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
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 02nd of July 1893.
William's younger brother, John, was born on 12th March 1898.
At the time Britain went to war, 04th 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 Guillemont 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.
17th, 19th & 20th Battalion 09th April 1917
Everard Wyrall records the events of the day in Volume 2 of his History of the King's Regiment (Liverpool).
The 89th Brigade formed up for the attack with the 19th King's on the right and the 20th King’s on the left. The 17th King’s supplied the “mopping up" parties and he 2nd Bedfords were in close support.
It was just after 3pm when the advance began “According to scheduled time the waves advanced in good style and with determination; everyone was cheerful and in the best of spirits”
That advance is described by others as magnificent. From the OP’s the observing officers saw a wonderful sight – long lines of men advancing steadily up a long and gradual slope towards the enemy’ front line. Then suddenly they disappeared. The observers quite pardonably, imagined that the German front line had fallen into the hands of the assaulting troops and that the latter were on the way to the enemy’s support line. Alas something very different had happened. When the advancing troops had reached the summit of the long slope up which they advanced the ground suddenly dipped before the German front line , and when the observing officers thought they were already in the Bosche lines they had not, as a matter of fact, even reached the wire. What the observers took to be the front line was really the support line; the front line could not be seen - it lay just behind the crest of that slight rise in the ground.
The attacking waves of the 19th King’s got within 100 yards of the German wire but were then held up. They were faced by three belts of entanglements, practically untouched by our artillery, and nothing could be done but to dig in or else take shelter in the many shell- shell-with which “No Man’s Land" was pitted. By this time the battalion’s losses were very heavy, and when darkness fell “A" and “B" Companies (about 140 in all) lay in shell-holes, two or three hundred yards north east of St. Martin, but just south of the Cojeul River, and “C" and “D" Companies (140 all ranks) were along the river bank, but on the northern side about 150 yards north east of St. Martin.
The first waves of the 20th King’ advanced at 3.7pm. At 4pm Lieut Beaumont, commanding “A" Company, reported that he had had some forty casualties in passing through the enemy’s barrage. The next message, timed 4.40pm, stated that the position of the battalion at that period was on a crest in front of the enemy’s wire and about 100 yards from it. On the right the 21st Division was observed to have penetrated the enemy’s front line, but in the left the right Battalion of the 21st Brigade (the Wilts) was on the St. Martin- Neuville Vitasse road; the left flank of the 20th King's was, therefore, “ in the air”.
Urgent messages were sent up from Battalion Headquarters to “push on, keeping in touch with right” But little else could be accomplished until those formidable belts of wire had been cut sufficiently to allow the rapid passage of the attacking troops, headed by their bombers.
At 9:30 that night 89th Brigade Headquarters ordered both the 19th and 20th Battalions to withdraw, the former to the two sunken roads running south east from St. Martin, the latter to north west of St. Martin; the guns had been ordered to cut the enemy’s wire during the night in preparation for another attack during the 10th April.
Of the 17th King’s - the “moppers up" – there is little to relate. There was nothing to “mop up" so that they did not function. Yet they had shared all the perils of the advance, and when after they had fallen back and at midnight held the following positions, “B", “C", and “D" Companies in and around the sunken road north of Boiry-Becquerelle and “A" Company in trenches west of Henin, they lost 2 officers and 16 other ranks killed, and 3 officers and 48 other ranks wounded.
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.
As for his brother John:
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 02nd 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 also 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.