WILLS, Michael Seccombe

Wills, MS10771, Serjeant, 6th Bn., Somerset Light Infantry

Born

January 1894.
Son of Arthur Lane Wills and Maria Smith Wills of 20, Elmdale Rd., Tyndall’s Park, Bristol.

Education

Blundell's School, “School House” from 14 years old; September 1908 - Christmas 1911.
He was in the school OTC for the last two years.

Service

On leaving school he went to the offices of the Imperial Tobacco Company in Bristol and was one of the first of its staff to volunteer for duties when the war broke out in 1914.  Although offered a commission, he preferred to serve with his “Pals” and joined the 6th Somersets, quickly being promoted to corporal, then lance sergeant and became a full sergeant in August 1915. He left for Flanders with his battalion on 21st May 1915 and in November, shortly before he was killed, wrote to Mr. Pot Paddison, Master at Blundell’s School regarding the death of George (qv G.M. Paddison). “Dear Mr. Paddison, I heard two days ago when I was in the trenches, of the death of your second son, George, with whom I was at Blundell’s and I feel for you in your great sorrow.  I saw your son when we were in the trenches about a fortnight ago when his battalion was in reserve.  No doubt you have heard by now the circumstances of his death but as we (the Somersets) came up after I can tell you one or two new items.  On Friday morning (30th July) the Germans used liquid fire and captured some trenches which were being held by our division.  This attack was begun just after one of the regiments had relieved another and the retiring one was on its way to the rear.  They were, at once, summoned back and were met by a tremendous artillery and machine gun fire which nearly wiped them out.  Meanwhile the Cornwalls, who were in billets five or six miles behind the firing line were brought up by a forced march and occupied the trenches we still hold. The German’s attacked this with their liquid fire but the Cornwalls retired about 20 yards back to keep clear of the fire and when they saw the Germans advancing to take their trench, they doubled back into it, beat out the fire which was burning on top of the sandbags, and gave the enemy some rapid fire which sent them back to their trench, repulsed…. Our company was brought up just after the repulse of the Germans and held the trenches for three days under very heavy gun fire. We had to lie down at the bottom of our trench for two hours at a time, the ground shaking and huge lumps of earth falling on us from tie to time.  I thought you might like to hear from somebody who was more or less in the same spot at the time. I was at Blundell’s 1908 – 11 (School House) and was in your form Vb for a year or so.”

Death

12th August 1915, aged 21.
He died from wounds received at Ypres.

Burial/Commemoration

Serjeant Wills was buried in Bedford House Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. Enclosure No.2  VI. A. 54.

Memorial

Bedford House Cemetery is 2km south of Ypres town centre on the road between Armentieres. The area was witness to fierce fighting throughout the 14 – 18 period and Bedford House, Sometimes known as Woodcote House was the name given by the Army to Chateau Rosendal, a small country house surrounded by woodland and moats. Although it never fell into German hands, the house and trees were gradually destroyed by shell fire.  It was used by field ambulances and in time the property became largely covered by small cemeteries; five enclosures existed at the time of the armistice. Enclosure No. 2 was begun in December 1915 and used until October 1918. After the armistice almost five hundred graves were added, most of which came from cemeteries relocated from near Ypres. The cemetery enclosure was designed by W. C. Von Berg.

Research

Commonwealth War Graves Commission - www.cwgc.org
Public Records Office, National Archives, Kew: Medal Rolls:
“The Register of Blundell's School, Part II 1882 – 1932” (1932) MAHOOD, A.S., Ed. Entry No.5293
“The Blundellian”, 1915 November p199 & p200
Cemeteries & Memorials in Belgium & Northern France (2004) Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 5/86
Carved graffiti from School House table top in Matron’s room.

 

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