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William Swift

2nd Lieutenant William Swift

Birth

William Swift was born in Morton, Lincolnshire between April and June of 1889 to George Henry Swift, Grocer and Draper of Morton and his wife Mary Ann.

Family History

George Swift was born 1863 in Morton Bourne to William Swift, Grocer, and his wife Caroline Ashby.

George Henry Swift and his wife Mary (Mary Maria G Smith m 1882 Brentford) had 4 Children, Laura Agnetta 1888, William 1889, Bertha 1891 and Percy 1893.

William attended St  Peter’s Teacher Training College in Peterborough and was in residence there on census night in 1911.

William is believed to have Married May Butler in Grimsby district between September and December 1915.

There is a widow listed as Mrs W Butler, The Hollies, St Peters Avenue, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, on the medals index cards.

Military History

We are unable to trace William’s war records, as with many from the Lincolnshire Regiment, these could be part of the burnt records that were destroyed in the blitz.

The medals roll shows a 2nd Lieutenant William Swift in the Lincolnshire Regiment. This medal index card ties the soldier to his widow Mrs W Swift c/o Mr G H Swift thus proving that this William is the son of G H Swift. As there is only one William Swift listed in Soldiers That Died in the Great War index in the Lincolnshire Regiment then this ties William Swift of Morton to 2nd Lieutenant William Swift of the 8thBattalion Lincolnshire Regiment.

As William is not eligible for a 1914–15 star medal then this would indicate that he did not see active oversees service before 1915.

The 8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment was formed in 1914 and after training camps in England eventually was sent to France in September 1915. The medals roll shows that William entered service in France on 8th April 1916. This was the day that the Battalion marched to Buire, on the River Ancre, four miles south-west of Albert, whence it furnished large working parties.

On the 14th April the 8th battalion moved to support positions about Becordel-Becourt village where, till the 22nd, much work was done on the forward trenches.

The first Battalion relieved the 8th on the 22nd of May in the right sector opposite Fricourt. The 8thBattalion then moved to La Neuville, opposite Corbie, on the Ancre river.

The attack for the first battle of the Somme could be seen to have started on the 24th June when one thousand five hundred and thirteen artillery guns opened on the enemy trenches. Day after day the guns continued to pour thousands of shells into the enemy trenches until they resembled a rubbish heap; but below ground, the enemy troops sheltered in deep dugouts, were safe from even the enormous shells of our “heavies”. In no less than 40 places gas was discharged and every enemy observation balloon was destroyed. The enemy replied fitfully to the shelling as they only had two hundred and forty guns on the Somme front at this stage.

At the end of June, the 8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment was detailed to support the 8th Somersets in the attack on the German positions planned for the 1st of July (the first day of the first battle of the Somme) and on the 30th of June moved to assembly trenches near Becordel-Becourt village.

The plan for the 8th Battalion Lincolnshire was to be the second wave of the attack with the York and Lancasters on their right and to filter through the new line once the Middlesex and Somersets had taken the first objective. Then one company of the 8th Battalion Lincolnshires was to advance immediately with the Somersets to clear the enemy front line trenches and fall in behind the remainder of the battalion as it advanced.

Throughout the night the guns bombarded the enemy lines in front of the zero time of 7.30am on the 1stof July

At 7.25am the leading platoons of the advanced battalions carried out their plan and attempted to crawl towards their objective.

The Guns lifted at 7.30am and the enemy left their deep dugouts and placed machine guns to meet the advance with destructive force tearing gaps in the advancing battalions. The Middlesex and Somersets lost fifty percent of their men in the advance yet survivors reached the enemy trenches.

The 8th battalion Lincolnshires attacked with B and C companies; supported by A company with D company in the rear as a carrying party with picks and shovels, trench stores, ammunition and bombs. The leading platoons lost half of their number but the survivors reached the enemy front line and after being checked by machine gun fire the bombers got to work and knocked out the defences.

The survivors joined by successive platoons swarmed over the battered front line and crossing Empress trench and Empress Support reached the Sunken Road. The numbers of officers and men that got thus far we small in numbers because an enemy barrage was falling on no mans land and the supporting platoons suffered heavily.

The battalions bombed their way down the enemy communications trenches, Dart Lane, Brandy Trench and finally Lozenge Alley was reached. En-route every dug-out was bombed and the trenches themselves were battered beyond recognition being just a mass of craters.

One stokes gun remained with the Lincolnshires and gave valuable assistance until the officer in charge and his team were knocked out. A Lewis gun team arrived and gave great assistance to the advance.

Only two parties of the 8th battalion reached Lozenge Alley numbering about one hundred men and started the act of consolidation. Between 4 and 5pm orders arrived from Divisional HQ  to consolidate the positions they held with the Lincolnshires holding part of the system from Dart Alley to and including Lozenge Alley. Througoht the night the 8th Lincolnshire successfully repulsed a bombing attack from the direction of Fricourt.

The right flank of the Lincolnshire area was attacked from Fricourt up Lonely Trench. Men were posted at the junction of Lonely Trench and Lozenge Alley and the enemy only once got in thanks to their rifle grenades but were soon turned out at a loss to the Lincolnshires of some men of Lozenge Alley and at least 20 in Lonely Trench. Two enemy drums were captured here and sent to the depot at Lincoln.

When Darkness fell on the night of the 1st July, although initial success had not been maintained, progress had been made at many points. Although Fricourt had not been taken it was now pressed on three sides with the 21st division holding the north which included the 1st and 8th Battalions of the Lincolnshire Regiment.

During the night the 8th Battalion had worked hard consolidating their positions from Dart Alley to Lozenge Wood and were protected from a counter attack by an artillery barrage.

Seven Lincoln Battalions in total were involved in the advance on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, known as the Battle of Albert, and the description of actions above was just one of many similar accounts that can be applied to all Battalions involved in this advance. It must be remembered that this day was followed by another 12 before the Battle of Albert was over.

8th Lincolnshire – 5 officers killed, 30 other ranks killed, 8 officers and 170 other ranks wounded, 34 other ranks missing. In total 13 officers and 235 other ranks.

Second Lieutenant William Swift was killed on the 1st July 1916 during the advance on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and less than 3 months after arriving in France. The CWGC officially state that he died between the 1st and 3rd of July, but he is mentioned amongst the dead in the Battalion diary for the 1st of July.

William Swift, 8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, Regimental Number  unknown, was eligible for the following medals:-

Victory Medal
British Medal.

 

Memorial

Second Lieutenant William Swift is remembered with honour at the Gordon Dump Cemetary, Ovillers-La Boisselle.
Grave Ref: II.M.9

W Swift small

W Swift gate

See below for more picture from Gordon Dump Cemetary

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