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Capt Arthur de Bells Adam (MC)
1885 - 1916

CPL David Wallace Crawford
1887 - 1916

Lce-Corpl John Joseph Nickle
1894 - 1916

Pte 17911 Morton Neill
1897 - 1916

Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft
1883 - 1918
Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft

L/Cpl 29753 William Adams

  • Age: 23
  • From: Liverpool
  • Regiment: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 19th Btn
  • K.I.A Monday 9th April 1917
  • Commemorated at: Arras Memorial
    Panel Ref: Bay 3

William Adams jnr was born in 1893, the first child of William snr, a keg maker, and Elizabeth Adams,  of 8 Markham Street, just off Mill Street in Toxteth.  Young William was baptised at St Gabriel's church in Beaufort Street on 2nd of July 1893.

William's younger brother, John, was born on 12th March 1898.

At the time Britain went to war, 4th August 1914, William was working in a clerical position at  Booth Steamship Company which was then based at 14 Castle Street.  John was probably a school leaver that summer, and may have started work with Booth too.

William and John both enlisted on 12th June 1915, joining the 22nd battalion of the Kings (Liverpool) Regiment, based at Knowsley Hall - this was the training formation for the 19th and 20th battalions.  They were allocated service numbers 29753 (William) and 29792 (John).  It seems likely that the brothers were part of a group enlisting together, possibly all colleagues from Booth, their service numbers would suggest a group of at least 40.

Minimum enlistment age was meant to be 18, and 19 for armed service overseas, and John, at 17 years and 3 months, was under age.  His mother, Elizabeth, travelled to the camp at  Knowsley Hall in an attempt to get him released, without success.

On 15th December 1915 William and John were posted to France, joining the 19th battalion (which had moved there on 7th November) at Fonquevillers/La Haie, and moving to Carnoy on the southern edge of the Somme battle front in early January 1916.  During this period they would have learned of the death of their father, William on 21st December 1915, aged 46, followed by that of their sister Martha on 28th January 1916, aged 20.

The brothers remained with the 19th battalion through 1916, and probably took part in the attack at Guillemot on 30th July.  On 4th February 1917 the 19th battalion, along with the 17th and 20th moved into the line at Agny on the Arras front.

The First Battle of the Scarpe, part of the Arras campaign, opened on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917.  The 19th and 20th battalions moved forward just after 3pm, up a slight rise and into a shallow dip in the ground.  They were facing another rise, the German front line was on the reverse slope, invisible from the British front line.  William, now a Lance Corporal, and John were advancing together when there was an explosion, probably a shell; William was killed.  He is remembered on the Arras memorial, grave reference MR0020, in the Roll of Honour in Liverpool Cathedral, and on the family grave in Toxteth Cemetery.

The preliminary artillery bombardment, being unable to see the German front line, had mistakenly targetted a support trench in the rear.  The two battalions found the German barbed wire defenses to be intact, and were unable to either advance further, or to retreat.  They sought whatever shelter they could find and waited for darkness.  It was close to midnight when they were finally able to withdraw to safety.   The four Liverpool pals battalions had 126 men, including William, killed on 9th April alone, and probably another 400 or so wounded.

The German spring offensive of 1918 was an attempt to end the war while they still had the strength for a major offensive, and before he Americans arrived in overwhelming numbers.  The plan was to smash through the lightly-held 5th Army front, drive a wedge between the British and French armies, and sweep to the Channel coast, cutting the allied armies' lines of supply. This, they believed, would force the British and Americans to sue for peace. 

The Liverpool pals were in reserve in the Southern part of the line, opposite St Quentin.  John was still with the 19th battalion, in the 2nd platoon of 'A' company.  The German offensive opened on 21st March 1918, overunning British forward positions, including the crossroads village of Roupy, just west of St Quentin. The arriving 19th that evening was tasked with the recovery of the village.

The 19th battalion moved in to Roupy in the early hours of 22nd, and by dawn were entrenched and awaiting the inevitable counter-attack.  The fighting went on throughout the day, with the 19th battalion, out if reach of any relief, gradually being worn down.  The encircled survivors finally fought their way out of the last redoubt in the early evening; John was not amongst them and was posted as missing on 22nd March 1918.

John was subsequently found to be a prisoner of war in the Lechfeld concentration camp in Bavaria.  His injuries were such that the German doctors had been forced to amputate his leg.  John later praised the care he had recieved from his captors, who had treated him, he said, as well as they treated their own.

John returned to England and was awarded silver war badge number 224959. He was discharged from the army on 2nd June 1919.  Back in Liverpool, he worked in the Cunard Building (whence Booths had moved following its completion in 1917) as a liftman for many years.  He married and had a son and three daughters.  John died on 22nd October 1962 (aged 64). He is buried in a family grave in Toxteth Cemetery, Smithdown Road.

William is commemorated on the Memorial panels within the Hall of Remembrance at Liverpool Town Hall.

Grateful thanks are extended to Paul Adams the great nephew of William and John who has kindly provided this detailed biography. 








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