Private William Daker M.C.
1897 - 1918

Service No. 36157 South Staffs Reg.
Service No. 66608 Royal Fusiliers

Researched and written by Barbara Williams on behalf of Mrs. Pam Seager,
granddaughter of William’s elder brother James

Photograph of Private William Daker

Picture 1

William (known as Billie) was the son of William Jude and Mary Ann Daker nee Turner. William Jude’s parents were Elizabeth and James Daker. James worked as a labourer in the Iron Works in Bilston. An extract from the 1871 census shows the family living in Rose St., Sedgley and William Jude working as a miner.

Extract from the 1871 census showing the family of James and Elizabeth Daker

Picture 2

In 1881, William's father has moved away from his home town to lodge with his aunt and uncle, Samuel and Louisa Preston, living in New Street, Chasetown. The attraction - obviously - the availability of work in the developing coalfields in the Chase area.

 

Extracts from the 1881 census showing William Daker living with the family of his aunt and uncle, Louisa and Samuel Preston

Pictures 3A and 3B

On 23 December 1888, William Jude married Mary Ann Turner from Sedgeley. The ceremony took place at St. Peter's Church, Great Bridge, Greets Green, West Bromwich.

St. Peter's Church, Greets Green, West Bromwich.

Picture 4

In 1889, William's and Mary Ann's  first child Maud was born, folowed by five more at approximately 2-year intervals. William was born during the December quarter of 1897 and was baptised on the 28 November 1897 at St. Anne's Church, Chasetown. Harold - the last of William Jude's and Mary Anne's chidren - was  born in 1901. However, tragically, Mary Anne didn't live to see her family grow up, she died within three months of Harold's birth.

William Jude - now faced with a large family of young children to bring up alone - travelled back to Great Bridge and proposed marriage to Mary Anne's sister Phoebe Sarah. William Jude's second marriage took place once again at St. Peter's Church, Greets Green, and Phoebe returned with William to Chasetown. In 1909, William's and Phoebe's child Florence May was born.

The Daker Family living at 2 New Street, Chasetown. From left to right:
Back Row: James, Mary, Maud, Phoebe
Front Row: William Jude, Harold, Phoebe Sarah, William

Picture 5

The family tree of William Jude Daker

Picture 6

In 1910 when William was 13 yrs. of age, tragedy struck the family for the second time when his father died at the age of 56 yrs. At the time William was working underground at the Cannock Chase Colliery No. 3. Pit.

 

Cannock Chase No. 3 Colliery, Chase Terrace, it was nicknamed “The Plant” as it was the only colliery in the Company's holdings which possessed a coal preparation plant.

Picture 7A

Cannock Chase Colliery Company. No. 3 Pit, known locally as “The Plant”, was situated in Plant Lane, Chase Terrace. The winding house can be seen on the left of the
picture.

Picture 7B

In Victorian Times and much later, coal was the main source of power used for cooking, heating, driving machinery, trains etc. Until 1842 children as young as 10 years of age worked in the mines. The ‘Mines Act’ passed by the government in 1847 forbade the employment of women, girls and boys under the age of 10 years down the mines.

Extract from the 1911 census showing the family of William Jude and Phoebe Sarah Daker

Picture 8

William Jude had died by the time of the 1911 census (above). By then William - aged 13 years - was working as a miner labourer. The family was living at New Street, Chasetown, and Phoebe Sarah declared incorrectly that she was born in Chasetown. Phoebe had also decided to use a different spelling of the surname Daker.

 

Picture 9

On 24 April 1916, a happier event took place when William’s elder brother James Thomas was married to Lily Shenton at St. Anne's Church, Chasetown.

William - seen here on the left at the wedding - is approaching his nineteenth birthday. Note the large button hole and his watch chain.

On 5 March the following year William travelled to The King’s Head in Lichfield and volunteered for service.

He joined the South Staffordshire Regiment but fourteen weeks later he  embarked for France with the 26th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).

