Private William George John Heath (614005)

177th Prisoner of War Coy, Labour Corps (late 2255 Herefordshire Regiment)

Malvern Commemoration: The Priory Church of St Mary and St Michael,

Burial/Commemoration: Colwall (St James the Great) Churchyard

Nature of Death: Died of influenza Home 13/2/1919

Age: 22

Next of Kin: Son of George of 1 Valley House, Malvern (and the late Rose Heath)

Education: Colwall Boys' Free School

Previous Employment: Domestic pantry boy

Also commemorated at St James, Colwall

Early Years

William George John Heath (known as Willie) was born in Upper Colwall in 1896, the son of Mr George Heath, a jobbing gardener and his wife Rose.  His father was also onetime parish clerk of Colwall.  In 1911 the family of seven were living at Jubilee Cottages, Upper Colwall.  William had just left Colwall Boys Free School and he worked as domestic pantry boy, presumably in one of the nearby large houses.

During Willie’s home address was to 1 Valley House, Malvern, near St Ann’s Well, Great Malvern.  

With the Herefords at Gallipoli

Willie joined the Herefordshire Regiment  on 11th August 1914 with the regimental number 2255 and after training went to the Dardanelles on 11th July 1915 he went to the Dardanelles with the 1st/1st Herefordshires.  He landed at Suvla Bay on 28th August 1915.  He later served in Egypt where he remained for 10 months, during this time his mother Rose died and his father moved to Malvern.

In Egypt William contracted malaria and was sent from Egypt to hospital in Southampton in September 1916. He received hospital treatment until February 1917. 

Willie was then transferred to the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and went to France in August 1917 and within a month was severely wounded. He went to France again on 29th March 1918 (Good Friday) and was again wounded in the back and right arm. He was at this time attached to the Notts and Derbys.

Prison Guard

As a result of these wounds, Willie was medically down graded and went back to France in August 1918, not in an infantry role but as a  guard in a prisoner of war camp and was still attached at this post of duty when receiving permission to return home in view of demobilisation.  He left France on 4th February 1919.

Tragic home coming

On the eve of returning home at his father’s house in Malvern he complained of not feeling well and took to bed from which he never again arose. His funeral took place on Monday at the St James’ Church, Colwall.

As Ledbury Guardian commented it was a most pathetic case, a man who “…joined up on August 11th 1914 at the commencement of the war, served right through, was several times wounded and then at last came home to die falling victim to bronchial pneumonia following influenza at the early age of 23.”

Malvern News 22/2/1919
Ledbury Guardian 21/2/1919

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