death as being war-related and so he is not commemorated by them.

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