William Webber attended Oldswinford C of E school and volunteered as a pre-war regular soldier in the South Staffords He had probably served for five years and, when war broke out, was reaching the end of his seven years in the Reserve. In civilian life he was a coach-smith employed by Mr Beddoes Moore of Oldswinford. He lived in Love Lane with his wife and one child while his parents lived at 63 Union Street, Stourbridge. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, like all Reservists, he was called up immediately and had to make his way to Whittington Barracks near Lichfield. Here he was issued with fresh kit and sent off to join the 2nd Battalion. This Battalion was part of the original British Expeditionary Force and at the start of the war it was stationed at Aldershot as part of the 6th Brigade in the 2nd Division. It mobilised quickly and by the 12th August it was ready to cross the Channel from Southampton to Le Havre. In packed trains, and then on foot, the Staffords moved to the Belgian frontier and on 22nd August they were in the Belgian village of Harmignies near Mons. They did not actually come under fire in the one day battle of Mons on the 23 August but as the overwhelming number of German divisions advanced they were forced to join the long retreat towards the Aisne and the Marne. It was to cover 236 miles and take 16 days in weather which seemed to alternate between pouring rain and summer heat. There was little sleep, water was short and rations difficult to obtain. The retreat finally halted and on the 6th September the battalion retraced its steps. The decisive battle of the Marne had begun. At the river Aisne the battalion crossed the river at Pont Arcy and occupied the village of Moussy where the Germans decided to resist any further withdrawal. Trenches were dug and the line began to stabilise. Casualties had been remarkably light, given what the battalion had endured. However, Private William Webber had been seriously injured at some point and had been taken to a military hospital near Paris. He died on the 26th September and was the third Stourbridge man to die in the Great War. He was 29 years of age and is buried at Les Gonards Military Cemetery, Versailles (1 15) and commemorated on the Stourbridge, Oldswinford church, St. Thomas's church and Oldswinford C of E School Memorials.
Mary Stevens Park, Stourbridge, West Midlands, United Kingdom
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