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William James


1884 - 1917

Early Life

WILLIAM JAMES DEVENISH was born in May 1884 in Great Waltham and baptised on the 1st June in the Parish Church. He was the first child of nine children born to James and Alice Devonish (née Wallis). His parents were married on the 1st March 1884 in the Parish Church in the village, James’s occupation was given as a Labourer and Alice, was a Servant and they both lived in Chatham Green, Great Waltham.


William had four brothers and four sisters who were all born in Chatham Green and baptised in the church. His younger brother John was killed in action in Sitapur, India on the 25th December 1908.


By 1911 the Census shows William, now aged 27 years, boarding with his sister, Alice and her husband Valentine Alfred Crick, a Groom and Domestic Gardener at Thatchers Cottage, near the White Hart in Springfield, Chelmsford. William was employed as a Farm Labourer.


Living there may have been difficult for William as there is a newspaper report concerning an ‘alleged theft’ of his brother-in-law’s boots in 1913, which was dismissed by the Court. (Valentine, himself, had several court appearances for criminal offences in the future.)



Military Life

William enlisted in the 4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment as a Private, Regimental No. 202156 and then onto the 9th Battalion, which was a Service battalion formed from volunteers in 1914 from Kitcheners’ Army. The 9th Essex embarked for France and landed on the 1st June 1915 and they undertook a period of training in trench warfare just behind the front line at Ploegsteert Wood near Neuve Eglise in Belgium.


By 10 July 1915 they were in the front line at a quiet time when the most serious problem was enemy snipers and bomb throwers. This continued until September 1915 with periods of six days in the line and six days out of the line and their time at ' Plugstreet' provided a good introduction to the horrors that were to come. September saw the battalion move to take part in the Battle of Loos.


In 1916 the Regiment fought in The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Pozieres, The Battle of Le Transloy.

In April 1917 the Regiment participated in the great offensive in the first Battle of the Scarpe, north of Arras – the Cambrai Road.

At the beginning of July the 9th were at the Wancourt-Feuchy line at Arras. The first week there was general clearing up and trench work with inspections and Regimental Aquatic sports in the camp.


On the 11th July the enemy opened a heavy trench mortar bombard-ment on the front line and support line, under cover of which they attacked Long Trench and at the same time made a demonstration against the north part of Hook Trench sustaining severe casualties.

Death and Memorial

William was killed in action on the 11th July 1917, aged 34 years.  There were 34 casualties of Other Ranks killed in the Regiment in July.

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William is buried at Monchy British Cemetery, Monchy-le-Preux, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.



William is also remembered on the War Memorial in Great Waltham.

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His father received £8.6s.8d on the 1st December 1917 with a further Gratuity payment on the 10th October 1919 of £12.10s.          

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