Service No: 838
Date of Death: 23/05/1915
Regiment/Service: Essex Yeomanry “C” Sqdn.
Grave ReferenceI. F. 47.
Cemetery BAILLEUL COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, NORD
Born in 1891 at Plaistow, son of Walter Edmund (Insurance Agent) and Mary Rayner. 1901: With his family at 18 Oxford Terrace, Chigwell Road South Woodford. 1911: His family at 4 Pine Terrace Maybank Road South Woodford, Walter now a Coal Agent. William was a Sorting Clerk/Telegraphist with the GPO at Woodford, boarding with William Jones (Postman) and family at 2 Drayton Villas Cottages, Princes Road Buckhurst Hill.
He returned to South Woodford, where the family home had moved to 7 Grove Hill, and at some point enlisted in the Essex Yeomanry, “C” Squadron which was based at Waltham Abbey. This arrived in France on 30-11-14, and joined 10 Royal Hussars and the Royal Horse Guards in 8 Cavalry Brigade on 11-12-14.
Following three weeks of fighting which included the use of chlorine gas, the Yeomanry were moved forward to a support position at Frezenberg Ridge which had strategic importance. They were initially deployed in a supporting role, digging a communications trench to improve contact between GHQ and the front line. However at 04.00 on 13-05-15 the Germans began an intense four hour artillery barrage before storming the front lines and taking the trench held by the Lifeguards.
Essex Yeomanry, plus 10 Hussars and Horse Guards were brought up as reinforcements. At about 14.15 while under fire, they undertook a dismounted bayonet charge, doubling over 1000 yards of open ground only to find the Germans had withdrawn from the captured trench before they arrived. However the Yeomanry were then subjected to accurate shellfire before retiring to their previous locations at about 18.00.
This was the first time the Yeomanry had come under fire, and their success was costly in terms of casualties. On what was described as the “Black Day for Essex” 33 were Killed, 100 Wounded, 16 Wounded and Missing, 11 Missing – 160 in total, including their CO, Lt Col. Edmund Deacon who was never recovered. Capt. Ruggles Brize and 11 others in an advanced position within ruined houses thwarted any attempted counter attacks until they returned after dark. The regiment then held the GHQ trenches until relieved on the morning of 14-05-15. Their Brigadier stated that, “had the Germans attained their object, the position of the whole 27th Infantry Division on the right would have been rendered very precarious. As it was the Germans retired so great a distance that we were enabled to establish an unbroken line during the night unmolested”.
William Rayner was among those injured that day, and on 23-05-15 he died from the wounds he had received.
Memorial: Roll of Honour St Mary’s Church. Main Board & Church Lads KRRC Cadet Panel Holy Trinity Church. Woodford Green Sorting Office Memorial.
Separate Folder: YES
Principal Sources: Ancestry. Find my Past. Essex Newsman. Essex Yeomanry War Diary.
Qualification: Borough Resident.