Second Lieutenant William Frederick Ernest East

12th Bn, attached 8th Bn, The East Lancashire Regiment, 112th Brigade, 37th Division, B.E.F.

Malvern Commemoration: Holy Trinity North Malvern,

Burial/Commemoration: Wagon Road Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel

Nature of Death: Killed in action Beaumont-Hamel, France 15/11/1916(*).

Age: 42

Next of Kin: Son of John East of Bank Street, Link Top; husband of Ethel May East (nee Hartland)

Previous Employment: Schoolmaster at Darwen, Lancashire

William East of Malvern Link.


William East was born in North Malvern in 1875, the son of John East, a sadler and harness maker and his wife Mary Ann.  The family lived at 1 Tenby Cottages, Cowleigh Road.

William married Ethel May Hartland at St Barnabas Church, Hove on 28th July 1898.  At the time he was living at 8 Montmorency Street.  They set up home at Madresfield, Sackville Street, Hove and the following June, their first son Raymond was born.  He was christened at Holy Trinity Church, Malvern on 30th August 1899.

Reports reach Malvern

In December 1916 the Malvern News reported:

“Mr J East of Holly Croft, Bank Street, Link Top, Malvern has received official notification from the War Offices that his son 2/Lt W F E East, East Lancs, was killed in action 16th November.

“Before enlisting the deceased was a school-master at Darwen for 19 years and some years was Assistant Schoolmaster and Organist at Hove.

“In July 1915 he joined the Public School Corps and served in France from October 1915 to February 1916 and was then transferred to England to an Officer Cadet Camp. After his commission in July he joined the East Lancashire Regiment in France. He was 42 years old and was a prominent member of Darwen Literary Society.”

Conscientiousness and fearless

William’s father received the a letter from one of his son’s brother officers:

“Dear Mr East

“May I be allowed to express my deep sympathy with you in your great loss and also to say that 2/Lieut East was always admired and praised by our officers and men of this Battalion for the conscientiousness and fearless manner in which he carried out his duties. He had gone back to rally the man after we had got into our own barrage, when he was shot in the head and died instantly.

“Yours sincerely

“(signed) M G Loudon 2/Lieut”

William’s date of death

(*)Further research shows that the Battalion attacked Munich and Frankfurt trenches on the 15th November 1916.  Despite the initial cover of fog, giving the East Lancs the element of surprise, the attack was costly. As soon as the enemy discovered the attack they opened up heavy machine and rifle fire. Ten officers were killed and by 10am the attack had ceased, with no ground gained. The only consolation being a handful of German prisoners.

The War Diary states:

“The forward wave got up to within 50 yards of Munich Trench when our field gun barrage commenced. It was owing to the barrage being short, the thick fog and the wire in front of the trench being uncut that the main attack failed.”

This reference to the barrage falling short would corroborate the evidence of 2/Lieut Loudon that 2/Lieut East was rallying them men after they had got into their own barrage.

The remainder of the day, and the 16th was spent consolidating the line and on the night of 16th/17th a unit of the Border Regiment relived the East Lancs Battalion. It is therefore safe to assume that William East was killed on the 15th and not the 16th as official sources state.


Raymond East

William’s son, Raymond joined the Royal Naval Air Service at Crystal Palace, London on 23rd July 1917.  His given occupation was a fitter and turner.  He served at Lee on Solent, and Aberdeen, before being transferred to the Royal Air Force on formation on 1st April 1918.  Subsequently he served at RAF Pulham and was demobilised as a Corporal.  Raymond died in 1968.

War Diary of the 8th East Lancs PRO: WO 95/2537
Malvern News 2/12/1916
Berrows Worcester Journal Picture Supplement 9/12/1916

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