The King's Head Pub in Bird Street, Lichfield. It is an old coaching inn dating back to 1408 and was the birthplace of the South Staffordshire Regiment.

Picture 10

Since 1815 the balance of power in Europe had been maintained by a series of treaties. In 1888, Wilhelm II was crowned "German Emperor and King of Prussia" and moved from a policy of maintaining the status quo to a more aggressive position. He did not renew a treaty with Russia, aligned Germany with the declining Austro-Hungarian Empire and started to build a Navy rivalling that of Britain. These actions greatly concerned Germany's neighbours, who quickly forged new treaties and alliances in the event of war. On 28th June 1914, Franz Ferdinand - the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne - was assassinated by the Bosnian-Serb nationalist group "Young Bosnia" who wanted pan-Serbian independence.

The arrest of Gavrilo Princip on 28th June 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife.

Picture 11

Franz Josephs, the Austro-Hungarian Emperor (with the backing of Germany) responded aggressively, presenting Serbia with an intentionally unacceptable ultimatum, to provoke Serbia into war. Serbia agreed to 8 of the 10 terms and on the 28th July 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, producing a cascade effect across Europe. Russia - bound by treaty to Serbia - declared war with Austro-Hungary, Germany declared war with Russia and France declared war with German y.

Germany's army crossed into neutral Belgium in order to reach Paris, forcing Britain to declare war with Germany (due to the Treaty of London (1839) whereby Britain agreed to defend Belgium in the event o f invasion). By the 4th  August 1914, Britain and much of Europe were pulled into a war which would last 1,566 days, cost 8,528,831 lives and 28,938,073 casualties or missing on both sides.

The Royal London Fusiliers

Royal London Fusiliers WW1 Cap Badge

Picture 12

The Royal London Fusiliers Monument is a war memorial in London. It was erected in 1922 and is dedicated to the almost 22,000 soldiers of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) who died during the First World War. Further inscriptions added later commemorate the Royal Fusiliers who died during the Second World War and in subsequent campaigns.

Royal London Fusiliers War Memorial

Royal London Fusiliers War Memorial

Pictures 13A and 13B

The monument stands at Holborn Bar, one of the ancient entry points to the city. It occupies a traffic island in the middle of High Holborn, on the City's boundary with the London Borough of Camden, denoted by a dragon boundary mark on either side of the street. The site is near High Holborn's junction with Gray's Inn Road, and is close to the historic Staple Inn and the more recent Prudential Assurance Building.

The 8.5 feet (2.6 m) high bronze statue was designed by Albert Toft and cast by A.B. Burton at the Thames Ditton Foundry, with Cheadle and Harding as architects. It is said to be modelled on a Sergeant Cox, who served throughout the First World War. It depicts a private soldier in service dress, carrying a rifle with fixed bayonet in his right hand, facing along the road to the west to guard the entrance to the City of London. The statue stands on a 16.5 feet (5.0 m) pedestal made of Portland stone. A plaque on the east side of the pedestal records each of the Regular, Service and Territorial battalions of the regiment that served in the First World War.

An original intention to erect a memorial to the Royal London Fusiliers in a Royal Park shifted to Hounslow Barracks and then Holborn. A subscription list opened in 1919 and raised £3,000 by August 1920. The monument was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of London on 4th November 1922. The church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, about 450 yards (410 m) east of the memorial, was selected as the regimental chapel in 1946. The memorial became a Grade II listed structure

An identical statue is one of five bronze figures by Toft forming a sculpture group for Oldham War Memorial, unveiled in 1923. The same single bronze figure was unveiled in 1932 as the memorial to the 41st Division at Flers, near the site of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, where tanks were used in battle for the first time on 15th September 1916.

The 26th (Service) Battalion (Bankers) was founded on 17th July 1915; it was formed of bank clerks and accountants in London by the Lord Mayor and the City of London, and then moved to Marlow. In November 1915, they moved to Aldershot and joined the 124th Brigade of the 41st Division. On 4th May 1916 the men embarked for France and, in 1916, the Division was engaged in various actions on the Western Front including the Battle of Flers-Courcelette and the Battle of the Transloy Ridges.

