William was born in 1888 St Wenn, the son of Thomas and Nanny (nee Stephens).

The Census of 1891 and 1901 show William with his parents living in St Wenn. His father Thomas is a farmer. It would seem there were no further children. Thomas died in June 1902 and his mother Nanny in August 1908. They are both buried in St Wenn churchyard. His mother left William the sum of £246 in her will.

The census of 1911, William is a gardener and lodging with Thomas and Ellen Broad in St Wenn. Thomas is a groom/chauffeur.

William must have been a territorial soldier and then enlisted into the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry proper around March 1917. His regimental number was 201025 which was part of the sequence allocated to the 4th Battalion and issued to the 1st/4th and 2nd/4th battalions and possibly reserved for renumbering existing troops.

As William served in India, it is likely he was in the 2nd/4th battalion which was sent to India in 1914 and stayed there throughout the War. Henry Joseph Nicholls was also in this battalion and they are likely to have known each other.

I cannot find a mention of William receiving the usual war medals but there is an interesting record of his award of the India General Service Medal with the Afghanistan NWF 1919 clasp.

William was in the Lines of Communication Signal Company: Indian Telegraph Department. The NWF refers to the North West Frontier Campaign 1919.

India General Service Medal with Afghanistan NWT 1919 Clasp
India General Service Medal with Afghanistan NWT 1919 Clasp

There was widespread support of Ottoman Turkey in Afghanistan against the British at this time. The ruler, Habibullah Khan was able to maintain a policy of neutrality during the War but that all changed when he was assassinated  on the 20 February 1919. He was succeeded by his son Amanullah Khan and on his coronation he declared total independence from Britain. This sparked the Third Anglo-Afghan War in May 1919.

The Afghan regular army was only able to muster some 50,000 men but mostly ill-trained and ill-paid. However they could call on some 80,000 much fiercer and war-like frontier tribesmen

The British could field a much larger force, better equipped with more artillery pieces and, unlike the Afghans, was supported by aircraft of the RAF. One of the main problems for Britain was discontent among the soldiers. The troops in India were no longer uncritical as they had been and began to question what they were being asked to do. Many considered the war was over and looked forward to being demobilised. They were not prepared for a hard fought campaign on the Indian Frontier.

The fighting was in the form of a series of skirmishes commencing with the Afghans invading India by crossing the border at the Kyber Pass. The British forces immediately retaliated with the RAF in strong support. The conflict resulted in about 1000 Afghans killed in action whilst the British forces lost some 250 killed in action with a further 900 deaths from disease, particularly cholera.

The month long war concluded with a peace treaty, signed on the 8 August 1919, recognising the independence of Afghanistan. The Afghans further concluded a treaty of friendship with the new Bolshevik regime in Soviet Russia which lasted until December 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

There were two other wars between Britain and Afghanistan in the 19th century, the third in 1919. The Russians invaded in 1979. The area has been unstable for decades. Britain, Russia and the USA have tried and failed to subdue the region and unrest continues to this day.

British troops and prisoners 3rd Afghan War.
The RAF flew many missions, bombing both cities and tribal areas, including Kabul and the Palace. Three aircraft were lost in the conflict.
British troops at the Kyber Pass 1919
British army transport section, Afghanistan 1919

After the Great War, William’s trail grows cold. I can find no details as to marriage or, indeed his death. It is likely he moved away from Cornwall. The only mention is his name on a ship’s passenger list arriving Liverpool from St Johns, New Brunswick 6th February 1926. He is a salesman and gives his address as Polgrain, St Wenn.

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