For King and Country

Person Details

COMLEY, William John

Memorials

Name: Hurley High Street, Hurley
NIWM Ref: 7930
RBWM Ref: WM145
Name: Ladye Place and Hurley Parish High Street, Hurley
NIWM Ref: 7920
RBWM Ref: WM148
Name: Cookham School Lane, Cookham
NIWM Ref: 7925
RBWM Ref: WM151

Person Details

Date of birth: 7/1893
Place of birth: Faringdon, Berkshire
Gender: Male
Date of death: 01/07/1916
Place of death: Ovillers, France
Manner of death: Killed in action
Age at death: 23
CWGC Ref: 758727
TWGPP Ref: 59588
Address: 17 Cooperage Road Farnborough Wantage

Military details

Military Organisation: Army
Military Unit/Group: 2nd Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment
Rank: Private
Service Number: 15855

Additional information

William is remembered on the Thiepval memorial (Pier and face 11D). His friend Private Thomas wrote home to his parents: "It is with deep regret that I write to tell you of the death of your son, William, which happened on 1st July during the big attack in which the Royal Berks took part. He, with a few of his section was killed by a shell, death being instantaneous. He was a fine lad and will be missed, not only by me, but by all of his platoon who knew him. I promised before we went into action that I would write and let you know if anything happened to him and he promised to do the same for me. He also asked me to write to his wife but I would sooner you did this for me. You can assure her he died like a soldier." Battalion historian Dennis Pillinger wrote: "That first day was terrible. The infantry advanced straight into machine guns. Almost 20,000 of the 60,000 British casualties on that day were dead when the sun went down…."
William William had been a Farm Waggoner before the War and he was serving with the Royal Berkshire Regiment on the Western Front, when he was killed on the 1st July 1916. This was the first day of the Battle of the Somme when the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Berks lost half their men at Thiepval. There were 27 officers and 374 men including William killed. This was a massive battle, an attempt to break through the German lines. A quarter of a million shells were fired on the German lines in the space of an hour, a barrage audible in London. Then the British troops advanced. The carnage was terrible, with 60,000 British casualties on the first day of a battle that was to last months.
William John Comley was the son of Mr & Mrs Comley of Oak Cottage, Cookham. He was born in Farringdon, Oxon and married Emily Janet Tilbury from Hurley in 1914, when he was 20. On the Census in 1911 Emily was kitchen maid to a Metropolitan Police Magistrate and the household in East Molesley had a Butler and a Cook, so was quite grand. William and Emily may have met through the Tilbury family living in Cookham Dean in 1911 - perhaps her cousins. After William died, Emily went on to marry Fred Harris in Maidenhead in 1919.

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