 

Sir Douglas Haig, who became a Field Marshal in December 1916, had  been in favour of an offensive in Flanders since 1915. The genuine strategic objectives that had been absent on the Somme could be found in Flanders. If Passchendaele Ridge could be taken, the pressure on the Ypres Salient would be greatly eased. A breakout from Ypres along the coast would outflank the entire German line, and by 1917 it was believed that it would have a decisive effect on the war at sea. After the Spring battles of 1917, it was clear that the BEF would have to undertake the Flanders campaign with only the minimum of assistance from the French, even though the full extent of the French army’s problems was concealed from the British. Haig was confident that the offensive could be launched by the British alone, and indeed was essential to keep the enemy off the French’s backs, but the War Cabinet only reluctantly gave it’s assent. The dramatic triumph of Messines Ridge seemed to show that Haig’s confidence in the BEF was well founded. The capture of Messines Ridge was an essential precondition to the storming of the main German positions. General Sir Herbert Plumer’s Second Army undertook the planning and execution of the operation.

Picture 14

The Battle of Messines was a typically methodical operation. For over a year, a series of tunnels had been bored under the ridge, and packed with 1/2 million pounds of high explosives. It is fair to assume that William would have taken part in these operations as the records show that he was certainly involved in the Battle of Messines and, as a former miner, his skills at tunneling would have been a great advantage to the campaign. On June 17th. 1917, at 0310 hours, 19 mines were blown. The crest of the ridge was literally wrenched off. Simultaneously, an intense bombardment straddled the German positions, and nine divisions assaulted the ridge. The operation was a complete success, marred only by the crowding of the ridge which caused some unnecessary casualties on subsequent days. Haig then proceeded to make the first of his many errors in this campaign by handing responsibility for the main attack to Gough’s Fifth Army. The first phase of the Third Battle of Ypres was preceded by an aerial offensive, in which the British gained control of the air; the RFC played a significant, if rarely mentioned, role in the campaign. At 0350 on 31st July 1917, nine divisions went ‘over the top’ At first they made some headway, Gough’s left-hand corps and the French advanced nearly two miles and took most of Pilckem Ridge, but in the centre, German counter-attacks forced the British back to only 500 yards from their start line. The use of tanks was not a success. Out of 19 of II Corps’ tanks that reached the battlefield 17 were knocked out, and the muddy, lunar landscape was hard going. Gough had been hopelessly optimistic in his objectives, but compared with 1st July 1916 , progress had been reasonable, and casualties were lighter. The situation would have been hopeful except for one factor; in late afternoon, the heavens opened and it began to rain. Even before the rains began, the intensive bombardment which began on 18th July—by 1400 guns, including one heavy gun every 23 yards—had cratered the ground, destroying the drainage system and filling the shell holes with water, which naturally enough, lies close to the surface in the Low Countries. Haig had been warned about this but he chose to ignore it, believing a heavy bombardment was essential to success. The heavy rain of early August turned the ‘wet Flanders plain’ into a quagmire. On the 2nd. August the campaign was suspended, to await dry weather.

Oosttaverne Wood, including the trenches taken by the British during the Battle of Messines Ridge, June 11 1917

Picture 15

ITALY 1915-16

Italy’s decision to remain neutral on the outbreak of war did not come as a surprise to her erstwhile allies Germany and Austria. Even before 1914, Conrad, the Austrian Chief of Staff, is reputed to have referred to the Triple Alliance as a “pointless farce”. Popular sympathy in Italy lay with the Entente. Anti-Austrian feeling was rife, thanks to irredentist claims on Trieste and in the Trentino. In the secret Treaty of London in April 1915, Italy agreed to enter the war in return for receiving these territories in the post-war settlement. She declared war on Austria-Hungary on 23rd May 1915, although the Italians delayed beginning hostilities with Germany until August 1916. The Italian Chief of Staff (seen here on the right) was General Luigi Cadorna.

