EDWIN WILLETT

Private 205573, 4th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Died 23rd November 1918 aged 33

Buried Earlsheaton Cemetery, Dewsbury

Husband of Edith Willett

Lived 60, Church Street, Heckmondwike


Edwin was born in Earlsheaton, Dewsbury, late in 1885, the son of Eliza Ann Willett (nee Buckley) and named in memory of his father Edwin, a Cloth Finisher, who had died on 1st August 1885 aged 34, shortly before Edwin was born.  He was the youngest of five children.

At the age of 15 Edwin was working as a French Polisher but ten years later, the 1911 census, shows him aged 25 a Labourer on the Railways living at Sheep Hill, Earlsheaton, with his elder brother Walter Herbert Willett and his widowed mother Eliza Ann.  Edwin witnessed his brother’s marriage at St Peter’s Church in Earlsheaton in 1912.

Edwin married Edith Senior from Earlsheaton in the late summer of 1917, they moved first to 53, Upper George Street, and then later to 60 Church Street, Heckmondwike.  They had no children.  At some time Edwin joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry before being moved into the Labour Corps as Private 595084 in the 494th Company .  His service record was amongst those that were destroyed in September 1940, when a German Bombing raid struck the War Office Repository in Arnside Street, London.

The Labour Corps was formed in January 1917 and had grown to some 389,900 men (more than 10% of the total size of the Army) by the Armistice.  Of this total, around 175,000, were working in the United Kingdom and the rest in theatres of war.  The Corps was manned by officers and other ranks who had been medically rated below the “A1” condition needed for front line service.  Labour Corps units were often deployed for work within range of the enemy guns and sometimes for lengthy periods.  In the crises of March and April 1918, on the Western Front, Labour Corps units were used as emergency infantry.  The Corps always suffered from its treatment as something of a second class organisation: the men who died are commemorated under their original regiment, with the Labour Corps being secondary.  Few records remain of the daily activities and locations of the Corps units.

Edwin died on 23rd November 1918 aged 33 at York Military Hospital, twelve days after the Armistice was signed.  He was buried at Earlsheaton Cemetery, Dewsbury,  on 28th November.  The Earlsheaton cemetery records document Edwin as being a Farmer and his abode as York Military Hospital.  The grave stone confirms his father’s death as 1st August 1885 but gives Edwin’s death as 25th November 1918.

Medals:- Victory and British.

Commemorated on three War Memorials: Heckmondwike, Earlsheaton and Dewsbury and also in the Heckmondwike Vellum Book.  His name is on the Highfield, Earlsheaton, Congregational Church Memorial, now saved within Dewsbury Baptist Chapel.

The entry in the Dewsbury Roll of Honour reads “Edwin Willett, 162, Bank Top, Earlsheaton, Dewsbury Pte 595084 K.O.Y.L.I. Died of Pneumonia 23.11.1918.”

The Dewsbury Roll of Honour has 1,052 names, and their names are also inscribed on the Great War Memorial which stands in Crow Nest Park, Dewsbury and was unveiled on 6th September 1924.
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