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War Memorials

In Memory of
Lance Sergeant 17071
2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards
Who was Killed in Action on Tuesday, 27th August 1918
Age 23

Plot V Row C Grave 29
Mory Abbey Military Cemetery, Mory, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Mory Abbey Military Cemetery

Mory Abbey Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France1

William Robotham was born in Long Eaton, Derbyshire in 18942, the second youngest of seven surviving children of John (b. c1858, Shardlow, Derbyshire) and Clara Robotham (b. 1859, Castle Donington, Derbyshire née Frakes)3. William was employed on the railway all his working life and, by 1901 he had moved with his family from Long Eaton, where he had worked in the wagon works, to live at 30 Mona Street, Beeston from where he worked as a foreman on the railway4. By 1911, they appear to have moved next door to 32 Mona Street5 and, by then, William, aged 16, was working in an estate agent's office. What appears to be a well-ordered and established family life must have been shaken when Clara died early in 1914.6.

When war came in August 1914, William enlisted immediately - in fact, it seems likely that he joined the army, perhaps the Reserve, earlier that year as he joined the for 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, part of the British Expeditionary Force, in France as early as 21 September 19147. The battalion had already been engaged in the Battle of Mons and were soon to face more action. In October/November 1914, it fought heroically in the 1st Battle of Ypres with heavy casualties. With only four officers and 140 men remaining, Private Robotham was fortunate to survive that bitter battle but now faced winter and a future of almost four years of trench warfare8.

During 1916, now part of the 4th (Guards) Brigade of the 2nd Division. the battalion took part in the Somme battles of Flers-Courcelette and Morval. During 1917 it took part in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Lane and then in many of the terrible encounters of the Third Battle of Ypres - known as Passchendaele. In March and April 1918, the battalion took part in the desperate struggles to contain the threat of the German Spring Offensive. By that time, it seems, William had been promoted to Corporal and was soon to receive further promotion to Lance Sergeant.

On 25th August 1918 the battalion relieved 2nd Battalion Scots Guards to take over front line positions near Boiry, north of Bapaume, as part in the Second Battle of Bapaume which had began on 21st August. This was a further phase of the Battle of Amiens, the British and Commonwealth attack that was to become the turning point of the First World War on the Western Front and the beginning of the Allies' Hundred Days Offensive. But this was the early stages and there was still much fighting to be faced starting with a big offensive which was scheduled for the 27th. Fortunately, it was a fine night as the men moved into position and there was very little shelling - although one shell did fall on one of the companies as it moved into position, killing its officer and with several more casualties amongst the men. During the advance on the 27th, the battalion came under intense enemy machine-gun fire which became even more extreme as attempts were made to advance resulting in many more casualties. In the midst of this difficult position, one company was able to capture a German Commander and 180 of his men and eventually, on the night of the 27th, it was possible to consolidate the position and the enemy was forced to retire. This intense engagement had incurred casualties within the battalion totaling 12 Officers and 278 Other Ranks including 7 Officers and 60 Other Ranks killed or died of wounds. Lance Sergeant Robotham was one of those killed9.

It appears that Lance Sergeant Robotham was first buried in the Grenadier Guards Cemetery at St Leger but his burial was part of a group of 24 men of the 2nd Grenadier Guards and two other soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell on the 27th August 1918, which were later reburied in Mory Abbey Military Cemetery in Mory, a village between Arras and Bapaume in the Pas de Calais, France. Mory village was occupied by Commonwealth troops in the middle of March 1917. It was lost after obstinate defence by the 40th and 34th Division a year later and recaptured towards the end of the following August, after severe fighting, by the 62nd (West Riding) and Guard Divisions. The German burials in a plot on the west side of the cemetery were made by German troops in March-August 1918, or by Commonwealth troops in September 1918. The Commonwealth plots were begun at the end of March 1917 and carried on by fighting units until March 1918, and again in August and September 1918, as far as and including Plot III. The graves in Plots IV and V - including many of the Guards Division, and chiefly of 1918 - were added after the Armistice from the battlefields between St. Leger and Bapaume10.

Lance Sergeant Robotham was posthumously awarded the British War Medal. the Victory Medal and the 1914 Star11. His financial effects of 9 11s 2d were paid to Leslie, his younger brother, his sole legatee, on 29 January 1919 and his War Gratuity of 24 10s was also paid to him on 28 November 1919.12.

William's father appears to have married Annie M Satterley, a widow, in Nottingham in 1915. In 1921, they were living at 9 Mona Street, Beeston but William died in Nottingham later that year, aged 6313.

1The photograph of the Mory Abbey Military Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Shardlow Registration District (of which Long Eaton was part) in Q4/1894 (Ref 7b 481). Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and his memorial stone as 'Robothom', it is recorded throughout other official records as 'Robotham'.
3John Robotham and Clara Frakes married in the Parish Church at Castle Donington, Leicestershire in October 1879.
4Beeston, Notts: 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 142
5Beeston, Notts: 1911 Census, Piece 20430 RD429 SD3 ED5 Schedule 55.
William's siblings were Florence Maud (b. c1883), John (b. c1885), Harriett Ann (b. c1886), Harry (b. c1890), George (b. c1892) and Leslie Fred (b. c1902).
6Her death was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q1 1914 (Ref 7b 285).
7As his Army Service Record has not survived, his month of enlistment has been calculated from the amount of his War Gratuity. The date of his arrival in France is recorded on his Medal Card.
8Details of the battalion's mobilisation and involvement in the war is based on its entry in the Forces War Records website at www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/347/grenadier-guards.
9Details the battalion's deployment on 25-27th August are from the battalion war diary.
10This description of the Mory Abbey Military Cemetery is based on that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
11Details from William's Medal Card - available on ancestry.com.
12Details from his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 - available on ancestry.com.
13William and Annie's marriage appears to be recorded in Nottingham Registration District in Q3/1915 (Ref 7b 1013). They and Harry Robotham are recorded on the 1921 Electoral Roll, living at 9 Mona Street, Beeston and Annie is still recorded there in 1930. William's death is recorded in Nottingham Registration District in Q4/1921 (Ref 7b 345).

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