He planned to cross the Isonzo and capture the town of Gorizio and the barren region of the Carzo. Trieste, and eventually the Danubian Plain, were Cadorna’s ultimate objectives in the Isonzo campaigns. Even to take Gorizia proved to be beyond the Italians in 1915; yet Cadorna fought 11 times on the Isonzo, which must earn him a place alongside Haig and Falkenhayn as one of the arch-attritionists of the war. Between August 18th and September 15th 1917 and casualties around 166.000 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner, the Austro-Hungarians admit to losses of 85,000. However the Austro-Hungarian commanders believe that their troops are on the point of collapse and that they do not have the military resources to save the situation. They call on the German high command to send forces to stabilize the front. By October 24th the Austro-Hungarians have been reinforced by several German Divisions and specialist mountain units. During the ongoing battle a young German officer, Erwin Rommel, completes the capture of some 9000 Italian prisoners. For three days Rommel’s 250 specialist mountain troops have fought to capture a critical position against heavy odds. For his bravery and leadership Rommel receives Germany’s highest award, the Pour le Merite. By the middle of November the Italians have been forced back from the Isonzo, where they have fought a series of fruitless battles since 1915, to a line running from just south of the city of Trent along the Piave River, which runs into the Gulf of Venice in the northern Adriatic Sea—leaving the Italians a new front line of some 60 miles.

The sweeping German and Austro-Hungarian success has two immediate and important consequences. The chief of the Italian General Staff, General Luigi Cadorna, is replaced by General Armando Diaz, and several French and British divisions under the command of General Sir Herbert Plumer are rushed to bolster the battered Italian units along the Plave River.

General Luigi Cadorna

General Luigi Cadorna

Picture 16

The Piave River in Northern Italy which begins in the Alps and flows south into the Adriatic Sea.

Picture 17

Although fatally wounded during the previous battles on The Western Front, William now travels with his Regiment to aid the Italians but is returned to France where, sadly, he dies of his wounds on the 3rd. April 1918.

Newpaper report of Private William Daker's death from the Walsall Observer

Picture 18

Photograph, from the Walsall Pioneer and District News, of Private William Daker dressed in the uniform of the South Staffordshire Regiment when he volunteered for service.

Picture 19

Newspaper report of the death of Private William Daker from the Lichfield Mercury

Picture 20

Private William Daker’s medal roll card showing his Regimental and Campaign Medal details

Picture 21

British War Medal

Picture 22A

Victory Medal

Picture 22B

The Victory Medal: Like many service personnel of World War One, William Daker was entitled to the Victory medal, also called the Inter Allied Victory Medal. This medal was awarded to all who received the 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star and, with certain exceptions, to those who received the British War Medal. It was never awarded alone. These three medals were sometimes irreverently referred to as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.

The British War Medal: As with many Armed Forces personnel, William
Daker was entitled to the British War Medal for service in World War One. This British Empire campaign medal was issued for services between 5th. Aug. 1914 and 11th November 1918. The medal was automatically awarded in the event of death on active service before the completion of this period.

 

The Memorial Plaque was issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war.

The plaques (more strictly described as plaquettes) were made of bronze, and hence popularly known as the “Dead Man’s Penny” because of the similarity in appearance to the somewhat smaller penny coin. 1,355,000 plaques were issued, which used a total of 450 tonnes of bronze, and continued to be issued into the 1930,s to commemorate people who died as a consequence of the war.

It was decided that the design of the plaque, about 5inches in diameter and cast in bronze, was to be picked from submissions made in a public competition. Over 800 designs were submitted and the competition was won by the sculptor and medallist Edward Carter Preston with his design called “Pyramus”, receiving a first place prize of £250

 

Private William Daker's memorial plaque

Picture 23

Commonwealth War Graves Commision Commemorative Certification for Private William Daker

Picture 24

Gezaincourt is a village a little south-west of the town of Doullens, halfway between the main roads from Doullens to Abbeville and Doullens to Amiens. The Communal Cemetery and extension are on the east side of the village. There is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission signpost outside Doullens on the road towards Amiens.
This cemetery is permanently open and may be visited at any time. The location or design of this site makes wheelchair access impossible. The COMMUNAL CEMETERY at Gezaincourt contains nine Commonwealth burials of the First World War, made between October 1915 and March 1916.

