Bestwick is the spelling on the war memorials but the spelling on most documents as you will see is Beswick.
William Henry Beswick was born on 26th July 1885 (according to his school record) at Old Whittington, his parents were George and Elizabeth. William had an older brother Frank, who had been born at Tinsley in 1883.
By the time of the 1891 census the family were living at 16 Whittington Hill Old Whittington, and William and Frank had been joined by sister Ellen. William’s father is listed as working as a Colliery labourer .
William attended Websters Endowed Mixed School on Church Street Old Whittington. According to the Admission and log books he was first admitted on 9th February 1891 and finally left on 1st February 1893.
Williams name is last on the list
The next record for William is the 1901 census.
William is now working as a labourer in the Pottery, this could be Pearsons Pottery which was on Whittington Moor. There are now two new additions to the family George and Mary, 9 and 3 respectively. The family were now living at 20 Church Street Old Whittington.
1898 map of Church Street courtesy of Chesterfield Local Studies Libr
Trying to trace William in 1911 did prove problematic.
His brother Frank had married Annie Winter in 1903 at Newbold Church, and in 1911 they were living at 59 Whittington Hill. Frank was now employed as a bricklayer.
Williams parents were living at 61 Church Street Old Whittington, but William is no longer living at home. However, William has another sister and brother, Olga and Arthur. The 1911 census also shows the number of children to the marriage and the number still living and who have died. Sadly, for Williams parents there had been 10 children to the marriage and only six were still living. It would appear that William had lost four siblings.
I finally found a William Henry Beswick living in Wakefield, with his Uncle and Aunt (according to the census).
Without further research and marriage certificates for the Murgatroyds I cannot for certain confirm this is the correct William, but he does come from Old Whittington and his age is correct so there is a good chance it is him. As yet it is the only William Beswick I have found same age and same birth place.
What is certain is that William joined the 1/4th Northumberland Fusiliers. According to a report in the Derbyshire Times, in October 1916 prior to enlisting William was working as a gardener (which contradicts the census above, although that was taken in 1911). William was sent out to France in June 1916.
By the time William arrived in France the 1/4th had become part of 149th brigade 50th Northumberland Division. When William arrived, the Battalion were based in the Ypres area and according to the WW1 Regimental War Diaries, they were experiencing a relatively quiet period. The reports mention a few attacks by Trench Mortar with low numbers of casualties.
More information on Trench Mortars can be found here https://www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/mortars.htm
However, this would change on the 11th August 1916 when the Battalion were moved from Méteren, to Fienvillers, 75 miles away in the Somme region of France!
They first travelled to Doullens then had to march for three hours to Fienvillers where they were billeted. The Division were transferred from the 2nd Army to the Reserves and the report stated that it was ‘the first time they had left the neighbourhood of Ypres since they had arrived in France 16 months earlier’. Well, they were certainly in the thick of it now!
The 12th,13th and 14th of August were spent route marching and on the 15th they were billeted at Naours, 8 miles from Fienvillers. They finally ended up at Henencourt Wood, where they spent 18-22 August in Battle training. Information on Henencourt can be found here https://ww1revisited.com/tag/henencourt/
Henencourt had a beautiful chateau and the village was used as a rest area for troops going to and from the front, and in the surrounding woods was a large army camp.
Picture from https://www.cparama.com/forum/henencourt
The report mentions how bad the weather was, very wet and so bad it interfered with Battle training. The heavy rain continued into the first week of September and delayed the Brigade Sports competition, which eventually took place with the Battalion taking many first and second places.
On the 9th of September the 1/4th finally moved up to the front line – Becourt Wood 2 miles E of Albert. On September 13th the battalion were at Mametz Wood. On the 15th at 6.20am William and the rest of the Battalion went over the top, they were fighting in High Wood, the battle of Flers – Courcelette, and faced very stiff opposition from the Germans.
The report lists:
Total Casualties 17 Officers and 110 Other ranks killed, 229 wounded and 143 missing. This was out of 22 Officers and 695 Other ranks who started out.
William Beswick was reported Killed in Action on 15th September 1916. William’s body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. More information on High Wood can be found at http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/somme/high-wood/
Thiepval Memorial information at https://www.cwgc.org/find/find-cemeteries-and-memorials/80800/thiepval-memorial
The grave registration report shows that the Beswick family were still living at Church Street when William died.
According to Williams medal card he was awarded the Victory and British War Medal. He doesn’t appear to have been awarded the 14/15 Star which would indicate that he did not go to fight overseas until after 31st December 1915.
There was a report of Williams death in the Derbyshire Times 28th October 1916 and from the account he would seem to have been a popular and well liked man.
As you can see from the report they are listing Williams name as Bestwick although all other documents show the spelling as Beswick. There is a slight discrepancy in the age, if the school attendance report is correct then William would have been 31 years old when he died.
William is remembered on Old Whittington and the Brushes War memorials.
William’s father, George, died in 1932. According to the 1939 register William’s mother Elizabeth was still living at 81 Church Street Old Whittington together with her sons George and Arthur and her daughter Olga. Elizabeth died in 1940. Frank, William’s older brother had moved to Sheffield and in 1939 was working as a Building Inspector.