Private William James Long

William was born on 30 April 1891 in Greenwich London.  He was the son of John Long a Policeman (born 28 Sep 1851 in Tilshead, died 26 Jan 1900 and buried at Tilshead) and Annie Long (nee Larkin) (born 1856 in Northiam, Sussex died 1934 Wiltshire).  John and Annie married 22 Jul 1879 in Streatham Common Immanuel, Lambeth. 

William is recorded as being a Machinist (Agricultural)? by trade and his religion is recorded as being Baptist/Congregational.

Just before William was born the family are recorded in the 1891 Census living in Greenwich with Father John, Mother Annie and children Alice (b 1882) Lizzie (b 1884) and Sydney (b1889).

His Father John, died in 1900.

In the 1901 Census William is recorded (aged 9) as living in Tilshead with Mother Annie, brother Sydney (b 1890) sister Annie (b 1897) and youngest brother Edward (b 1899).

I cannot identify exactly when, between 1901 and 1914, or why William emigrated to Canada.  It appears his hometown was Peterborough, Ontario.

His mother Annie later married William Nash in 1904 and lived in Tilshead.  She, William Nash and her son Edward, then aged 12 appear on the village 1911 Census return.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission citation records Annie living at No 1 Mill Street, Tilshead.

Service History

Service Number 7652, William attested on 22 Sep 1914 in Valcartier Quebec and joined 2nd Battalion Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment).  His Canadian service record shows he also previously served in 57th Canadien-Français Regiment.

The battalion boarded the S.S. Cassandra from Quebec City on 22 September 1914, but sailed only as far as the Gaspé Basin, where more troops were collected. The battalion finally left the Gaspé Basin on 3 October as part of a convoy of at least 30 other ships, carrying a combined 32,000 Canadian soldiers, which would be the first of the Canadian infantry contributions to the war.

The Cassandra landed at Plymouth on 25 October, where the battalion disembarked and began rigorous training for the European battlefield. The 2nd Battalion trained at Bustard Camp on the Salisbury Plain for the next 4 months, just down the road from William’s Mother in Tilshead!  Here they trained in very wet and muddy conditions as part of the 1st Canadian Brigade (all 4 battalions of the Brigade were from Ontario) of the 1st Canadian Division.  

On 8th February 1915, the 2nd Battalion was mobilised for war. They sailed out of England aboard the S.S. Blackwell, bound for France.

By 17th February the Battalion had moved up to the front near Armentieres, France where they were attached to a British unit, the North Staffordshire Regiment. Under their tutelage, the Battalion was introduced to rigors of trench duties, field engineering, the habits of the enemy and matters of like nature.

On February 19th, the 2nd Battalion entered the front-line trench west of Armentieres, where they were finally faced with the realities of trench warfare. On February 20th  the Battalion suffered its first wartime casualty, when Pte. R.T. Cardew was killed when his trench shelter was destroyed by a German shell. The 2nd Battalion had bloodied itself.

By early April, the 2nd Battalion found themselves in the vicinity of Ypres, Belgium and soon found themselves involved in the Second Battle of Ypres (the First Battle of Ypres had taken place in Oct. of 1914). It was on 22nd April the battalion first saw the horrors of German gas attacks. They were in reserve positions several kilometers behind the French line when they witnessed a large number of French Colonials (Algerians) streaming away from the front lines. These men were dropping in convulsions and vomiting. All the Canadians could get from the poor souls were the hoarsely wheezed words: “Asphyxie-asphyxie!!”.

It was apparent the 2nd Battalion was headed for no ordinary fight. The Battalion was moved up to the area of St. Julien-Kitchener Woods to help stop the German advances made after the gas attacks. Over the course of the next 3 days the 2nd Battalion along with a number of other Battalions, would fight in the brutal Battle of St. Julien (a part of the Second Battle of Ypres).

The Canadians advance at Ypres

By the time the 2nd Battalion was relieved and withdrawn, they had lost close to 400 men, 162 wounded. This was well over half of the Battalion. It was with great sorrow the Battalion left so many of their own, in ‘Flanders Fields’. So ended the Second Battle of Ypres for the 2nd Battalion.

German artillery barrage at Ypres

The original 2nd Battalion was virtually destroyed at Ypres. As would happen again over the course of the war, new ‘drafts’ (replacements) would be added to the battalion as needed.

1st Canadian Brigade War Diary extract for 26th April 1916 is shown (refer to maps  below war diary for locations)

William was first reported officially missing on 13 May 1915.

On 4 Aug 1916 (for official purposes) he was presumed dead on or around 26 Apr 1915.

A photograph of William appeared on page 9 of the Peterborough (Ontario) Examiner on 29 April 1916.

With no known grave he is commemorated at MENIN GATE (YPRES) MEMORIAL
Belgium on Panel 10 – 26 – 28.

The Menin Gate Memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town of Ypres (now Ieper) in the Province of West Flanders, on the road to Menin and Courtrai. It bears the names of 55,000 men who were lost without trace during the defence of the Ypres Salient in the First World War. Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and erected by the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission, it consists of a Hall of Memory”, 36.6 metres long by 20.1 metres wide. In the centre are broad staircases leading to the ramparts which overlook the moat, and to pillared loggias which run the whole length of the structure. On the inner walls of the Hall, on the side of the staircases and on the walls of the loggias, panels of Portland stone bear the names of the dead, inscribed by regiment and corps. Carved in stone above the central arch are the words:

TO THE ARMIES OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE WHO STOOD HERE FROM 1914 TO 1918 AND TO THOSE OF THEIR DEAD WHO HAVE NO KNOWN GRAVE.

Over the two staircases leading from the main Hall is the inscription:

HERE ARE RECORDED NAMES OF OFFICERS AND MEN WHO FELL IN YPRES SALIENT BUT TO WHOM THE FORTUNE OF WAR DENIED THE KNOWN AND HONOURED BURIAL GIVEN TO THEIR COMRADES IN DEATH.

The dead are remembered to this day in a simple ceremony that takes place every evening at 8:00 p.m. All traffic through the gateway in either direction is halted, and two buglers (on special occasions four) move to the centre of the Hall and sound the Last Post.

Peterborough, Ontario Memorial and Plaque

William was entitled to the 1914/15 Star, War and Victory Medals.

1914/15 Star 
War Medal  
Victory Medal

Book of Remembrance

George Clegg

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