The adjoining EXTENSION was opened in March 1916 and used until March 1917, and again from March to October 1918. In most cases, the burials were carried out from casualty clearing stations and, in June to August 1918, from the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital. The extension contains 596 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 3 of which are unidentified, and a plot of 76 German Graves. There are also six Second World War burials, all dating from the early months of the war before the German advance.

Gezaincourt Communal Cemetry and Extension

Picture 25

The Resting Place of Private William Daker at Gezaincourt Communal Cemetry and Extension.
Cemetery/memorial reference: I. J. 5.

Picture 26

Gravestone of Private William Daker

Picture 27

 

Extract from the Commonwealth War Graves Commissionm for Private William DakerExtract from the Commonwealth War Graves Commissionm for Private William Daker

Picture 28A

Extract from the Commonwealth War Graves Commissionm for Private William Daker

Picture 28B

The War Memorial in Chasetown Memorial Park. The War Memorial in Chasetown Memorial Park is where William is remembered.

Panel on the War Memorial in Chasetown Memorial Park

Picture 29B

Picture 29A

 

William along with many other casualties of WW1 (both local and from surrounding areas) who were employed in the Cannock Chase Coalfields were  remembered by their employers. Situated on the outer wall of St. Anne’s Church are four plaques displaying the names of former employees who lost their lives. Gradually as each pit was closed down these plaques were offered to the church as a way of saving them from destruction and the Church graciously accepted them.

St. Anne's Church in Burntwood

Picture 30A

Mining plaque at St. Anne's Church in Burntwood commemorating Private William Daker and other former miners who were killed in the Great War

Picture 30B

Scroll in honour of Private William Daker

Picture 31

LANCE CORPORAL HAROLD DAKER
SERVICE NO. 490512
SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT

Lance Corporal Harold Daker

Picture 32

William Daker's younger brother Harold Daker  was born in 1901 and christened at St. Anne’s Church, Chasetown (see pictures 5 and 6). Harold died tragically on 11. July 1921 in Cork, Ireland, one of four soldiers who were kidnapped by the IRA and executed in a field in Cork (see www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/cork-executions.htm).

Harold Daker was laid to rest in St. Anne’s Churchyard and his grave can be found directly on the right as you enter the churchyard from Church Road., Chasetown.

Pictures 33A and 33B

Picture 34

In Memory of William and Harold Daker
Grandad's younger brothers

War is cruel and so unkind,
No thoughts for those it leaves behind
From babes to boys and boys to men
Each generation to fight again
The cause is ‘Peace’ but, it is found
With young men’s bodies on the ground
Some are wounded, others dead
What thoughts are in their heads?
All are brave and trained to fight
All believing for what is right
To keep their land and people free
A better world for you and me
But all that death brings is pain and sorrow
Loved ones who will see no tomorrow
The lonely graves in foreign lands
Sweet memories, holding hands...
Faces slowly fade from sight
It still goes on, but is it right?

