William Benjamin Pearce (1871-1916)
Park Keeper, Central Parks
William Benjamin Pearce was born on 26 July 1871 in Maidstone, Kent, to Joseph, a paper maker, and Ellen Pearce. In 1881 they were living at 10 Mill Cottage, Sundridge, Sevenoaks, with William and their daughters Ada and Ellen. By 1891 the family had moved to the parish of St Cuthbert Out, Wells in Somerset where Joseph, who remained a paper maker, and Ellen had a further two sons, George and Joseph. William, now 19, was working as a general labourer in the paper mill. It was soon after this that William married Anne, who was from Lytham St Anne’s in Lancashire. They set up home there and went on to have a son and a daughter who were both born in the town. It was also the time that William enlisted into the army, presumably into one of the Lancashire regiments. In 1911 the family were at 4 Northfield Terrace, Uppingham in Rutland and he was employed as a Drill Instructor in the Territorial Army. Following his army career William joined the Office of Works, on 6 March 1913, as a Park Keeper in St James’s Park on a salary of 26 shillings a week plus uniform. His last known address was 25 Newlands Terrace, Battersea.
William, an army reservist, was drafted to France in 1915 as a Regimental Sergeant Major in the 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers and he fought at Ypres and the Somme. At some point, he transferred into, what was probably, his old regiment the Loyal North Lancashire and joined its 10th Battalion. On 11 August 1916, his battalion was tasked with assaulting an enemy position east of Pozieres. At 2.00 am they attacked what was called the Intermediate Line. One Company ran along the top of the enemy trench “throwing bombs as they went” whilst another “charged along the top of the trench and jumped in – bayonetting and bombing all Germans within view”.; by 2.50 am the objective had been accomplished. The enemy counter attacked three times during the early hours and by 7.00 am the fighting died down with the enemy trenches still held by the allied forces. The rest of the day “passed quite quietly”, but the action had cost the lives of 20 ordinary ranks; among them was Sergeant Major 23649 William Pearce.
His grave can be seen at Bazentin-le-Petit Communal Cemetery, Somme, France, grave reference 2. In the National Roll of the Great War his private notation reads, “Nobly striving. He nobly fell, that we might live”.