William Henry Pizer
William Henry Pizer was born in Saxelbye, Leicestershire in 1895, to Thomas Edward Pizer from Great Ponton, and his wife, Elizabeth Pizer nee Isaac, from Hungerton cum Wyville. William was the fourth of six children, he had four brothers and a sister. Thomas and Elizabeth had two other children who died in infancy. The Pizers moved from Saxelbye to Goadby Marwood around 1900 and the census returns of 1901 recorded the family living at White Lodge where Thomas was employed on the dairy cattle farm. Ten years later, Thomas had been appointed farm bailiff and was assisted on the farm by his four eldest sons, John, Frederick, Edward and William. The two youngest children, Ethel and Arthur, attended the local school.
William volunteered for military service just a month after war broke out, enlisting at Melton Mowbray on September 2nd. His medical examination record described William as 5 feet 3 inches tall with a fresh complexion, brown hair and grey eyes. His attestation paperwork recorded his occupation as blacksmith’s striker. Like most of the ‘Goadby Boys’ he was initially posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment. Following a period of training, the 8th Battalion landed in France in July 1915.
Sometime after arriving on the Western Front, William wrote a letter to his older brother, Fred and wife Hilda in Goadby Marwood, thanking them for a food parcel they had sent him:
Somewhere in France
Dear Hilda & Fred,
I have at last found time to write and thank you for your very useful parcel, which I received in the trenches. I just jumped for joy when I got it (nearly knocked the top of the dug-out in with my napper). We happened to be on bully beef & biscuits that day for dinner, so it came in very useful, --- such biscuits they would make very good slab stones for a garden path. We went in the trenches the same day that Ted came home, came out the night before last. I didn’t write yesterday, have waited for this envelope. Oh those macaroons, (smack) they were great, also the cake, I didn’t tackle bully for 4 days after, & the chocolates were a treat, you don’t get very good chocolate in France, & what you do get you have to pay double for to that in England.
I should have liked to gone to Stathern Flower Show, not half. Give my love to Miss Chapman, tell her I can compliment her on her baking. I didn’t know what you meant by Bunny going to Waltham, until I got mother’s letter yesterday. I think it’s the best he could do, as for, your old man, as you call him, he is alright & he nailed the box up most securely. Had some cocoa for my supper last night.
Did you know Fred A has got a stripe & Cecil F was offered one but would not have it. It was a bit hot in the trenches 2 or 3 days, Fritz don’t half get wild sometimes, but our lads give him something to be going on with. Well I will close now, once more thanking you for your nice parcel.
Love to all Billy
The 8th Battalion saw action in a number of fierce encounters including the Battle of the Somme in the summer and autumn of 1916. Fought in Northern France, the Battle of the Somme took place between 1st July and 18th November on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme. The aims of the offensive were to relieve the French Army fighting at Verdun and to weaken the German Army. However, the Allies were ultimately unable to break through German lines.
During 141 days of fighting the British advanced just seven miles and failed to break the German defences. Some historians believe that with a few more weeks of favourable weather the Allies could have broken through the German lines; others argue the Allies never stood a chance. However, the British Army did inflict heavy losses on the German Army resulting in the German’s strategic retreat to the Hindenburg Line in 1917 rather than face the resumption of the battle.
The Battle of the Somme was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front. It is estimated that more than three million men fought, and over one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.
William was wounded in July 1916 sustaining a gunshot to his left shoulder. He was transported home and transferred to the County of London War Hospital at Epsom. Previously a mental asylum, the building was taken over by the War Office in 1915. The inmates were transferred to sister asylums in the area and the building was converted to a general hospital for servicemen from all parts of the British Empire wounded during the hostilities. King George V and Queen Mary visited in July 1916, by which time the hospital housed almost 2,000 military patients.
On September 4th, William was pronounced fit, discharged from hospital and ultimately returned to his Regimental depot. Within days of his return to duty William was wounded for a second time, taking a bullet in his spine, although it is not clear from his record exactly where he was at the time of the injury. William was again admitted to the County of London War Hospital at Epsom where he remained for three months before being transferred to the Summerdown Convalescent Camp in Eastbourne for a further three months.
Following convalescence, William was posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, a training unit that remained on home soil throughout the war. On 6th June, 1917, he was transferred the 1/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, attached to 138th Brigade, 46th (North Midland) Division, joining the unit in the field a few days later.
William was killed in action on 17th August, 1917. The 1/5th Leicesters carried out a trench raid near Vermelles on that date and it is during this action that William most likely died. He is commemorated at the nearby Philosophe British Cemetery in the small village of Mazingarbe.
A memorial service was held at St. Denys’ Church in Goadby Marwood and reported in local newspapers:
A very impressive service was held on Sunday week in the church of St. Denys, in memory of Private William Henry Pizer, who after being twice previously seriously wounded, was killed in action on August 17th, “somewhere in France,” at the early age of 22 years. There was a large congregation, testifying to the affectionate regard in which this gallant lad was held by his many friends and the sympathy felt for the family in their heavy bereavement. The rector preached an earnest sermon, making touching reference to the high character of the deceased and to the extent of the sacrifice which he like so many more of the pick and flower of our young men had been called upon to make. Though they were persuaded that this was now a higher service still and while they thanked God for such an example it was but human that they should lament their personal loss. After the blessing had been pronounced the organist, Miss Waite, played the Dead March in “Saul,” all present reverently standing.
Following his death, Williams personal effects were sent to his parents in Goadby Marwood. They comprised a photo, two religious books, a cigarette case, matchbox and cover, a razor strop, a knife, a safety razor and blades, and a cotton bag. William was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals and the 1914/15 Star.
Summerdown Convalescence Camp, Eastbourne
The County of London War Hospital, Epsom
CWGC Memorial - William Henry Pizer
William Henry Pizer - Newspaper cutting
William Henry Pizer - Letter home
The grave marker for William Pizer, photographed and sent to his family in Goadby Marwood.
To learn more about the individual soldiers of Goadby Marwood who gave their lives for their country follow the links below:
Herbert Scarborough KIA 22 Aug 1915
Harry Bottrill KIA 11 Mar 1916
Cecil Thomas Foister KIA 03 May 1917
William Henry Pizer KIA 17 Aug 1917
Albert Edward Essery KIA 01 Oct 1917
Gerald Edgar Ellis KIA 01 Oct 1917
Harry Armstrong KIA 15 Jul 1916
John Thomas Pears DIED 02 Sep 1918