Written by Pam Seager in 1983

Item, Source and Credit

1.   Photograph of Private William Daker © Mrs Pam Seager
2.   Extract from the 1871 census showing the family of James and Elizabeth Daker © Ancestry
3A and 3B.   Extracts from the 1881 census showing William Daker living with the family of his aunt and uncle, Louisa and Samuel Preston © Ancestry
4.   Photograph of St. Peter's Church, Greets Green © Mrs Barbara Williams (www..bfhg.org.uk)
5.   Photograph of the Daker Family © Mrs Pam Seager
6.   The family tree of William Jude Daker © Mrs Pam Seager
7A.  Photograph of Cannock Chase Colliery Company No. 3 Pit © Old Burntwood website (http://oldburntwood.co.uk/post/110166372450/cannock-chase-no3-colliery-chase-terrace)
7A.  Photograph of Cannock Chase Colliery Company No. 3 Pit from "Around Cannock in old photographs" © Mary Mills and Sherry Belcher
8.   Extract from the 1911 census showing the family of William Jude and Phoebe Sarah Daker © Ancestry
9.   Photograph of William Daker © Mrs Pam Seager
10.   The King's Head Pub in Bird Street, Lichfield © Lichfield Lore website (https://lichfieldlore.co.uk/tag/oldest-pub-in-lichfield/)
11.   Photograph of the arrest of Gavrilo Princip © Iconic Photos (https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/the-arrest-of-gavrilo-princip/)
12.   Royal London Fusiliers WW1 Cap Badge © British Military Badges website(http://www.britishmilitarybadges.co.uk/products/ww1-royal-london-fusiliers-regiment-cap-badge-15.html)
13A.  The Royal London Fusiliers Monument by Albert Toft © Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Fusiliers_War_Memorial)
13B.  The Royal London Fusiliers Monument by Albert Toft, High Holborn, City of London © Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/780178335417856156/)
14.  Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig © "WW1 Day by Day" by Ian Westwell
15.  Oosttaverne Wood, including the trenches taken by the British during the Battle of Messines Ridge, June 11 1917 © Imperial War Museum © (https://media.iwm.org.uk/ciim5/13/368/large_000000.jpg)
16.  Photograph of General Luigi Cadorna © Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luigi_Cadorna)
17.  The course of the Plave River © Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piave_(river)#/media/File:LocationPiaveRiver.png)
18.  Newpaper report of William's death © Walsall Local History Centre copy of the Walsall Observer
19.  Copy of the photograph of Private William Daker © Walsall Local History Centre copy of the Walsall Pioneer and District News
20.  Newspaper report of the death of Private William Daker © Staffordshire Record Office copy of the Lichfield Mercury
21.  Private William Daker's medal card © Ancestry
22A.  Photograph of the British War Medal © Wikipedia
22B.  Photograph of the Victory Medal © Wikipedia
23.  Private William Daker's memorial plaque © Mrs Pam Seager
24.  Commemorative Certification for Private William Daker © Commonwealth War Graves Commision
25.  Gezaincourt Communal Cemetry and Extension © War Graves Photographic Project
26.  Plan of Gezaincourt Communal Cemetry showing the location of the grave of Private William Daker © Commonwealth War Graves Commision
27.  Gravestone of Private William Daker © War Graves Photographic Project
28A.  Extract from the Commonwealth War Graves Commissionm for Private William Daker © Commonwealth War Graves Commision
28B.  Extract from the Commonwealth War Graves Commissionm for Private William Daker © Commonwealth War Graves Commision
29A.  The War Memorial in Chasetown Memorial Park © Burntwood Family History Group (Alan Betts)
29B.  Panel on the War Memorial in Chasetown Memorial Park © Burntwood Family History Group (Alan Betts)
30A.  St. Anne's Church in Burntwood © National Churches Trust
30B.  Mining plaque at St. Anne's Church in Burntwood commemorating Private William Daker and other former miners who were killed in the Great War © Burntwood Family History Group (Alan Betts)
31.  Scroll in honour of Private William Daker © Mrs Pam Seager
32.  Photograph of Lance Corporal Harold Daker © The Cairo Gang website (https://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/dacer/dacer.html)
33A.  Photograph of the grave of Lance Corporal Harold Daker © © Mrs Pam Seager
33B.  Photograph of the grave of Lance Corporal Harold Daker © https://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/dacer/dacer.html
34.  Poem written by Mrs Pam Seager in memory of Private William Daker and Lance Corporal Harold Daker, the younger brothers of her grandfather James Daker © Mrs Pam Seager

Excerpts from:

1.    The Pictorial History of WW1 by G D Sheffield
2.   World War 1 Day by Day by Ian Westwell

Thanks to the Staff at Lichfield Record Office and Walsall Local History Centre for advice, help and support with my research.