William Clements


33688 Private William Clements, Wiltshire Regiment, (according to his Commonwealth War Graves Commission gravestone in St Mary's churchyard) was transferred to 605 Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps, with Service No 263037. Formed in January 1917, the Labour Corps grew to some 389,900 men (more than 10% of the total size of the Army) by the Armistice. Some 175,000 of these worked in the United Kingdom, the rest in theatres of war. The Corps was manned by officers and other ranks, many of them previously wounded or medically rated below the ‘A1' condition necessary for front-line service. Labour Corps units were often deployed within range of enemy guns, sometimes for long periods. In the crises of March and April 1918 on the Western Front, they became emergency infantry. The Corps suffered from being regarded as a second class organisation: for example, William Clements is commemorated under his original regiment, followed by his Labour Corps details. Researching them is difficult because so few records remain of the daily activities and locations of Corps units. Today they are the fully-fledged Royal Pioneer Corps, until recently based at Bicester Garrison. William died on 11 November 1918 in Aldershot Hospital, ‘of pneumonia' as family tradition has it - possibly due to the Spanish ‘Flu epidemic of 1918-19.

Born in 1885 In Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire, he was the second son of William Clements, an agricultural labourer born in Wheatley in 1851 and Elizabeth Bowler, born in 1852 in Sandford, Nuneham Courtenay, Oxon. Between 1891 and 1911 the family were living in Littleworth. At 15 William was listed in the 1911 Census as a farm labourer, like his father. Later listed as a groom/gardener (‘good with horses', his grandsons remember), he had married Agnes Slaymaker in 1907/8: they lived at the west end of The George in what was a separate house, reopened to the main building in the 1980s. William and Agnes' daughter, Phyllis Claudine Clements, was the mother of Roy, Colin and Vic West, living respectively in Wheatley, Little Milton and Swindon today. See also reference to him in the Wheatley in a World at War chapter.

Hampshire Regiment
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