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William Boyes

William Boyes was the older brother of Ernest Boyes, whose life is also recorded on this site, and the second son of William and Maria Trenham (nee Harper)Boyes who married in the second quarter of 1877 in the Malton area. He was born in Broughton and his birth was registered at Malton in the second quarter of 1883.

In 1891 the family was living in Broughton and William senior had work as a general labourer.

 1891 Census resident at Broughton, Malton

William, Boyes, Head, Married, Male, 38, General Labourer, Norton, Yorkshire, England

Maria, Boyes, Wife, Married, Female, 35, -, Sinnington, Yorkshire, England

Louisa J, Boyes, Daughter, -, Female, 12, Scholar, Swinton, Yorkshire, England

John H, Boyes, Son, -, Male, 10, Scholar, Broughton, Yorkshire, England

William, Boyes, Son, -, Male, 7, Scholar, Broughton, Yorkshire, England

George A, Boyes, Son, -, Male, 1, -, Broughton, Yorkshire, England

In 1901 William and Maria were living at the Waterworks Cottages on Sheepfoot Hill in Malton with their five children and William was working as a carter for the Town Council.

1901 census – resident at 4, Water Works Cottage, Malton

BOYES, William, Head, Married, M, 48, Carter To The Malton Urban Council, Norton Kent, (sic)
BOYES, Maria, Wife, Married, F, 45, , Sinnington Yorkshire,
BOYES, John Henry, Son, Single, M, 20, Apprentice Cabinet Maker, Broughton Yorkshire,
BOYES, William, Son, Single, M, 17, Apprentice French Polisher, Broughton Yorkshire,
BOYES, George Alfred, Son, Single, M, 11, , Broughton Yorkshire,
BOYES, Caroline, Daughter, Single, F, 7, , Malton Yorkshire,
BOYES, Ernest, Son, Single, M, 6, , Malton Yorkshire,

William junior married Alice Riley in the third quarter of 1905 in York and they had a son Frederick in 1908.  According to the census he was born in York but the BMD registers say the birth was registered in Malton.

In 1911 they were living in Garden Street, York where William was working as a French Polisher.

William enlisted at York in the 7th (Service) Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment which was formed at Richmond in September 1914 as part of K2 and attached to 50th Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division. After receiving an order that the Division would be retained for home defence (subsequently cancelled), advance parties left for France on 6 July. Main embarkation began on 12 July and on 14th July 1915 they landed at Boulogne before moving to concentrate near St Omer. The Division spent the rest of 1915 initially in a period of trench familiarisation and then holding the front lines in the southern area of the Ypres salient.

 February 1916 saw the battalion moving into trenches at Dickiebusch and fighting at the Bluff (south east of Ypres on the Comines canal), intersperced with periods of rest in billets and camps behind the line. The pattern continued until they moved to Armentieres on 23rd March where they remained till late May before moving to Mentques for further training.

On 13th June they moved into trenches just south of Fricourt, where they came under fire with “canisters”, oildrums filled with explosives, which inflicted considerable casualties.

On the 27th they moved into deeply water-logged trenches directly before Fricourt in anticipation of a direct assault on Fricourt. While they waited for a break in the torrential rain in order to launch the attack they kept up heavy and demoralising fire on the German trenches.  The assault finally took place on 1st July starting at 7.30 a.m.  with attacks by the troops on either side of the battalion. “A” company who had misunderstood their orders and attacked early came under intense machine-gun fire and was instantly almost completely wiped out.  At 2.00 p.m. artillery bombardment of Fricourt started, to little effect. When the battalion attacked at 2.30 p.m. they were met with “murderous machine-gun and rifle fire.  Officers and men were literally mown down and were finally brought to a standstill about halfway across to the enemy’s trenches. 13 officers and about 300 men became casualties in about three minutes…. Many magnificent deeds of courage were performed, especially in bringing in wounded and carrying messages under fire.  The Battalion was withdrawn after dark on 1/7/16, and marched some 5 miles behind the line to re-organise at Ville, continuing the march at 4 p.m. 2/7/16 to Heilly”  After all this the Brigade marched into Fricourt on the morning of the 2nd and occupied it without a shot being fired!  The Battalion had sustained over 350 casualties.


Training continued interspersed with some maintenance work until they returned to the trenches at Hebuterne on 18th October for a projected attack, subsequently cancelled. They returned to training and maintenance, spending the rest of October in camp.

At the beginning of November they took over the front line trenches between Gueudecourt and Lesboefs and on 3rd took part in a small but successful attack on the German lines while coming under heavy fire.  This was followed by far less successful attacks on 5th November when they suffered considerable losses. “The condition of the trenches, in many places 3-4’ deep in water and mud, and the lack of any shelter whatever caused much sickness in the nature of trench feet among the men.”  They did considerable draining works in the trenches over the next couple of weeks, alternating with time in camp and conditions improved considerably. On 16th November they returned to Molliens-Vidames for rest, training and reinforcements.

They returned to the trenches on 26th December near Lesboefs for a few days before moving to Gueillemont, where they started 1917.  Back in the trenches, by 3rd January they found conditions greatly worsened by the constant rain – it was well-nigh impossible to move within the trenches and the board ways at ground level turned them into targets for enemy riflemen. On 17th January they marched to Corbie where they spent a fortnight training before moving into trenches at Sailly-Saillissel. They left these trenches on 1st February and after a few days in camp moved to Combles, a village on the Somme, on the 6th of February. On the 7th they took up their position for an attack planned to take place on 8th.  The morning’s attack on the enemy lines was highly successful but a large number of casualties were sustained, many caused by short firing of the British 18 pounders.  The initial attack had been successful largely because of surprise, and later the German artillery became very intense causing many more casualties, including a direct hit on the First Aid post containing many wounded men.  

At some point in the course of this action William seems to have been killed.   The register of effects states that he was presumed death on or after 8th February 1917.  He has no marked grave and like so many others is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.  

By the 7th July they had moved into Fricourt Wood with the aim of supporting further attacks on German forces in Mametz Wood. Over the next few days they took part in largely unsuccessful attacks in Mametz Wood and Quadrangle Alley.  They were relieved on 11th July and moved by train to Molliens-Vidames, for rest and regrouping.  Over the last fortnight, 123 officers and men of the battalion were dead or missing and 334 wounded.   They continued to recover, receiving several drafts of new men until the last week of the month when they moved by marches and trains to Dernancourt where training continued in camp.

On 8th August they moved into the old German 2nd line near Delville Wood where they spent their time digging and consolidating trenches, but after a week they were on the move again, reaching Hebuterne by the 19th. Here they settled down to working on the trenches  improving the trenches by day and laying wire by night, activity almost exactly mirrored by the Germans in the opposite trenches. This continued well into September when they moved to Bayencourt and resumed training. On 12th September they returned to Hebuterne and began work preparing trenches for an anticipated attack. This only lasted a few days before they resumed training, somewhat hampered by the continuation of torrential rain.